The tablet stands at a major crossroads.
The product category only became truly mainstream about four years ago, but iPad sales are down this year, and its continued survival depends on overcoming two major stumbling blocks that have cropped up recently:
- Tablets have become so powerful that they, like laptops, only need to be upgraded once every several years. Tablet makers and designers are challenged to introduce “newness” to incentivise new tablet purchases each year, but that’s not easy, since consumers across the board also crave thinness and oodles of battery life.
- And then there’s smartphones, which are finally beginning to eat into tablet sales — particularly now since they’re generally getting larger, and jumbo-sized “phablets” look like they’re here to stay. You can thank the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note series for that.
So with the fate of the tablet up in the (iPad) air, it’s going to be interesting to see what Apple does with its sixth-generation device, which we’ll reportedly see introduced in October along with a slew of other new Apple products, including some new Mac computers and the launch date for OS X Yosemite, at a planned event.
In the tablet department, Apple is expected to debut new iPad Air and iPad mini models with improved performance, faster internet connectivity, and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor found on the iPhone.
We might also see the unveiling of an all-new 12.9-inch iPad, which is rumoured to release in early 2015. With such a big screen, we might see this huge iPad offer some unique features to behave more like a full computer.
But even with three new iPads rumoured on the docket within the next few months, will a few invisible improvements be enough to sway customers to drop $US400-900 on a mobile computer they may not need? We believe so, if Apple includes a few exclusive features in these tablets that aren’t available in their current devices.
Here’s what we’d like to see:
1. True multitasking
If iOS 8 and the new iPhone 6 devices proved anything, it’s that people don’t mind Apple borrowing ideas as long as they execute them well. And one thing we appreciate in Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices, and even the Microsoft Surface tablets, is the ability to multitask — and that doesn’t mean double clicking to quickly enter another already-open app, which is what Apple thinks of multitasking.
Samsung and Microsoft both had good ideas to run two apps at the same time — so you can take notes while watching a video, for example — but the execution on those devices is a bit clunky. With so much real estate on the iPad (and even more so on the rumoured 13-inch iPad) Apple would be foolish not to consider adding more RAM, or beefing up its dual-core A8 into a quad-core A8X, to allow two or more working applications to appear on the screen simultaneously. It would be a huge victory for productivity.
2. A better keyboard
Typing on the iPad requires summoning the digital keyboard, which immediately reduces the amount of screen size you can play with. That means it’s more difficult to refer to prior emails while writing a new one, for example. Apple already sells a Smart Cover to protect its iPads. If it wanted those covers to get smarter, however, it should build a cover with an embedded keyboard to give users a tactile interface for typing, so they don’t have to stare at the iPad screen in order to get work done.
Again, this isn’t a novel concept. Microsoft already does this with its Surface tablet, and Logitech even sells an extremely versatile keyboard cover through the Apple Store, which adds vital functionality to the iPad to make it into a full PC (in my opinion, it’s the best iPad accessory you can buy). Like the example of borrowing Samsung’s “phablet” concept for the iPhone 6 Plus, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing an idea if you can do it right. And if the iPad wants to find its way into more businesses, including the enterprise, Apple could certainly deliver its users a better, eyes-free typing experience.
3. Mobile payments
Dave Smith/Business Insider
Apple Pay was arguably the most exciting announcement from this past month. The concept of replacing the credit card — which is super important but equally inefficient — is an exciting prospect. But the service is still missing a few important elements.
Apple Pay currently solves problems for people who regularly pay with credit cards, but it doesn’t address merchants that don’t or can’t accept credit cards. It also didn’t address those business owners that do accept credit cards, but want a simpler and more secure solution, especially one that would work with the all-digital Apple Pay.
Since Apple Pay won’t go live until October, this could be great timing for the new iPads.
In the same way Apple Pay is making the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus must-own devices, Apple could do the same for the iPad: by allowing them to accept Apple Pay payments.
With Touch ID and built-in NFC, the next-gen iPads could help Apple cover every end of the financial transaction, both offline and in the digital world.
Businesspeople already use the iPad to organise their finances and run their businesses. But if it can also accept payments in the same way iPhones can now send payments, it would motivate consumers to buy new iPads, because they wouldn’t just be faster and more secure, but it would offer something brand-new: The ability to run an entire business on a single pane of glass.