13-Inch iPad Pro, Enhanced iPad Air & iPad Mini 3 On-Course for Early H2 2014 Release Date? Top Killer Features to Expect

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By Erik Pineda | February 12, 2014 1:14 PM EST

Will Apple rush the scheduled release date of the 2014 iPad Air and iPad Mini versions, along with the 13-inch iPad Pro, if only to counter increasing competition from Android tablet makers, Samsung chief among them?


Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the new iPad mini, with Retina display on 22 October. (Reuters)

This emerged as a likely scenario as research firm IDC reported this week that while the iPad maker remains the dominant tablet player at the end of 2013, 2014 will draw to a close and a new leader will be listed on the charts.

That name, of course, belongs to Samsung, which in the past few years prove as the toughest Apple nemesis, breathing down hard on the tech giant's neck. Recall that the iPhone maker ruled the smartphone market unchallenged for a number of years until the Galaxy S series from South Korea was introduced to the global market.

By the time the Galaxy S3 was debuted in early 2012, Samsung was already flexing its solid muscle. The same year ended and the Korean tech giant dislodged Apple as the world's number one smartphone maker - out-shipping and outselling its Cupertino-based rival.

The same pattern, according to IDC, could unfold this year. Per reports from Business Insider, Apple ruled the 2013 tablet race by pocketing some 34 per cent of the market shares worldwide. Samsung is a remote second at 18.8 per cent.

However, the Galaxy smartphone and tablet maker also posted an incredible growth rate in the exploding tablet rumble, registering expansion of 85 per cent in the 12-month span that ended in December 2013.

The numbers clearly indicate that Samsung's tablet line up is growing at a dizzying pace and Apple can ill-afford to be complacent even as the former recently unveiled its latest Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro offerings.

The whole package includes the giant Tab Note and Tab Pro slates, which boast of gargantuan 12-inch plus screen with powerhouse specs and features.

Now to allegedly meet head-on Samsung's spirited tablet thrust this year, Apple is rumoured to unleash the biggest iPad ever with screen size from 12.9-inch to 13-inch. And with the IDC projection staring at its face, the tech giant could be prodded to advance the planned release date of the humongous slate, which reports said will take the name iPad Pro.

While the specific iPad Pro features remain subject for debate, analysts are convinced that the device is largely geared for enterprise use, which is the same target audience stipulated by Samsung for the 12-inch Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro.

A likely visualisation of what the iPad Pro would be is offered in a CNET report by Brooke Crothers. In it Crothers suggested that the upcoming bigger iPad is actually a hybrid Apple device that is a stand-alone tablet and easily morphs into a Mac notebook when attached with a keyboard accessory.

The same report cited Asian supply chain players as sources. Crothers surmised too that with the perceived emergence of giant Android tabs and detachable Windows laptop this year, Apple would be prodded to go ahead with the plan.

As for the 2014 iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini refresh - the devices are expected to stay within Apple's existing release calendar, which starts taking shape in the latter part of Q3 2014.

Release dates, however, of these iPads and that of the 13-inch iPad are likely to get the acceleration treatment, that is if the object is for Apple not to cede an inch to Samsung as the two continue to clash for global tablet supremacy.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the new iPad mini, with Retina display on 22 October. (Reuters)
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