Apple Reportedly Planning New Fourth-Generation iPad Model, Possibly With 128GB Of Storage Onboard

New Apple product rumors from reliable sources have been few and far between lately, but this weekend the generally dependable 9t05Mac reported that a new iPad model is in the works. It’s not a brand new device, but rather a new SKU in the fourth generation iPad with Retina Display lineup. 9to5Mac’s source is saying that this will be offered in both black and white, with both Wi-Fi and cellular options, and that it will join the existing models rather than replace them.

While the source didn’t specify storage capacity as the differentiating factor, there is evidence that a 128GB iPad is in the works. References to such a device exist in iOS 6.1, the beta of which is already in developer hands, and in iTunes 11. Another possibility is that this will be a SKU aimed solely at education and government customers, 9t05Mac points out, since their source says it will be available in special 10-packs for educational¬†institutions, but the higher capacity device theory makes sense for a number of reasons beyond just evidence found in software code.

First, a 128GB model would provide another reason for consumers to look at the full-sized iPad over the iPad mini. If Apple wants to continue to carve out separate niches for both devices, making one more capacious in terms of local storage is a good way of doing so. Second, Apple updated the iPad in October, which means it’s unlikely we’ll see a brand new version arrive early this year, as has been the habit with the iPad in the past. A 128GB upgrade provides a mid-cycle bump that could keep things interesting for consumers, without requiring a major overhaul ahead of the one reportedly in the works for fall.¬†A 128GB iPad 4 makes a lot of sense, but it would also mean a pricing shift, either with a new expensive SKU at the top-end, or with movement across the line to make a 128GB version top out at or around the current iPad maximum pricing.

9to5Mac has good connections high in Apple’s retail partner chain, so this is very likely a solid report. But as to what it will ultimately mean in terms of product releases, that remains more of a mystery. If it is a higher-capacity device, I’ll be interested to see if that’s something that gets consumers excited.

Update: 9t05Mac reports new details around pricing this morning, suggesting that the new model will be at $799 for Wi-Fi only, and $929 for Wi-Fi + Cellular, which supports the notion of a model with higher storage capacity.