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.