updated 02:26 am EDT, Sat October 20, 2012
Retina iPad to gain Lightning connector, global LTE, perhaps more
Alongside reports that Apple may drop the iPad 2 entirely and replace it with the forthcoming "iPad mini" at its press conference on October 23, unnamed sources are behind a rumor that the full-sized, 9.7-inch Retina iPad may also get a refresh -- but it would be a tweaking of the iPad as it is now to accommodate a change to the company's Lightning connector and possibly the addition of a better, more global LTE radio like the iPhone 5 has. Pricing, storage capacities and other major features, the sources contend, would remain the same.
The report from 9to5Mac neither identifies it sources nor offers much in the way of specifics, but opens up possibilities for other, more minor updates in the design as well. For example, the "tweaked" iPad could gain an IGZO screen (set to the same specifications as the current one so as to be largely unnoticeable to users) or an increase in capacity. If Apple did those things, it might also be able to produce a lighter, thinner version of the tablet, since the battery would not need to be as large.
The idea of a "tweaked" regular iPad would also explain reports claiming a total of 24 new models to be introduced next Tuesday. The various versions of the full-size iPad (white or black option, Wi-Fi only or 3G/LTE+Wi-Fi, and the three size variants) create a total of 12 models, half of the leaked SKUs. The remainder would be the equivalent variations for the "iPad mini," a medium-sized tablet said to be larger than the 7-inch class found in the Galaxy Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire, but still smaller than the current iPad.
It's also possible that a tweaked iPad could, apart from moving to the Lightning connector, simply use improved or less-expensive parts to create a device that performs exactly like the current model but costs less to make. Pricing is a crucial issue as competition to the iPad finally begins to take some shape, and Apple could be looking for ways to make its devices easier and less expensive to make in an effort to cut costs without sacrificing quality.
The rumor, if true, also lends credibility to speculation that Apple may "tweak" the iPhone 4 and 4S models to use the Lightning connector as well. Having changed the standard for the first time in 10 years with the move away from the familiar 30-pin dock connector, the company may want to establish the new standard as quickly as possible so accessory manufacturers and the wave of new buyers for the Lightning-sporting devices have no issue with peripheral availability and little reason to buy an "old" 30-pin accessory. Apple has said that it moved to the new connector in order to continue increasing the thinness, functionality and versatility of the communications and power port.
Speculation holds that Apple will use the October 23 event to introduce a raft of new and refreshed products, including several new Mac models. It would be unusual, though not unprecedented, for the company to stage multiple unrelated announcements in a single event. Historically, Apple has tended to focus its big press events on a single theme or platform, and announce more minor updates quietly on the same day or just after the big announcements.