Cases purporting to fit the Apple iPad 5 have begun to appear around the web. Some of the images for these cases were discovered on the global wholesale distribution network Alibaba.com, while others were anonymously leaked to various blogs or seen around conventions in Hong Kong. A search for “iPad 5” on Alibaba.com reveals a slew of cases for the device. If these cases are accurate, they are among the first indications of what we can expect from the new iPad, at least in terms of physical dimensions.
These cases allegedly fit an iPad that is thinner than its predecessor and sports a visibly smaller bezel along the front of the device. The edges of device also appear to be sharper than on past iPads. All of these visual cues have led some to conclude that the Apple iPad 5 will more closely resemble the iPad Mini than past full-sized models. Reportedly, the new model even features volume control and power input in the same spot as on the Mini, and will sport a “shiny modern aluminum” back. Notably, the screen size that the cases hint at is still the same 9.7 inch screen size as past models, making it reasonable to conclude that these cases aren’t intended for a new model of the Mini.
Gleaming information about forthcoming Apple products from third party accessories is nothing new. In fact, most of the earliest information discovered about such devices stem from uncovering them. In order to offer a robust line of accessories at the launch of a new product, Apple must provide accessory manufacturers with information, renders, and in some cases physical mockups of their latest offerings. As these pieces appear online, an understanding of what the parent device looks like, or at least how they are likely to look, begins to form.
The Apple iPad 5’s shift in design to a form closer to the iPad Mini may be informed by the increasing popularity of smaller tablets. Arriving after Steve Jobs famously ruled out a seven-inch Apple tablet, the iPad Mini itself was seen by some as a reaction to the increasing popularity of devices like the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7. Speaking at the Intel Solutions Summit last month, Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel’s PC Client Group, declared that the market for tablets with a large form factor will “rapidly erode” this year. Even Microsoft is planning to join the fray, with a seven-inch version of their Surface tablet rumored to be in the works.
It remains to be seen if these clues definitively point to what the Apple iPad 5 will look like, but the multiple sources and well-worn pattern of discovery for Apple devices make it difficult to argue otherwise. We’ll know soon enough, as all signs point to the tablet arriving around the middle of this year. Are you excited about the prospect of a thinner, skinnier iPad?