The iPad was only available in with a 9.7-inch display for the first several years of its life, but Apple changed that in 2012 by adding the 7.9-inch iPad mini to its iOS lineup. Now it appears that Apple may be considering expanding the iPad family once again.
According to the officials at Apple component suppliers that have spoken to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has recently requested screen designs for a tablet that are slightly smaller than 13 inches in size. The same officials also claim that Apple and its suppliers are getting ready to ramp up production of a new 9.7-inch iPad later this month that will feature a "lighter and thinner display structure" that has touch sensors built into a thin film rather than the glass used in current iPad models.
In addition to weighing a larger iPad, Apple is said to have requested prototype smartphone screens that are larger than 4 inches, which is the size of the iPhone 5's display. It's not clear what the size of these bigger screens are, but a report from mid-June claimed that Apple was considering offering bigger iPhones with displays that are 4.7 and 5.7 inches in size. Apple's suppliers also claim to have begun mass production of components for a new iPhone model, with one supplier source suggesting that its company is slated to ship the device in late August.
As is usually the case with Apple rumors, the WSJ cautions that the Cupertino company often tests different designs for its products, only to decide not to bring them to market. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if Apple were testing larger iPads and iPhones.
Many mainstream consumers don't need a laptop for their computing needs any longer, and instead could get probably get a majority of their computing work done on a tablet. If Apple were to offer a larger iPad that's similar in size to a smallish MacBook display, the device could serve as a laptop replacement, especially with the keyboard accessories that would likely spring up just like they have for existing iPad models. Such an iPad would also be another portal for consumers to access the iOS App Store, which currently houses 900,000 apps, over 375,000 of which are iPad-specific.