Details on Apple’s follow-up to 2013’s iPad Air are scarce, but one of the most interesting things about the next iPad might not be contained in its feature set. It just might be that when you pick up a shiny new iPad Air 2 this fall, you’ll be buying a tablet that was built by robots.
During a recent shareholder meeting, the CEO of Foxconn – which assembles the iPad Air, as well as Apple’s iPhones and other products – revealed that the company was preparing to add a new line of robots to its assembly process. According to 9to5Mac, Foxconn’s CEO said that Apple would be the first company to benefit from the new machines, which likely means that Apple’s forthcoming iPhone 6 – and maybe even the iWatch – will be assembled by robots, and the iPad Air successor likely will be as well.
Foxconn is planning to put 10,000 robots to work in its factories, at a cost of $20,000 to $25,000 each. They’ll be capable of producing about 300,000 smartphones initially, but it’s not clear how that figure translates to iPads.
Foxconn’s move toward robots for manufacturing iPhones and iPads could help the company improve its overall image, as well. Tech news followers will no doubt remember Foxconn’s name for reports of suicides and adverse working conditions at its manufacturing plants. Following pressure from Apple and a number of other firms, Foxconn has reportedly improved the conditions for the workers that make iPads, iPhones, and many other devices, though critics maintain that they still have a ways to go.
No matter who or what builds the next generation of iPad, the device will likely launch to the highest expectations of any of Apple’s tablets to date. Rumor has it that the successor to the iPad Air will be a “game changer,” though it’s unclear what exactly that means in a tablet segment that Apple already dominates.
The next iPad Air, according to the latest rumors, will be even thinner than its predecessor, measuring about 7.5 millimeters thick. Apple is also said to have made some cosmetic adjustments to the next iPad, and it will likely see an upgrade to the A8 processor. The biggest change, though, may be that Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor will finally arrive on the iPad platform. With the tweaks Apple has made to Touch ID with iOS 8, that means iPad Air users will be able to pay for items, log into apps, and more with just the touch of a finger.
When exactly the next generation of iPad will debut is unknown at present, but odds are it will be about a year after Apple introduced the original iPad Air. That means you’ll probably get a first look at the robot-built device some time in mid-October.