Apple is looking to include split-screen and multi-user log-in capabilities in its long-rumored 12.9-inch iPad, while the company is also exploring the idea of stylus support for the devices, according to reports coming in as the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is set to begin on June 8.
The stylus support and split-screen possibilities are mentioned in a May 22 article in The Irish Examiner that said it had located a patent application that shows a stylus that would be capable of 3D input sensing. "When paired with a tablet, it will be capable of detecting the angle of the pen when touching the screen and the distance the pen is from the tablet," the report said.
The patent application also discussed a grip sensor and a pressure sensor on the pen, which "would enable the pen to detect how tightly the user is gripping it, while the pressure sensor would detect how hard it's being pushed against the screen."
The rumored split-screen capabilities for the coming iPads would support one-half, one-third and and two-thirds screen views, depending on the apps, the news story reported. "The screen can either display two different apps side-by-side, or multiple views of the same app."
The split-screen feature could be shown off at WWDC, the report continued, or it could be saved until Apple is ready to debut a larger iPad later this year.
The 12-inch iPads that are to get the split screens are known internally by the codenames J98 and J99, according to a May 22 article from TechTimes.
Multiple sources are also mentioning reports of multi-user log-in capabilities.
The new features could be seen by Apple as capabilities that could re-energize its iPad tablet lineup, which has been facing declining sales, as have the tablet products of other manufacturers.
Apple sold 23 percent fewer iPads in the first quarter of 2015 than it did in the same quarter the year prior, while Samsung also reported a 30 percent sales decline for the first quarter, according to a recent report by eWEEK. The lower sales are part of a trend that is seeing the global tablet computer market shrinking for the second quarter in a row, according to a new report from ABI Research.
Apple's iPad shipments in the first quarter of 2015 hit 12.62 million iPads, which is a drop of 23 percent from the same quarter one year prior, according to ABI. Apple shipped 21.42 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2014, which was an 18 percent drop from the same period one year prior.
Samsung fared similarly, with a 30 percent decline in tablet sales for the first quarter of 2015, compared to the same period one year prior. For all tablet makers overall in the first quarter, tablet sales are down 13 percent across-the-board compared to a year ago, according to ABI.
"There is no denying the market is losing its momentum," Stephanie Van Vactor, a mobile devices analyst with ABI, said in a statement. "The market is in the process of going through a transition as developed markets shift to a refresh/replacement cycle. In addition, vendors are feeling the squeeze due to new devices gaining traction in the market that are in direct competition with tablets, for example, two-in-ones, phablets and Chromebooks."
In January, a Gartner report reached similar conclusions about tablet sales, which the company said will likely decline over 2015, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Worldwide tablet sales are expected to hit 233 million devices in 2015, up 8 percent from 2014, but quite a bit fewer than the numbers seen in the previous few years, Gartner reported.
In March, reports surfaced that Apple's rumored larger iPads would be delayed from early this year to September due to supply shortages of the larger display screens to be used in the new devices, according to an earlier eWEEK article.
Back in October 2014, reports surfaced that the rumored 12.9-inch iPads were being delayed at that time because Apple's manufacturing partners were so busy churning out the then-new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices for Apple that they couldn't immediately switch over to build the new bigger iPads. The larger iPads were slated to be built in large quantities starting in December 2014, but the plans had to be delayed until 2015.
The larger iPad has been discussed as a device that could help lure more business users to the iPad fold, increasing Apple's iPad sales. Part of that could come from a business partnership that Apple entered into with IBM in July 2014 that aims to bring together the products and services of both companies—including Apple's iPads and IBM's applications and global sales and support—to serve new and existing customers. In November 2014, Apple also unveiled its first formal AppleCare for Enterprise service offerings to provide direct and specialized support to enterprise technology users.
Rumors about a 12.9-inch iPad have been circulating since at least August 2014, when reports appeared claiming that component and parts suppliers were gearing up to produce the needed inventory to start production of the devices.
Current iPad models come in a 9.7-inch screen size or in an iPad Mini format with a 7.9-inch screen.