Apple's Smaller 9.7-Inch iPad Will be an iPad Pro, Not an Air 3

As the March 15 debut of the smaller iPad approaches, reports say that it will be marketed as a smaller iPad Pro, not as an Air 3.

iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, MacBook Pro, tablets, enterprise, Apple,iPhone 5se, Apple Watch

When Apple unveils its rumored smaller 9.7-inch tablet on March 15, previous reports said the device would have the iPad Air 3 moniker. But new reports now say that Apple will unveil the latest tablet as a smaller version of its premier enterprise-focused 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablet.

The latest iPad details and rumors were revealed in a Feb. 25 article by 9to5Mac, which said that Apple is making the newest smaller device part of the iPad Pro series to differentiate it from earlier iPads, based on reports from unnamed sources.

That means the iPad Pro will soon reportedly be offered in distinct 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch versions, just like Apple's MacBook Pro laptop machines are available in 13-inch and 15-inch models. "This trend follows Apple not calling its 12-inch MacBook a new Air despite developing the product as an apparent successor to the MacBook Air," the article reported.

The new smaller iPad is expected to be launched at an Apple event on March 15, according to previous reports. The device, which is also expected to be accompanied by the debut of a rumored smaller 4-inch iPhone5se smartphone and new Apple Watch models, will then be available for sale to consumers on March 18, just three days after it is unveiled.

The diminutive iPad Pro will include components that mimic its larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro brethren, including Apple's third-generation 64-bit A9X chip, which has two times the memory bandwidth of previous versions, quad stereo speakers and support for the Apple Pencil, the report stated. Apple will also include the Smart Connector that is found in the larger iPad Pro, and will offer a smaller version of its Smart Keyboard cover attachment for the smaller model.

The new smaller version will be offered in the same colors and storage capacities as the larger iPad Pro, with prices more in line with the less expensive iPad Air models it will replace, the 9to5Mac article reported.

Any future devices from Apple are certainly targeting increased revenue for the company, which is seeing sales slowdowns globally for some of its most popular products, such as iPhones and iPads, according to Apple's latest quarterly results, released Jan. 26. While Apple chalked up $75.9 billion in first-quarter revenue, a new record for the company, its sales of 74.7 million iPhones—little changed from the 74.5 million sold in the same quarter a year earlier—has analysts concerned, eWEEK reported recently.

First-quarter sales of iPads dropped to 16.1 million units from 21.4 million in the same quarter one year ago, while Mac sales slipped to 5.3 million this quarter, compared with 5.5 million one year ago.

The $75.9 billion in revenue for the company's fiscal 2016 first quarter, which ended Dec. 26, is up 2 percent from $74.6 billion in the same quarter one year ago, while the company's net income of $18.4 billion, which set another quarterly record, rose from $18 billion one year ago. Earnings rose to $3.28 per diluted share, from $3.06 in the same quarter a year ago.

Recent reports about the rumored smaller iPhone 5se describe the handset as a special edition variation of the previous 4-inch iPhone screen size and an enhanced version of the iPhone 5s. It won't be a smaller version of Apple's iPhone 6s, but is instead being built as an upgrade to the company's iPhone 5s that debuted in the fall of 2013.

According to sources, the rumored iPhone 5se will include upgrades in hardware and software as well as curved edges like those on the latest iPhone 6 and 6s devices, while the handset will retain the same 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.2-megapixel front camera systems used on the iPhone 6, the report continued. A near-field communication (NFC) chip will be incorporated to allow the phone to use Apple Pay, and it will also include camera support for larger panoramas and auto-focus for video recording. Also included will be faster and more powerful Apple A8 and M8 chips from the iPhone 6 and Bluetooth 4.2, voice over LTE (VoLTE), and 802.11ac WiFi chips from the iPhone 6s.

Apple is planning to debut the smaller, more feature-laden phone to attract new buyers to a handset that won't take away sales from its larger flagship phones, while also encouraging iPhone 5 users to upgrade without having to move to one of the company's larger phones if they choose to carry a smaller phone.

The 4-inch iPhone 5se would be smaller than the company's existing 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone smartphones, giving customers more options. Rumors about the smaller 4-inch iPhone began in earnest in December 2015, according to an earlier eWEEK report, when a KGI Securities analyst wrote in a research report about the possibilities of such a device.

Apple's latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus flagship smartphones went on sale in September 2015.