Would Apple really stick a USB port on an iPad?

Yesterday’s Bloomberg report on big iPad delays seems to have gotten a few people in Apple’s supply chain talking. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal and Digitimes both followed up with their own stories on the rumored “iPad Pro” with a 12.9-inch screen.

However, some of the details in the WSJ report are bewildering. For instance:

Apple is now considering adding USB ports and adopting so-called USB 3.0 technology, a much faster version that promises to transfer data up to 10 times as rapidly as current USB ports, one of the people said.

Later in the article:

The company has also been considering adding ports to connect to a keyboard and mouse, the people said.

If you follow Apple rumors, these details seem unlikely. First, a Microsoft Surface–style traditional USB port on a tablet would almost certainly compromise an iOS device’s thinness. Second, Apple has been moving away from mice — even on its desktops — for years, preferring trackpad gestures.

That’s why I believe the supply chain details in the WSJ need some translation. The “USB 3.0” technology mentioned could be referring to reversible USB Type C ports. Apple has been tipped to be considering the skinny next-gen connector as the primary port and charger for a future MacBook, and if that were to happen, I think it would make sense to bring Apple’s MagSafe replacement to the bigger iPad, which could have power needs closer to a desktop than a smartphone. The question then becomes whether the USB port replaces the Lightning connector, which is the existing charge and sync port for iOS devices.

USB Type C

The Wall Street Journal says the advantage USB 3.0 provides is faster wired data transfers, which doesn’t strike me as a particular weakness of the existing iPad. However, it also mentions new technology to speed up charging times, which would be welcome.

The keyboard and mouse details are equally confusing. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Apple introduced a keyboard case — many Android and Windows tablets already have first-party keyboard cases, and the success of iPad keyboard accessories shows there’s a market there. But an Apple mouse would require significant changes to iOS to adapt it to an older form of input, which seems unlikely. I think the mouse is more likely to be the iOS smart stylus that was previously rumored. But even then I think there’s a better chance it’s connected through Bluetooth than through a wire.

On Wednesday, Apple was said to have delayed production of the 12.9-inch iPad until September because of supply issues. What could be causing the shortage in displays? One guess is that the delays are due to new high-density screens with a resolution around 4K. However, supply chain rumormonger Digitimes says the reason is a new display technology, Oxide TFT LCD, which has the main advantage of being more power-efficient. Apple has been said to be looking into Oxide TFT LCD technology in the past.

It’s all a bit unclear what’s going on with the 12.9-inch iPad. The WSJ indicates that Apple could decide not go to through with some of these features, which is true of all Apple products. One thing is clear, though: You won’t be seeing the bigger iPad at next week’s Apple Watch event.