New iPad Air Leak Shows Touch ID Sensor

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Apple's second big event of the year is set to take place this Thursday. All signs point to the event being Apple's annual iPad reveal. Rumors are now swirling about what surprises Apple could have for tablet consumers this year.

Last year's iPad event was largely predictable. Aside from the name, the iPad Air was another thinner, lighter iPad for consumers to covet. The iPad Mini was also updated with a higher-resolution display, but neither of Apple's tablet updates could truly be described as revolutionary.

This year consumers can expect much of the same. Leaks concerning the new iPad Air suggest that the new model will have a Touch ID sensor like current iPhone models, with a possible gold color option for the sensor. The leaks also show a faster A8X chip and a bit more RAM.

The Touch ID leak comes just as the fingerprint sensor market has begun to take off. Market research firm IHS recently released a new report showing that the fingerprint sensor shipments will hit 1.4 billion by 2020 - more than four times the number expected to ship by the end of this year. The firm believes that the majority of these sensors will be shipped by Apple and Samsung.

“This biometric market has all the requirements for success converging at the right time,” said Marwan Boustany, a senior analyst with IHS Technology. “Technology, convenience, and consumer interest are just some of the converging interests ensuring the success of fingerprint sensors."

In addition to the Touch ID rumor, a new iPad mini is expected to make an appearance at this week's Apple conference. Not much is known about the smaller tablet yet, but questions are already surfacing about the iPad Mini's current place in Apple's device lineup. The 7.9-inch screen on the iPad Mini was a sign that smaller tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 proved more popular than Apple had predicted. Now even the iPhone's screen size is creeping up toward tablet sizes, shrinking the market for small tablets.

The Apple tablet with the lowest odds of appearing this week would be the long-rumored 12-inch iPad. Manufacturing sources held early this year that Apple was having trouble getting developers on-board with the larger tablet. Given Samsung's limited success with a 12.2-inch tablet, it doesn't appear that there is even a mega-tablet market for Apple to seriously consider.