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The iPad 4’s stay at the cutting-edge of tablet tech might be as short as five months, an industry analyst forecasts, as Apple becomes embroiled in a slate specs-war with its Android rivals.

At the iPad mini press call earlier this week, Apple surprised tech-watchers by also unveiling a fourth-generation version of its top-end tablet – a mere eight months after the current third-generation iPad hit store shelves.

iPad 3 mockup large

However, anyone eyeing the iPad 4 when it officially goes on sale next month may want to consider that the latest model might itself be superannuated in a few months time.

That’s because, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Ci Kuo at least, the rising tide of rival tablets will put pressure on Cupertino to continue sweetening the appeal of its top-of-the-range slates, with the result that refresh cycles will get much more regular.

That suggests we could get an iPad 5 as soon as early next year - most likely in February, which has until now been marked by a new iPad every year since the first model dropped back in 2009.

In a note to investors, Kuo stated: "Though the iPad mini is expected to be successful, we think launching the lighter, thinner 9.7-inch iPad as quickly as possible matters more for Apple strategically.”

Any new device is however likely to be an iterative update of the iPad 4, which is itself a relatively minor update from the current-gen model.

The slate retains its predecessor’s appearance, and only major changes are the addition of 4G connectivity, twice the processing power via an A6X processor and the same Lightning dock connector as the iPhone 5.

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