The next iPad could come as early as March 2021. With the company typically refreshing at least two of its iPad models in each calendar year, we can expect a ninth-generation iPad, new iPad Pro models, and possibly more.
● iPad Pro with mini LED
● Ninth-generation iPad with thinner design
● Possible iPad Air update
● iPad mini bigger display
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Apple always has a "next iPad" on deck. The company's reputation for innovation means it isn't long after one model launches that loyal fans start salivating for what's to come. AppleInsider takes a look at several possibilities for what the next iPad will bring in 2021.
While only Apple knows for sure what the 2021 iPads will have in store, supply-chain leaks help us narrow down the possibilities. The company's tablet sales saw a healthy boost in 2020, and Apple may want to seize on that momentum and make this a banner year for its tablet lineup.
Apple is investigating new screen technology across the iPad lineup. Apple may choose OLED, mini LED, or eventually microLED for its tablet displays.
"iPad Pro (2021)"
The next iPad Pro could be the first tablet Apple launches in 2021. The company will reportedly release an updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a mini LED display as early as March. An 11-inch model, possibly lacking mini LED, could accompany it.
Mini LED can be more power-efficient than current displays, and it offers better contrast and more accurate color reproduction. Apple would move its iPad Pro line to mini LED first, but the next iPad Air may soon follow.
Apple launched the iPad Pro line for people who want a 2-in-1 device that functions as both tablet and laptop. Its high-end hardware, larger-screen option, and support for pro-level accessories lend themselves to that task. While the 11-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro are still Apple's top-of-the-line iPads, they saw only minor updates in this latest model.
The next iPad Pro is due for a significant processor update, given that the current model uses 2018-era Apple Silicon. That could mean moving to an A14X or A14Z chip, or perhaps Apple would use a variant of the M1 chip found in the latest MacBooks. The latter would likely stand as the biggest ever processing upgrade to the company's tablet line.
We don't expect Apple to make any significant design changes to its pro-level tablet line apart from updated screen tech and performance. The new model would still have an all-screen design and Face ID, and it would include a Smart Connector to work with Apple's productivity accessories.
The iPad Pro's Magic Keyboard includes scissor-switch keys on par with the latest MacBooks, a glass trackpad, and a mounting mechanism that makes the iPad appear to float above the keyboard. Combined with iPadOS's cursor support and multitasking, the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil can transform the iPad Pro or iPad Air into a powerful laptop-like device.
Apple launched its first 5G iPhones in 2020, and we expect all of the 2021 iPads' cellular variants to support 5G.
"iPad Air 5"
Apple waited about 18 months between the last iPad Air updates. Given that the latest model launched in September 2020, it's uncertain whether we'll see another iPad Air in 2021.
The current model, the iPad Air 4, is nearly equal to the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement. The current iPad Air redesign added a full-screen display and support for the Magic Keyboard and second-generation Apple Pencil. The next iPad Air won't likely bring another significant redesign. The new model could serve as a spec-bump update with "A15" Apple Silicon and new display technology.
Rumors suggest Apple will transition its high-end iPads to mini LED display tech starting in 2021.
The current iPad Air has a 10.9-inch screen with 2360 x 1640 resolution at 264 pixels per inch. One of Apple's cost-cutting differences is that the iPad Air lacks the high-frame-rate ProMotion Display from the iPad Pro. The iPad Air's screen is also a bit smaller, with slightly wider bezels.
It's doubtful Apple would change either of those features in the next iPad Air since they help differentiate the more expensive iPad Pro.
The 2020 iPad Air starts at $599.
"iPad mini 6"
The iPad mini has only seen subtle redesigns since its 2012 debut. The iPad mini 5, released in 2019, brought Apple's smallest tablet up-to-date with modern specs that fell only a little short of the high end. Many customers use it for tasks like reading e-books and comics or playing games. It's a popular Apple device for parents to buy for their children.
The small tablet could be due for a 2021 refresh. In 2020, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had suggested the "iPad mini 6" would move to an all-screen design, with an 8.5-inch to 9-inch display and thin borders. A more recent report stated that the redesign would be less ambitious, maintaining a Touch ID home button but having a larger 8.4-inch screen.
Apple Smart Keyboard support is unlikely on the next iPad mini, given how its size would constrain typing. However, it may support the second-generation Apple Pencil.
The current iPad mini costs $399.
"iPad (Ninth generation)"
Apple's budget iPad is rumored to see a redesign this year, with one leak suggesting Apple will base it on the iPad Air 3 design. The next iPad could stick with a 10.2-inch Retina Display but become noticeably thinner and lighter at 6.3mm and 460 grams.
That same report suggests the tablet will stick with a Lightning port and Touch ID home button. It added that its display would gain True Tone and P3 wide-color gamut for the first time.
In 2020, Kuo had a different take, suggesting the next iPad will have a full-screen design with a 10.8-inch display. However, in hindsight, he may have been alluding to the iPad Air 4 that arrived months later.
The ninth-generation iPad would continue to evolve Apple's budget tablet. It doesn't receive the latest high-end features and instead provides the basics of Apple's tablet and iPadOS for a reasonable $329.
Next iPad pricing
Apple would likely stick with the same price points for its next iPads. The company typically retires older tablets after it releases new models.