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Issue #31: 2021 iPad predictions

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Hey there!

2021 is barreling on, and with it comes all those rumors about iPad releases. Since we’re getting closer to the expected launch window for new Pro models, I figured I’d take a stab at some 2021 iPad predictions.

New iPad Pro models

Apple usually updates the iPad Pro lineup every 16 months or so, which would mean that we’re still a while off since we saw updates in March last year. However, rumors are claiming that there will be a release in the first quarter, which makes sense since the 2020 iPad Pro is on the A12Z chip, whereas the iPad Air have the newer, albeit not necessarily more powerful, A14 Bionic. It would make sense for Apple to launch new, more powerful iPad Pros on the A14 line, so the rumors of an iPad Pro refresh in the first quarter, March most likely, makes sense.

There’s another rumor, regarding the iPad Pros using mini-LED, that’s been doing the rounds for quite some time. Maybe that’ll happen, maybe it won’t, but it’s interesting that many so-called analysts think the screen type will be exclusive for the 12.9” model to begin with. The only way that makes sense to me is if Apple intend to cut the 11” Pro model now that the iPad Air is available. It would mean that the iPad lineup would be somewhat simplified.

⚡️ My take
We’ll get updated iPad Pros, 11” and 12.9”, with essentially the same form factor as we have today. I don’t think we’ll get mini-LED just yet, for either model, but the cameras will get a bump to the same system that the iPhone 12 Pro has.

What about the iPad Air?

The new iPad Air, with the Pro form factor, was released in October last year. I don’t think we’ll get a new one this year, especially not since the Air is on the A14 Bionic.

The big question is whether the Air is the replacement for the 11” Pro. Only Apple knows, obviously, but if the 11” Pro isn’t selling to professionals to the same extent as the 12.9” version is, then it makes sense to slim the lineup now that the Air is out. It’s a great device, and an excellent choice for most, without the premium of the Pro, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that is Apple’s long-term goal here.

⚡️ My take 
No new iPad Air in 2021. If you’re in the market for one, go get it knowing that you won’t be blindsided by a new version in a month or three.

The iPad mini

I’m hoping that the new iPad mini, the sixth generation, will get the Pro form factor, much like iPad Air did. I’ve written extensively about that in a previous issue, so I won’t go over all that again. The mini is due for a refresh soon, with reports agreeing on the first half of 2021, whereas some will go so far as to say that it’ll be the first quarter. I’m hoping the latter is true.

It does sound like the screen, which is 7.9” on the current generation, will grow a bit, if rumors are to be believed. This could point to the Pro/Air form factor, but it could just as well mean smaller bezels like the ones on older Air and 10.5” Pro models. The new screen size would be 8.5-9” if the rumors are to be believed. That’s a nice increase, assuming the actual size of the device is all but unchanged.

There are mini-LED rumors for the iPad mini too. I doubt Apple will introduce a new, superior, screen type on the iPad mini, but it could launch alongside iPad Pros with mini-LED. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one though because it would mess up the iPad lineup even further. It’s likely that all iPads will go mini-LED in the end, and the Pros will get OLED perhaps, but with the Air so recently released, it would be weird if that device ended up with the lesser screen. That said, Apple has been known to muddy the waters, so who knows?

⚡️ My take
We’ll get a new iPad mini before summer, with a slightly larger screen, but unfortunately not with the new Pro/Air form factor. Smaller bezels, and Lightning rather than USB-C, is my bet. It’ll sport the A14 Bionic, just like iPad Air does.

Finally, the iPad

The iPad model known as iPad got an update in September last year, with a spec bump to the A12 Bionic — the same processor that’s in the current generation iPad mini. It’s Apple’s entry-level model, and as such it’ll have to be several generations after the others to be affordable. For many, it’s enough, so there’s no rush to update the iPad.

And it won’t happen in 2021 either. First or second quarter 2022 seems likely to me, so if you’re thinking of getting an iPad, you’re good to go.

⚡️ My take
No new iPad in 2021.

Are you looking to purchase a new iPad this year? Which one are you eying? Let me know, preferably by tweeting to @tdh. Personally, I’m in the market for a new iPad mini, and every iPad Pro update has me interested.

— Thord D. Hedengren