What's the rumored release date for the next iPad and iPad Pro? What spec speculation has there been? Will it have a new form and new features? Here's our roundup!
The original iPad was an iPhone gone IMAX and the first successful tablet the world had ever seen. Six years later, the stars of the iPad show are the retina iPad mini, iPad Air 2, and 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
But where does Apple go from here? What iPad secrets are yet to be unlocked? And most importantly — when are we going to get them? Here's what we know so far.
Will the "Pro" live long and prosper? Will the "Air" pop back in to the lineup? And what about the poor iPad mini?
Though we don't have concrete information one way or the other, our general hunch on the matter is that Pro is the way of the future: The Air 2 will stick around as a great low-cost education model, but its moniker will likely disappear after that.
As for the iPad mini, its days may be numbered: The 7.9-inch tablet is already close in size with both the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus and 9.7-inch iPad Pro lines, and there's been no speculation in the supply chain about smaller iPads with Smart Connectors and Apple Pencil support.
Release date rumors
Update: According to Mac Otakara, Apple plans to release a trio of new iPads, all in the Pro line, in spring 2017. The new iPads are said to come in 7.9-inch, 10.1-inch, and 12.9-inch varieties, all with True Tone displays.
The iPad's release dates have fluctuated throughout the years — we've seen a year go by between product updates, and we've also had multiple updates in the same year.
- April 2010: Original iPad
- March 2011: iPad 2
- March 2012: iPad 3
- November 2012: iPad 4 + Mini 1
- November 2013: iPad Air + Mini 2
- October 2014: iPad Air 2 + Mini 3
- September 2015: iPad Mini 4
- November 2015: iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
- March 2016: iPad Pro (9.7-inch)
In some ways, the iPad release schedule is starting to resemble its Mac counterparts, rather than its iOS origins: Update when there's a good reason to update, rather than a yearly timing cycle. And given the lengthy iPad lifecycle, it makes sense — these aren't devices people are replacing every year.
So, when is the next one going to hit the stage? The latest musings from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as reported by MacRumors, pegs a release sometime in 2017; sorry, folks, doesn't look like you'll see an iPad Pro 2 at the iPhone event.
But what about a new iPad mini or iPad Air? It's certainly possible that we'll see a revamp of the mini, but based on Kuo's speculation, Apple may be moving away from smaller iPads in favor of more computer-size and style devices.
Design and colors
We expect the next generation of iPad Pro to look much like its older siblings; AppleInsider received photos back in July of a purported iPad Pro 2, and while they're not particularly illuminating, the device does largely resemble that of the first-generation iPad Pro.
If we're lucky, we might get a new anodized color — blue, maybe? — but other than that, expect a very similar-looking machine.
As with the iPhone, however, it's the model year after this next revision that's truly interesting: In the same report referenced earlier, Kuo speculates about a "revolutionary iPad model" coming down the pipeline, which he claims will be introduced in the fall of 2018 and offer "radical" design changes, including a flexible AMOLED screen. Not only would this offer users more efficient battery life, but it also has the possibility to allow for curved, rolled, or otherwise flexible movement from a formerly rigid device.
There's a lot of potential here, to be sure, but also quite a few pitfalls. Apple has only one device in production with the AMOLED screen, the Apple Watch, and it will be a significant challenge to expand the screen size while keeping production costs and physics feasibility in line with the universe.
When it comes to the iPad's display and internals, there are really only two key points to hit: Display improvements and new processors.
The latter, processors, is a pretty easy target: Apple has been improving on its in-house designed chipset for the last six years, and we're not surprised to see Ming-Chi Kuo predict the adoption of an A10X processor (assuming the A10 drops for the next iPhone).
On the display side, there are a few features present in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro model, like True Tone color adaptation, that we expect to see unify with the 12.9-inch in its next iteration. On the other side, we hope the 12.9-inch iPad's USB 3.0 support will trickle down to its smaller cousins.
There's also the question of 3D Touch: It's been a no-go on the iPad previously because of its display size, but it's entirely possible Apple has figured out how to build the feature in the intervening months.
As for display size, here's a fun rumor from Kuo: The 2017 iPads Pro will purportedly come in 12.9-inch, 9.7-inch, and a new 10.5-inch model. He speculates that the middle model might appeal to education and commercial markets, but this may also be Apple's move to unify the iPad sizing lineup to somewhat resemble the MacBook: Three computer-sized options depending on your needs and wants.
Beyond size, it seems inevitable that Apple will standardize technology across the iPad product line. Currently the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has both DCI-P3 wide gamut color space and True Tone color matching. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro does not. It's hard to imagine any update that doesn't bring the 12.9-inch iPad in line.
Although some people no doubt wish Apple would go all-in on USB-C for iPad the way they have the new MacBook, there's nothing to suggest that the iPad Pro will swap from its Lightning-based connector for future versions. We are hoping the smaller models at least will support USB 3 fast charging (and maybe even have that super-fast USB-C adapter in the box).
While the iPad retains the iPhone's virtual keyboard that can take any form — the best form — at any given time, Apple also manufactures a hardware keyboard for more dedicated writing time.
Could the company implement a Force Touch haptic digital keyboard that feels like a hardware keyboard? Possibly — but we're skeptical of seeing it anytime soon. (For one thing, the landscape keyboard takes up half of the display on a 9.7-inch iPad Pro.)
Instead, we might see improvements to Apple's cloth-covered Smart Keyboard: More typing angles is the biggest complaint, but more sturdiness when put together is a close second. And for the more feature-demanding in the audience, Apple might even lean toward replicating its rumored MacBook OLED keyboard for the Smart Keyboard option.
What do we know for certain?
Only that we won't know anything for certain until Phil Schiller shows it off on stage!