Apple is widely expected to unveil a brand new lineup of iPad Pro models in 2021. It's almost a year since Apple released the 2020 iPad Pro, which is by all accounts a stonking 2-in-1 offering. But there's still room for improvement, not least because Apple's 2020 iPad Air was a huge upgrade on previous models, and actually sports a better processor, making it the Best iPad available right now. So what could we expect from Apple and a new iPad Pro in 2021? When will it be released, and how much will it cost? Here's everything we (think we) know about the next iPad Pro.
Apple has taken some steps in recent years to bring its iPads up to speed with new designs, ditching the Home Buttons, Touch ID, and chins in favor of thinner bezels and a squarer design. That trend is expected to continue with the new iPad Pro, which by all accounts will look almost exactly like the old one.
Leaked renders from January indicate that the new iPad Pro will be all but indistinguishable from the current version. The 11-inch version might be a few millimeters shorter, but that's about it. Oh, and a slightly tweaked speaker grill. The 2021 model is going to be an internal, not an external overhaul for iPad Pro.
As mentioned, Apple is not making any design changes, and that includes form factor and size. As such, expect two new iPads from Apple, a 12.9-inch version (5th-generation), and an 11-inch version too (2nd-generation).
This is where it starts to get interesting, as Apple is expected to introduce a mini-LED to iPad with the next iPad Pro. A multitude of rumors indicate Apple has the tech in the pipeline for several products including iPad and Mac. From supply chain guru Ming-Chi Kuo:
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated previous reports that Apple's new iPad Pro will receive a huge display boost thanks to mini-LED technology, perhaps as early as this year.
In a research note seen by iMore, Kuo said that new mini-LED displays will begin mass production in Q4 of 2020 and that it is expected this display will feature in the new iPad Pro.
So what's the deal with mini-LED? As Rene Ritchie explains:
Yeah, mini-LED, not OLED. Because OLED not only still has issues like smearing, off-axis color shifting, pulse-width modulation, burn-in, and consistent brightness, it still has issues with yield and scale, even for phone-sized panels, never mind bigger-than phone-sized panels.
What mini-LED does is use thousands of tiny, 200 micron LEDs, grouped in local dimming zones. That lets them get blacks almost, if not quite, as deep as OLED, and contrast ratios that should be close to, if not full-on OLED-level HDR — high dynamic range.
With any luck, the 2021 iPad Pro will be a massive display upgrade over the current version in terms of quality. One report previously has indicated that mini-LED might only be an option for the larger 12.9-inch iPad.
According to rumors, Apple is planning a processor boost to its iPad Pro. As previously mentioned, the introduction of the A14 chip to the iPad Air leaves a need for the iPad Pro to push past this in order to distinguish itself as the 'Pro' iPad. To that end, Apple could go one of two ways, firstly an A14 'X' chip, as it has done in previous versions:
At least one report has seen the A14X and the M1 chip described as the same chip, so this could indicate that rumors we've previously heard about an A14X chip actually refer to the M1 Apple silicon chip released in November. Expect the new iPad Pro to be very fast.
With 5G perhaps the biggest single upgrade to the iPhone 12 last year, there is every hope and possibility that the next iPad Pro might get it too. Expect Apple to follow the usual route of offering a Wi-Fi only, and a Wi-Fi + Cellular option. It was suggested last year that Apple might be planning to introduce its own AiP modules that could enable mmWave 5G.
Given that this is an internal overhaul, rather than a major redesign, it's very possible that the iPad Pro in 2021 slots into the price points of the previous generation, with the 11-inch starting at $799, and a 12.9-inch starting at $999. Then again, Apple did raise the price of its new iPad Air by quite a bit given the new features added last year. Unfortunately, we don't really have much indication as to what Apple might do with the iPad Pro going forward in terms of cost.
New Apple Pencil?
There are hushed rumors Apple has a new Pencil in the works, with it being suggested the new one may come in black as well as white. Leaked photos indicate it could have a slightly glossier design, and may also have a new mechanism for replacing the tips. Beyond design, there's no rumor that Apple will add or change the Pencil's functionality. Likewise, we don't know if the Apple Pencil is coming alongside a new iPad Pro, or at a later point, the former seems more likely though.
So when can we expect a new iPad Pro? If rumors are true, perhaps in just a few weeks. From reports earlier this year:
Apple leaker Jon Prosser has cryptically predicted that the next iPad Pro will be coming from Apple in March. Prosser retweeted another user on Twitter, who was asking him about the new iPad Pro, with a one-word response: March.