Apple released a new iPad, but not the one everyone expected

Person using iPad
(Image credit: Apple)

With rumors suggesting that Apple would announce a new iPad mini and iPad Air this week, it might not come as that much of a surprise that Apple did indeed unveil a new tablet. But it isn't the one you expected, and it's only going to be available in one country.

That new iPad isn't a new tablet to cater to the market that likes a smaller screen, nor is it one that wants a pro-like iPad without paying iPad Pro prices, either. This is an iPad that none of us saw coming, and it's one that will fly under the radar for a whole lot of people.

I am, of course, talking about the new 10th-gen iPad with eSIM support.

Wait, what?

If that doesn't sound new to you, you probably don't live in China. That's the country where Apple stealth-unveiled the new tablet as part of the USB-C Apple Pencil announcement posted to its Chinese newsroom.  And to those in the country, the addition of eSIM support is indeed new.

"iPad (10th generation) supports 5G, providing users with more ways to connect," Apple's press release says via machine translation. "It can smoothly access files, contact relatives and friends, and access streaming media content anytime and anywhere without wireless LAN." It goes on to add that "the upgraded iPad (10th generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular model supports eSIM, and users can choose China Unicom's cellular data plan directly on the iPad. Users can also continue to use the physical SIM card activated by the carrier."

That's undoubtedly good news for iPad buyers in China who might not want to do battle with those fiddly little bits of plastic we call SIM cards.

But but, where are the new iPads?

As good as this new release will be for people in China, it's hardly the big announcement that we had been told to expect. There's still time, of course. The original report suggested a new iPad Air and iPad mini pairing could arrive this week, although a Tuesday release was suggested. That's been and gone, as has Wednesday. But there's still time with Thursday and Friday to go. There's hope, right?

Well, probably not. If Apple was going to unveil a new iPad mini or iPad Air it would surely have done it before the new USB-C Apple Pencil. Then it could have shown the pairing off together, for starters.  And does the new Apple Pencil really warrant a day of press coverage all to itself? If wager that if there really were new iPads on the horizon they'd have arrived alongside the new Apple Pencil as a flurry of new announcements all on the same day.

That isn't to say that we won't see new iPad Air and iPad mini products soon, of course. Apple could well drop them next week or next month. The pre-holiday sales may be too good for Apple to turn down. But this week? I think any lingering hope of an iPad unveiling fell away once Wednesday came and went with nothing more than a newsroom post about pickleball.

Right now trying to guess Apple's release schedules is a fool's errand. Today we saw that the M3 24-inch iMac won't arrive until 2024 despite previous rumors it would come this year. The new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro releases aren't expected until next year, either. Will see see anything new before now and the end of the year? I wouldn't bet on it.

But then again, I wouldn't bet against it, either. Am I hedging right?

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.