Apple’s iPad Pro M3 might actually be an iPad Pro M4, and now we just have one question — WHY?

iPad Pro screen with control center
(Image credit: Future)

With Apple’s May 7 Let Loose event just days away, a bombshell new rumor about the OLED iPad Pro has left us scratching our heads and begging the question, what on earth is going on?

For months we’ve been looking forward to the iPad Pro M3, Apple’s next best iPad, as the end of a 500+ day drought of no new Apple tablets. One of the headline features, as eagle-eyed readers might have spotted, was thought to be the M3 chip. For months, Apple’s top-of-the-line iPad was tipped to get the same Apple silicon as the M3 MacBook Air and the M3 MacBook Pro. Now, however, a new rumor claims that M4 will actually be at the heart of the tablet.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claims that “there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3.” Apple’s M4 chip will reportedly feature a new neural engine that “will pave the way for fresh AI capabilities.” 

An M4 iPad Pro, released before any M4 Mac debuts, would certainly be a real turn-up for the books, yet there are so many reasons why this leak doesn’t make any sense. Here’s a breakdown of why M4 might not be iPad Pro’s party piece on May 7, and some thoughts on what the next iPad actually needs to succeed.

iPad Pro M4 leaks: the detail 

Setting up mail on iPad

(Image credit: iMore)

A couple of aspects of this M4 iPad Pro leak have given me pause. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is undisputedly the world’s foremost Apple insider and values his track record highly. He wouldn’t have put his name to a rumor or leak he didn’t have at least some confidence in and often plays it quite safe with the wording and phrasing of his information. Regarding M3, Gurman says “I’m hearing there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3.” Immediately, this indicates to me a degree of uncertainty, either about the nature of the leak itself or where it might have come from. Contrast that to his previous report in August 2023, in which he stated: “The next iPad Pro models — codenamed J717, J718, J720 and J721 — will shift to the next-generation M3 chip.” The latter is clearly a much more definitive piece of information, with codenames likely gleaned directly from Apple internally. I don’t think it's a stretch to say that Gurman is not as confident about the M4 rumor as he was about previous M3 rumors. However, it should be noted that the M3 leak came much earlier on in the OLED iPad Pro’s development, and Apple has been known to change its plans in this regard. 

Positioning of the latest leak aside, there are also some other reasons to raise an eyebrow at the prospect of an M4 iPad, some of which have also been highlighted by John Gruber over at Daring Fireball. As noted by Gruber, Gurman has previously reported that the iPad Pro was initially targeted for a March launch, just four months after the debut of M3. Secondly, Gruber notes we should be skeptical about the fact that Apple’s iPad needs M4 to power some of those rumored new Apple AI features. An M4 iPad Pro would further upset Apple’s overall Apple silicon launch schedule, which sees Apple’s iPhone given first refusal for the company’s most powerful chip. Apple’s M3 chip is, after all, simply a Mac version of the A17 Pro that powers Apple’s best iPhone, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.  

M4 iPad Pro would exacerbate iPads biggest problem, not solve it 

iPad Pro 11-inch

(Image credit: Future)

Logistics and the veracity of this rumor aside, I also can’t help but think that an M4 iPad Pro wouldn’t solve any of the iPad lineup’s problems. In fact, it would make them worse. That’s because the single biggest issue facing the iPad right now is that all of its pricier tablets, including even the iPad Air 5, are hilariously overpowered. Apple leverages M1 and M2 Apple silicon chips in the M2 iPad Pro and the M1 iPad Air to run a magnified version of its iPhone operating system. There are a couple of high-performance “Pro” apps available on the iPad, including Apple’s own Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro. More processing power would certainly benefit these apps. The problem is, of course, that anyone who uses those apps for any kind of serious work, does so on the Mac. 

Apple’s iPad Pro doesn’t even really need the M2 chip so far as I can tell. It certainly wouldn’t have needed the M3 chip we’ve been expecting, so the idea Apple would skip M3 altogether in favor of M4 just sounds plain bonkers to me. To quote an inimitable motoring journalist it would be like putting a Saturn V rocket in a food processor. 

I have no trouble being proved wrong when Apple does in fact unveil the M4 iPad Pro at the Let Loose event, I just can’t help thinking it’ll be a real head-scratcher when it happens.

The iPad Pro we deserve 

Blue iPad (2022) laying screen side down with Apple Pencil

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

The iPad Pro leaves very little to be desired as a tablet. It does everything one could wish for in terms of performance, and the new OLED iPad Pro will likely make its display the best on the market by some margin. The coolest tools Apple has to make its iPad lineup standout are the Apple Pencil, which is set to be a major focus of the Let Loose event, and the Magic Keyboard, also tipped for an upgrade. The latter is a premium keyboard that gives users who want it some (if not all) of the MacBook experience on iPad, while the former is perhaps the iPad’s most important distinguishing feature. The ability to effortlessly draw, take notes, shade, color, and more on an iPad sets it apart from both the Mac and the iPhone as a unique product in Apple’s stable. With an Apple Pencil present in the event invite, and Tim Cook’s “Pencil us in” quip, it’s clear the stylus will be a big focos for the iPad event. Beyond that, I don’t have much hope. 

While Apple is clearly gearing up for a big AI push this summer, I simply don’t see how any amount of artificial intelligence, generative or otherwise, could pull the iPad out of the mire it currently languishes in. At present, the iPad Pro is simply too expensive and too software-limited to justify buying instead of a Mac. 

The iPad Pro also has another issue, in my estimation. I was hoping to round out these thoughts with a quick list of improvements Apple should be making to the iPad Pro aside from the silicon, and I simply can’t think of any. I’d prefer it if my iPad Pro was a little lighter, and perhaps thinner too, and you can never have too much battery life. That aside, is it possible that Apple has reached the end of the road as far as iPad innovation goes? Sure, the company can improve Apple Pencil support, and add new features to the Pencil itself. But without a radical rethink (a foldable design, for instance), I simply don’t see how Apple can offer anything more than tiny iterative gains to an already brilliant device. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

  • dstrauss54
    "While Apple is clearly gearing up for a big AI push this summer, I simply don’t see how any amount of artificial intelligence, generative or otherwise, could pull the iPad out of the mire it currently languishes in. At present, the iPad Pro is simply too expensive and too software-limited to justify buying instead of a Mac."
    You hinted at it throughout this and your related article about an M4 iPad Pro - Apple needs to add Finder to iPadOS18 and enable loading real Mac apps (Adobe, Office 365, etc.). Whether they dual boot, sell a MacOS SKU, or enable the rumored "Mac-lite" environment, the M4 iPad Pro needs parity to the M3 MacBook Air to justify its existence.

    I'm tired of the naysayers who proclaim "don't spoil my iPad experience" or "no one wants MacOS on an iPad" because they are wrong on BOTH counts. This could be done as a user option only - no need to spoil the pristine iPaddyness if you want that, while fulfilling the wants and needs of thousands of us who want a 2.5# 2-in-1 solution from Apple, even if we have to pay a ridiculous premium to satisfy Apple's prior greed that pushed us to having to buy TWO separate devices.