What's next for the iPad Pro?

How to enable Picture-in-Picture mode on your iPad
How to enable Picture-in-Picture mode on your iPad (Image credit: iMore)

It was a big week for Apple. At its September 'Time Flies' event we got a brand new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, a new iPad, Apple Fitness+, and a new Apple One bundle.

Despite excitement about the new Apple Watch and Apple's new services, the iPad Air got one of its biggest ever updates. With Apple's best-ever processor and a brand new iPad Pro-esque design, the iPad Air might just be Apple's greatest-ever tablet. But a price bump of $100 and a new A14 processor make one thing abundantly clear, the gap between the iPad Air and the iPad Pro has shrunk significantly.

Level pegging

The iPad Air now boasts far more in common with the iPad Pro than it did previously, and it even has a couple of key advantages. The form factor of both is nearly indistinguishable, save a slightly different camera configuration and 0.1-inches of screen real estate. Both now support Apple's Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Both have USB-C charging, True Tone Displays, a 12MP camera, and plenty of other great features.

The $200 price jump gets you a 120Hz ProMotion display, a second wide-angle lens, and extra storage options.

The iPad Air now actually outstrips the iPad Pro in two key areas. It has Apple's hottest new processor, the A14 Bionic, and it has Touch ID in the device's top button. The A14 in particular is a marvel in mobile computing. From Apple:

iPad Air delivers a massive boost in performance with Apple's most advanced chip, A14 Bionic. Handling even the most demanding apps, A14 Bionic makes it even easier for users to edit 4K videos, create gorgeous works of art, play immersive games, and more. Using breakthrough 5-nanometer process technology, A14 Bionic is packed with 11.8 billion transistors for increased performance and power efficiency in nearly every part of the chip. This latest-generation A-series chip features a new 6-core design for a 40 percent boost in CPU performance, and a new 4-core graphics architecture for a 30 percent improvement in graphics.2 To deliver breakthrough machine learning capabilities, A14 Bionic includes a new 16-core Neural Engine that is twice as fast, and capable of performing up to 11 trillion operations per second, taking machine learning apps to a whole new level. A14 Bionic also includes second-generation machine learning accelerators in the CPU for 10 times faster machine learning calculations. This combination of the new Neural Engine, CPU machine learning accelerators, and high-performance GPU enables powerful on-device experiences for image recognition, natural language learning, analyzing motion, and more.

All of this is to say that you could be forgiven for now questioning why you would want to spend an extra $200 on an iPad Pro that doesn't have the latest processor and less to separate it from its cheaper counterpart than ever before. So how can Apple make the new iPad Pro, more Pro?

Pro Processor

The first obvious big change we can likely expect in a new iPad Pro is Apple's new A14 chip. As you can see from the above, the new 5nm chip is an absolute rocket-ship. Apple already lauds that the iPad Pro is "so fast most PC laptops can't catch up." A new iPad Pro with an A14 processor would be a frighteningly fast tablet, just as the new iPad Air promises to be. There is always a chance, that like the current iPad Pro, Apple might ship a new model with a spicy, unlocked version of the A14 that might be even faster. Remember, Apple is reportedly working on a couple of variants of the A14 for its rumored upcoming Apple Silicon Macs, 2020 is going to be a good year for Apple's processors.

Augmented reality

One of the biggest touted features in Apple's 2020 iPad Pro was its LiDAR scanner, and the prospect that this would open up a whole new realm of possibilities in the world of augmented reality. Apple could have chosen to bring LiDAR to the new iPad Air, but in leaving the tech out of its mid-range iPad, has shown that LiDAR and AR seem set to be a feature reserved more for Apple's iPad Pro range, at least for the time being. That means Apple could indeed look to further improve the camera tech in an upcoming iPad to the tune of better augmented reality capabilities, supplemented of course by the aforementioned A14.


It's no secret that we're on the cusp of Apple's foray into 5G, with Apple widely expected to introduce the tech in its iPhone 12 lineup later this year, perhaps as soon as next month. Whilst cellular options are often something of an afterthought to some consumers, the prospect of an all-powerful Apple tablet with 5G capability is sure to be exciting for some.

Make it bigger

Serious thoughts aside, time to dream a little... bigger. Why can't we have a bigger iPad Pro? Sure the 12.9-inch iPad is big, but it could be bigger. If Apple is serious about challenging the PC market with some of its tablets, why not make screen size another reason to choose an iPad over say, a Windows laptop? Whilst many people love the current size and portability of the iPad Pro models, I'm sure there are plenty of people who would love to draw, create, and consume content on a screen that's 13, 14, or 15-inches big. Heck, why not go for 16, or even 17-inches like the MacBook Pro models of old? Imagine an iPad marketed as a touch screen computer or workstation primarily for a desk or office setting.


Another more outlandish idea. Nearly all the foldable in the current market seem geared to making small, "pocket-sized" devices into larger, medium-sized tablets. But what if Apple took the opposite approach. How about folding an iPad Pro to just half of its full size in order to vastly improve its portability? We're likely years away from an Apple foldable of any size, but Apple has plenty of patents on paper for the technology, and whilst there have been some teething problems for the first generation of foldables, there's also plenty of buzz and excitement.

The future

This is a really exciting time for fans and prospective owners of the iPad Pro. As we alluded to at the start, Apple's huge upgrade to the iPad Air this week means that the pressure is definitely on to improve the iPad Pro in a big way so that Apple can continue to justify the premium price.

It's also exciting because the 'Pro' moniker gives Apple something of a license to do more with the iPad Pro that we otherwise might not get to see in Apple's tablets. With the Air and the standard 'iPad', Apple is a little more restricted in what it can do with new features because it has to balance affordability and stick relatively close to the respective low and mid-tier price points. But with the Pro, the sky is really the limit. Whilst we might not get a foldable, 17-inch iPad anytime soon, you can rest assured that Apple definitely has big things in store for its next tablet.

What would you like to see in a future iPad Pro? An A14 chip? 5G? Or something else? Let us know!

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