Rumours suggest we’ll see new iPad models announced by Apple in March — but what will we get, and what’s really needed for Apple’s tablet line? As always, I have opinions.
Apple has enjoyed astonishing success with its iPad line, dominating tablet sales and the popular discussion around iPads — so much so that any discussion of a tablet-style computer is often conflated with the term “iPad”.
So much so that, rather infamously, Microsoft got (justifiably) irked a decade back when a Surface sponsorship deal with the NFL saw commentators describe its tablet computers as “iPads”… but I’m delving back into history again, and I really want to talk about what’s expected for 2024’s iPad lineup.
2024 Apple iPads: What’s coming?
As always, only Tim Cook knows for sure (and he’s been sealed in an airtight plastic tube just to be sure*), but there’s some consistency in the rumours to date around what’s expected for the next crop of iPads.
Probably launching in March
If it feels like it’s been a long time since there was a “new” iPad, that’s because it has been, at least by Apple’s typical launch schedule. Apple’s tended to release at least one iPad refresh in a given year — sometimes more — but it didn’t do so at all in 2023.
The current generation iPad Pro dates from October 2022, as does the 10th Gen regular iPad. The iPad Air is a little older, dating back to March 2022 while the iPad mini is even older, dating back to September 2021, which is also when the 9th Gen iPad that Apple still sells made its debut.
In many ways that’s fine; iPads aren’t devices that really require annual updates, and nobody sane should be looking at an annual upgrade cycle for tablets anyway.
M2 or M3? It… depends. Maybe.
The reality in the Apple space is that while the company hasn’t upgraded its iPad lines for quite some time, it has shifted its focus to the second and third generation of its “Apple Silicon” strategy for devices such as MacBooks, iMacs and Mac Minis.
Meanwhile, the most powerful iPads are running on the M1 generation of processors, so it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that we’ll see updated internals across whichever iPads Apple chooses to upgrade first.
The question is, who gets which parts? The rumours as they stand suggest that the 2024 iPad Air might ship with an M2 chip, presumably leaving the more powerful M3 silicon for the pricier iPad Pro line.
That leaves entirely open as to what Apple might do with the iPad and iPad Mini lines, both of which currently use Apple A-series silicon, effectively making them “big” iPhones. Most suggestions seem to point towards Apple continuing this trend.
iPad Air likely to come in two sizes, iPad mini might grow a touch.
The other hot rumour is that the iPad Air will join the Pro in shipping in two sizes, with a 12.9 inch model alongside an 11 inch model providing a range of screen sizes.
So what’s going to differentiate the Pro from the Air? It appears to be the screen, with the Airs using a simpler LCD panel while the Pro models opt for OLED displays across the board. Many are tipping that the retail price of the Pro models will jump up as a result, which could make for quite the gulf between the Air and Pro models even if they do ship in similar sizes.
Meanwhile at the other end of the scale, the suggestion for the iPad Mini is that it’ll see a screen size bump up to 8.7 inches. Is it still a Mini at that size?
New Magic Keyboard?
Apple’s Magic Keyboard is a genuinely nice bit of kit — look, here’s my video review from a few years back to give you the full rundown:
That review is of older kit, however, and it’s suggested that Apple might deliver an updated Magic Keyboard with a larger trackpad when it launches new iPad models.
That’s presumably for the Pro (and maybe the Air) crowds, and those with relatively deep wallets, because it turns out that turning your tablet into a laptop is something that costs quite serious money.
9th Gen iPad is living on borrowed time
The other persistent iPad rumour relates to Apple ever-so-slightly simplifying its iPad lines, by way of dropping the current “cheapest” iPad you can buy. That’s the 9th Generation iPad, currently available in Australia from $549. That would be in line with what Apple tends to do with iPhone launches, especially if there’s an 11th Gen iPad in the works.
Alex’s Take: Apple iPad 2024
With the caveat once again that rumours don’t always pan out, there’s a reasonable amount here to like… and some areas of concern as well.
The shift for the iPad Pro line up to M3 makes a lot of sense. Apple wants to position the iPad Pro as a professional tool that just so coincidentally happens to be tied (mostly, thanks EU) to an App Store that makes it all the money, so having the iPad Pro trail well behind the MacBook Pro M3 isn’t a good look.
Then again, that does depend on which model of the M3 that Apple stuffs into the iPad Pro’s innards; I wouldn’t be holding out for an iPad Pro M3 Max, basically. The battery life on that thing might be a little compromised… or perhaps the back of it might double as a BBQ grill.
The rumoured jump up in price might be a sticking point for some, however, especially once you factor in the additional cost of the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil. For some Pro positions that might be an improvement that pays for itself in productivity terms, but for some bean counters it might be a jump too far.
That’s presumably where the positioning for the iPad Air comes in, though given its current asking price ($999 and up) it’s not exactly a low-priced proposition either. The Air is a nice device, but for the longest time I’ve wondered precisely who it was for, because the Pro crowd would presumably meet its asking price. Perhaps if that gulf is even wider, the Air might become a good power proposition in its own right.
Then we hit the more consumer-focused iPad lineup, with the Mini and regular iPads. Here I’d hope that Apple shifts the price of the 10th gen model down rather radically to at least where the 9th Gen sits right now.
My go-to recommendation for consumers generally for the past few years has been the 9th gen model because it’s powerful enough for most, and I couldn’t quite see the justification in the higher asking price of the 10th generation model in relative terms. I can totally see the 11th Gen having a higher asking price… but then it too needs to justify that. Apple could always opt for an M1 iPad, I guess… but that’s pure speculation on my part.
I’m on the record as not being the biggest fan of Apple’s smallest iPad, but if that screen size rumour is true — and again, depending on asking price — it could become a much more compelling option.
While it’s not been specifically mentioned before, I’d also presume — or at least hope — that Apple uses the 2024 launch to formally remove all traces of Lightning from its iPad lineups. That’s not that tricky to do if the 9th Gen iPad is a goner, because it’s the only current model still using the older connector. That would at least make sense of that newer cheaper iPad Pencil Apple launched last year, I suppose.
*Satire, just in case Apple’s lawyers are tuning in.
Lead Image: Apple