Last year, Apple surprised everyone by not updating the iPad Air 2, which it had initially released in 2014. Instead, the company released the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that was meant to take on the Surface Pro 4 and even replace Ultrabooks for many. Six months after the unveiling of the iPad Pro though, Apple looks all set to unveil the iPad Air 3, which might just be getting a new moniker this year.
Rumors and leaks have indicated that the iPad Air 3 will simply be a downsized version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with latest reports speculating that Apple will be calling it the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. If true, this will be the second time that the company will be renaming its iPad lineup. It had first done it in 2013 when it launched the iPad Air with a completely new design and chassis, which replaced its ageing iPad 4 then.
Thanks to leaks and rumors though, a lot has already been revealed about Apple’s upcoming tablet.
Design & Display
True to its name, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will exactly be like its bigger brother: it will sport the exact same chassis design including the four stereo speakers, a Smart Connector for accessories like the Smart Keyboard, and support Apple Pencil. Interestingly, diagram and case leaks also point to the tablet coming with an LED flash for the rear camera, which indicates that irrespective of what many of us think, people do click photos from their iPads.
The exact dimensions and thickness of the iPad Air 3/9.7-inch iPad Pro have not yet leaked though. Considering that iPads are meant for content consumption, Apple should have upgraded the speakers on the tablet long ago. Nonetheless, the inclusion of four speakers on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro should be a welcome addition that will improve the experience of consuming content on it.
While an initial rumor did claim the new iPad will be coming with a 4K resolution display, it does seem unlikely that it is going to be the case. However, rumors claim that Apple further improving the display on the ‘mini’ iPad Pro to ensure it reaches higher brightness levels. The company will also use an even better anti-reflective coating to further reduce glare in direct sunlight.
Sadly, just like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air 3/9.7-inch iPad Pro is not going to come with 3D Touch. It can be argued though 3D Touch is not that particularly useful on a tablet, where there is plenty of real screen estate available.
The inclusion of a Smart Keyboard connector means that Apple will likely also unveil a new Smart Keyboard case for the smaller iPad Pro.
Rumors claim that the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will come with Apple’s A9X chip, which should not really be surprising since the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is also powered by it. I do, however, think that Apple will be downclocking the chipset to improve battery life, since the smaller iPad Pro will likely come with a slightly lower resolution screen, which means that it will not require all the extra horsepower offered by the beefy A9X chipset.
The smaller iPad Pro is also expected to come with 4GB RAM, which should not really be surprising since the larger iPad Pro also comes with 4GB RAM. While the battery size of the iPad Air 3/9.7-inch iPad Pro has not yet leaked, the tablet is rumored to come with better battery life.
Camera and Availability
Even though most advanced users frown at people taking photos with their iPad, the average consumer continues doing so. With the iPad Air 2, Apple updated the camera on the tablet to an 8MP one. This time around, the company is rumored to bump the camera resolution to 12MP, add 4K video recording capabilities, along with LED flash. I am not really sure how the inclusion of an LED flash will help taking photos on the iPad Pro, though people who frequently take photos with their iPad will appreciate its inclusion.
Apple is widely expected to unveil the 9.7-inch iPad Pro with iPhone 5SE or iPhone SE at a media event on March 21st. The new 9.7-inch iPad Pro is expected to go on sale within a week of Apple’s media event, which is rumored to take place on March 21st. As for pricing, I expect the tablet to be priced at the same price point as the iPad Air 2: $499 for 16GB, $599 for 64GB and $699 for 128GB.
Are you excited about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro? Or will you stick to your existing iPad?