It may be a good idea to hold off on buying an iPad right now, as we expect new models from Apple later this year.
Apple recently upgraded its back-to-school targeted MacBook Air with a new M2 chip and a better camera and display. Apple’s iPad lineup, however, is still due for a 2022 upgrade. The midrange iPad Air got an M1 chip back in the spring, but the entry-level iPad and the iPad Pro are in a holding pattern until the fall.
Apple is expected to have product launch events in September and October, similar to previous years. The iPhone 14 and Apple Watch 8 could be unveiled in September, while the iPads might be saved for October, alongside an update to iPadOS 16.
If you’ve been waiting for new iPad models, here’s what to expect.
Entry-level iPad: New design, plus USB-C
The entry-level iPad could get a significant upgrade, based on the latest reports from Mark Gurman and 9to5Mac. The current entry-level ninth-gen iPad still has a Lightning port and an original circular Touch ID home button, but the design might finally change to match the iPad Mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro models. That could mean flatter edges, a curved-corner display, USB-C charging and maybe a side-placed Touch ID button, almost like a budget version of the iPad Air.
The base iPad could get the A14 chip that was in the last-gen iPad Air, which would be an upgrade from the A13 that’s in the current iPad, but short of the M1 that’s on the Air and Pro models. If that’s true, it could also mean the basic iPad won’t be able to use the extra Stage Manager multitasking modes in iPadOS 16.
It’s not much of a surprise, since the entry iPad adopted the previous iPad Air’s body design in a similar way a few years ago. Moving to USB-C charging feels overdue.
This could also allow the entry iPad to work with the second-gen Pencil, and possibly with Apple’s line of Magic Keyboard cases.
9to5Mac’s report also says the entry iPad could get optional 5G cellular, which would be an upgrade over LTE options on current models.
The entry iPad’s price could possibly increase, though, which is something to watch out for. 2022 has already had product price upticks due to inflation, and the same could happen for the most affordable iPad.
iPad Pro: Overdue improvements
The iPad Pro, meanwhile, hasn’t seen a refresh since spring 2021, when it added 5G, an M1 chip and a Mini LED display for the larger 12.9-inch version. Signs point to October for a new model.
Reports also point to the Pros getting the M2 chip that recently launched in the MacBook line, which seems like the most obvious move. Other things that might and might not change:
Will iPads finally fix the camera placement?
My biggest iPad request, besides revamping the OS extensively to make it a better Mac alternative, is fixing the front camera placement. Zoom meetings on iPads in landscape mode (which is how they mostly orient themselves if you use any sort of keyboard case) have their cameras placed off to the side.
While Apple’s zoom-in Center Stage camera tech helps a bit, it doesn’t address eye-contact issues — I usually look like I’m staring off into space during my iPad Zooms. I’d love a camera switch to the longer edge, but who knows if that’s in the cards this year. Apple didn’t shift the camera placement for its latest iPad Air, so it feels unlikely.
An improved Magic Keyboard? Unclear
Apple’s two-year-old Magic Keyboard is useful but has shortcomings: It lacks a row of function keys, it’s expensive and can’t fold back into a folio-type orientation for reading or sketching. It’s unlikely Apple would make the case less expensive, but I’d love to see an upgraded model with function keys, and maybe even added USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. Right now, no reports indicate this will happen.
A new Pencil?
Apple’s Pencil is also pretty old now, and the second-gen model, while solid, is pretty long and awkward to store. Would Apple ever consider a more compact Pencil, or one that could tuck away more easily into the iPad Pro’s design? Another programmable touch-sensitive function or two on the side would also be helpful. Again, no reports have popped up on this either.
Some rumors have pointed to the Pro tablets adding wireless charging. Could it be MagSafe? MagSafe has popped up in Apple’s recent MacBook Pros, iMacs and iPhones. The one weird thing about MagSafe so far is that every instance has involved a different type of charger. Would Apple make the iPad Pro MagSafe yet another unique accessory, separate from the iPhone and MacBook versions? Apple’s magnetic Smart Connector for iPads already offers this type of snap-on charge accessory function for devices like the Magic Keyboard, although Smart Connector-compatible accessories remain few and far between.
Will the display tech be the same?
The 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro was the only model to have a step-up Mini LED display, similar to the recent MacBook Pros, offering deeper blacks and more dynamic contrast. The 11-inch model still might not get Mini LED this year. Instead, the 11- and 12.9-inch iPads could be getting OLED displays in some future year’s upgrade.
Screen size: Not likely to change
A larger display for the iPad Pro may still be a few years away. A report from MacRumors suggests that two of Apple’s suppliers are preparing OLED displays in larger sizes (up to 15 inches) for future iPad models. However, these bigger Pro tablets aren’t expected to arrive until 2023 or 2024.
To me, iPads are fine. But the iPad Pro’s more power-intensive nature, and its keyboard cases, could mean a useful battery upgrade is in the works. In my experience, the 2022 iPad Air’s battery life tends to use its charge up faster than the M1 Air does. The MacBook Air now outperforms the iPad in battery performance, and maybe in 2022 the iPad Pro could catch up.
Right now, you might be best holding off on buying an iPad if you can. But in the meantime, here are some guidelines for choosing between the current iPads.