When will the iPad mini 3 come out? (Or whatever Apple calls the new iPad mini tablet for 2014.) And what new features, design updates and specs can we expect the new iPad mini 3 to offer? What will be the differences between the iPad mini 2 with Retina display and the iPad mini 3? What will the iPad mini 3 cost in the UK, and will it launch here at the same time as in the US?
We'll attempt to answer these and other iPad mini 3 questions in this rumour roundup, which looks at the speculation surrounding Apple's next mini tablet. We'll gather the clues, examine the evidence behind the various theories, analyse them based on past iPad mini (and full-size iPad) launches and try to reach the truth about the iPad mini 3 launch.
Of course, all of this will become more concrete as the iPad mini 3 launch approaches, and rest assured that we'll add the latest news whenever we hear it. Bookmark this page for the latest information about the iPad mini 3 as it emerges. Updated, 28 July 2014, with leaked photos and speculation about the device being called the iPad mini Air.
iPad mini 3 rumours: iPad mini 3 release date
First, let's consider the iPad mini 3's launch date: when will the iPad mini 3/iPad mini 2014 come out?
Clues currently point to October. Apple is reportedly planning an event to launch the iPhone 6 in September, and another a month later to launch the iPad mini 3 (along with the iPad 6, iWatch and OS X Yosemite). 9to5Mac bases its prediction of an October launch event on "sources briefed on the plans".
Previously, AppleInsider obtained a research note by the respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, predicting that Apple will release an updated iPad mini in the third quarter of 2014.
That would place the iPad mini 3 launch between July and September, which seems fairly plausible. But Apple tends to work slightly later in the year than that - it's a big fan of autumn launch events, with devices going on sale shortly afterwards, giving consumers the chance to make purchases in the run up to Christmas. The two most recent iPads and both iPad minis have all been revealed at October events and released for sale in November of the same year.
(Prior to that, mind you, Apple used to launch its iPads in March - the first three iPads followed this pattern, up until the accelerated release schedule of the iPad 4.)
If we had to bet on a month for the iPad mini 3 release date, it would be November, which falls in the last quarter of the year, not Q3. Apple announced the original iPad mini in October 2012 with the device hitting shops in November. The iPad mini 2 was announced a year later in October and again went on sale in November.
In this video we discuss what Apple might have planned for iOS 8, the iPad line and the iPhone line in 2014:
iPad mini 3 rumours: Leaked images and concept illustrations
As well as the usual concept illustrations and mockups by budding designers - some of which look pretty good, admittedly - a few alleged leaked photos of real-life iPad mini 3 units (or at least prototypes or dummy models) have popped up on the web.
The first leaked photo was sent into the French website nowhereelse.fr, and claimed to a photo of a prototype iPad mini 3. Site editor Steve Hemmerstoffer emphasises that he hadn't heard from the sender before and therefore can't vouch for its reliability. But if it's genuine, this is a clear indication that the iPad mini will have a Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
Touch ID is also visible on our second leaked photo, which comes from the Taiwanese site apple.club.tw. You can also see what are alleged to to be prototypes of the iPhone 6 and iPad 6.
Finally, a taster of the artist illustrations mention previously. These are two of the stand-outs in a set created by Martin Hajek, with the novel approach of giving the iPad mini 3 softer, rounded edges. Obviously these aren't real - just a nice conceptual experiment.
The image above shows the current design of iPad mini on top of the Martin's rounded-edges concept
iPad mini 3 rumours: The 'iPad mini Air'
Will the next mini iPad even be called the iPad mini 3? Maybe not.
On its store and in its adverts and official press releases, Apple generally refers to its mini tablets as the iPad mini and the iPad mini with Retina display (it's just us in the media that call them the iPad mini 1 and iPad mini 2 for clarity), and in general isn't big on version numbers for iPads. The iPad 2 was always the iPad 2, but the rest have generally just been called iPad (iPad 1), 'New iPad' (iPad 3), iPad with Retina display (iPad 3 and iPad 4, depending on which one was on sale) or, most recently, iPad Air.
In other words, who knows what the next iPad mini model will be christened? Perhaps it will gain the 'Air' title which has been used for that latest full-size iPad, although we'd have thought that having both 'mini' and 'Air' in the same model name could be overkill on the thin-and-light front. Exactly how light would an iPad need to be to justify that?
Nevertheless, a report from Taiwan's Economic Daily News claims that the iPad mini 3 will be 30 percent slimmer than the current model, which would justify such a rebranding. (The report also argues rather less controversially for the inclusion of an A8 processor.) But MacRumors is among several outlets that question the logistics of a 30 percent cutdown in the iPad mini's depth: "A 30 percent reduction in thickness for the iPad mini would put it in the range of 5.25 mm, and how Apple would achieve such a reduction is unclear, especially given the increase in horsepower seen with the move to a Retina display last year."
If the next iPad mini offers only a minor update, the most likely outcome is that websites like Macworld and customers on the street will call it the iPad mini 3, but Apple's website will continue to offer 'iPad mini' (the old iPad mini 1) and 'iPad mini with Retina display' (which would be the new iPad mini 3, replacing the iPad mini 2). If the next iPad mini is a significant update I would expect an entirely new name, along the lines of the iPad Air. Perhaps it could go with iPad mini Pro.
iPad mini 3 rumours: Features
No word so far on iPad mini 3 features, but we'll update this article as and when we hear more on Apple's plans.
In the meantime, most iPad mini owners have a wishlist of features they'd like to see in the iPad mini 3. The most common is probably Touch ID; currently only available on the iPhone 5s, Apple's fingerprint scanner is a cool little gimmick that is only going to get more useful as more and more features become compatible with it. Mobile payments are one possibility for the future.
But it's possible - and perhaps likely - that Apple will consider a more cautious upgrade of the mini line, introducing a faster processor, perhaps (that's the standard upgrade if you improve nothing else, although it's worth bearing in mind that the iPad mini 2 is already wonderfully quick on the processing front), or a slightly slimmed-down case.
This would be a disappointment for many after the comparatively minor update in the iPad mini 2 - the Retina display was a charming addition but the overall form factor was essentially unchanged.
iPad mini 3 rumours: Price
Again, the iPad mini 3 price isn't something we can say for sure at this stage, but there's plenty of evidence to suggest it will be positioned at the same level as its predecessors. It's very likely that the iPad mini 3 will start at £319 in the UK.
Historically Apple tends to bring out new iPads at the same (or very close to) the price of the model they're replacing, with older models dropping in price to accommodate this. At the moment Apple sells the iPad mini 2 with Retina display for £319/£399/£479/£559 with Wi-Fi (16/32/64/128GB), and £419/£499/£579/£659 (16/32/64/128GB) with 3G. It's wholly conceivable that the iPad mini 3 will have exactly the same pricing structure.
The iPad mini 1 is still available for £249 (with Wi-Fi) or £349 (with 3G). If Apple keeps the iPad mini 1 and dumps the iPad mini 2, the iPad mini 1 could get cheaper still (but not necessarily - the iPad 2 stayed at its already bargain-basement price when the iPad Air launched - Apple may feel that the iPad mini 1 is cheap enough).
If the iPad mini 1 is the one that gets dumped, the iPad mini 2 should drop in price to around the point currently occupied by the iPad mini 1. It may also find itself reduced to only a single storage option - 16GB or nothing, rather than the range of options it currently offers.
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iPad mini 3: Specs
The first leak of iPad mini 3 specifications is an image from Nowhereelse which shows a tablet which looks like an iPad mini with a Touch ID fingerprint-scanning Home button.
This fits in with Kuo's predictions; he also said the iPad mini 3 will gain an 8Mp (eight megapixel) iSight camera. (The iPad mini 2 with Retina display features a rear-facing 5Mp iSight camera, to go with its 1.2Mp front-facing camera for FaceTime and selfies.)
It would be a surprise, too, if the iPad mini 3 didn't contain a new processor chip. Apple will probably unveil a new 64bit SoC (system on a chip) to run the iPad mini 3, as well as the next full-size iPad (iPad 6?) and the iPhone 6. The logical name for this would be the A8 processor - and this is what Kuo states in his note.
Display-wise, don't expect any changes. Apple should stick with the same 7.9in display with a 2048x1536 resolution that the iPad mini 2 is based on. (Retina displays have - in theory - a sufficiently high resolution that the human eye couldn't recognise any further improvements, so there's almost no chance of a resolution bump. See What is a Retina display, and are they worth the money?)
Apple will have to differentiate the new model in other ways to tempt users to upgrade. It could make the device's design slimmer and lighter, moving it into the 'Air' status we discussed earlier. However, the iPad mini tablets are already small, light and easy to use with one hand.
At the moment it seems like the iPad mini 3 will bring only minor changes and upgrades, but we'll keep you up to date over the coming weeks and months. Let us know any details of the iPad mini 3 that you're particularly keen to hear about - or any rumours you've heard - in the comments below.