When will the iPad mini 5 come out in the UK? And what new features will the mini 5 get compared with the iPad mini 4?
The iPad mini 4 was unveiled in September 2015, with significant design changes, updated specs and new features that make it one of the best 8in tablets around. But that was last year, and we can't help but wonder what's next for the iPad mini: will 2016's iPad mini 5 see another major overhaul, or will it be a damp squib like the mini 3? With this in mind, we've done a bit of research, and gathered all of the iPad mini 5 rumours, hints and clues in one place. Read on for speculation about the iPad mini 5 release date in the UK, iPad mini 5 features (including our iPad mini 5 new features wishlist) and more.
Here are the main sections in this article:
iPad mini 5 launch date rumours (updated, 1 March, to discuss Apple's widely predicted 21 March press event)
iPad mini 5: our new features wishlist (updated, 1 March, to add quick charging)
iPad mini 5 release date rumours: When is the new iPad mini coming out in the UK?
The iPad mini 4 was both released on 9 September, when Apple hosted a press event to show off the iPhone 6s, the iPhone 6s Plus, the iPad Pro and the new Apple TV as well as the new iPad mini. (But not a new iPad Air; the iPad Air 3 is tentatively expected at a March 2016 event, as we'll explain in a moment.)
The mini 4's September arrival was mildly surprising, as the original iPad mini, iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3 were all launched at October events, each time coming a month after a September iPhone launch. In 2015, however, Apple didn't have an October event, lumping its new iPhone and iPad announcements into a single night.
On the other hand, Apple did add a new date to its calender earlier in 2015: a March event where the company released new Macs and the Apple Watch. Following confirmation by multiple sources, we're now fairly sure that Apple will hold a March 2016 event, most likely on 21 March, and we expect this to see the launch of the iPhone SE and iPad Air 3, and possibly the Apple Watch 2 - or at least some new Apple Watch straps. But we don't expect to get a new iPad mini so soon after the mini 4.
Nope: by far your best bet for the iPad mini 5's release date is autumn 2016, and September presently looks more likely than October. That might change if Apple decides to revamp its entire iPad line-up - unveiling an iPad Air 3 as well as an iPad Pro 2 and iPad mini 5 - in which case it might feel that they deserve their own event a month after the new iPhones appear.
With most iOS device launches, the product itself doesn't arrive in shops for a little over a week after the unveiling, but Apple managed to take the wraps off the iPad mini 4 and announce its retail launch at the same time. As for the UK release date, that's likely to be the same date as the primary launch in the US. That's what happened with the mini 4, at any rate.
We're sure there will be an influx of release date rumours as we race through 2016, so we'll keep you updated right here in this article.
Podcast: what to expect from Apple event on March 21
iPad mini 5 rumours: Design changes
The iPad mini 4 has plenty to recommend it, but in broad design terms it's actually pretty close to the very first iPad mini; it's been slimmed down and had various features added, but to anyone but an experienced Apple fan the two devices would otherwise look the same. Can we expect a more radical redesign this time around - something like the jump from rounded-corner iPhone 3GS to the sharper-edged iPhone 4?
It's possible, but we haven't yet heard anything to back up the theory that Apple is tearing up its old design manuals and starting from scratch. Early hints suggest that, as before, we could be looking at a more conservative redesign and gentle, less noticeable improvements.
So far, speculation suggests that the iPad Air 3 and iPad mini 5 will be even thinner than their predecessors (which are already an incredible 6.1mm), at just 5mm. It's certainly possible - the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablets are already 5.6mm thick, but we're not sure it's entirely necessary.
7000-series aluminium chassis
The iPad mini 5 could also have a different chassis, this time made with 7000-series aluminium like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus to make it more durable, particularly if it is indeed thinner to help prevent the tablet from bending.
iPad mini 5 rumours: What new features will the iPad mini 5 have?
It's believed that the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen tech which Apple currently deploys in its iPhone 6s and 6s Plus only isn't ready to make the move to the iPad line - observers contend that it won't pop up in a spring iPad Air 3 launch - but we think this is only a matter of time. It's possible this would be something Apple can roll out in the mini 5 in the autumn, but we may have to wait until a future update.
Cult of Mac is among the sites to predict that the next generation of iPads - the iPad Air 3 primarily, but any changes are sure to make it across to the mini line-up when they are next refreshed - could be waterproof and dust-resistant.
For more thoughts on new features to expect in the iPad mini 5, be sure to check our (regularly updated) roundup of iOS 10 rumours and leaks; unless it comes out by summer (which is highly unlikely) the iPad mini 5 will come with iOS 10 pre-installed, and this is sure to add a raft of new features and some tweaks to the interface design.
iPad mini 5 rumours: Specs
It's believed that the iPad mini 5's thinner design would be made possible by a new, smaller battery, says Cult of Mac: while the mini 5's battery unit may have a lower capacity than the 5,124mAh component in the mini 4, superior battery technology mean it will be able to match its predecessor's real-world battery performance.
Apple isn't expected to up the camera quality in the iPad mini 5, so expect 8Mp on the rear and 1.2Mp on the front. We'd like to see a better front-facing camera, though, particularly for FaceTime.
The processor should be improved to an A9 processor over the A8, so we'll see a speed bump and improved graphics for the iPad mini 5, and we could also see an improvement when it comes to the display's resolution.
We're keeping our fingers crossed that this is the end of the 16GB iPad, and that Apple will instead go for 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models of the iPad mini 5, but there's no evidence to support that yet. We'll simply have to keep on hoping.
Macworld poll: How often do you update your iPad?
One more thing before you go. The fact that you're reading this article suggests you're in the market for a new iPad, but is this your first iPad ever, or are you a regular updater? Let us know about your tablet-updating habits by entering our poll:
iPad mini 5 wishlist
We've looked above at the new features we think are likely to appear in the iPad mini 5. But what are the features we'd like to see? Here's our iPad mini 5 wishlist.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: 3D Touch
An obvious one to start with, but we are highly enamoured of the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screens on our 6s-generation iPhones and would love to see the feature ported to the iPad mini line-up. We'll take Live Photos too, if you're offering.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: No headphone port
We're going out on a limb here, and we know this isn't a fashionable point of view: strong rumours that the traditional headphone port will be ditched for the iPhone 7 have been met with such strong negative feeling that there is actually a petition to get Apple to change its mind.
But we don't agree. For one thing, Apple has such phenomenal market sway that it can drag the entire industry with it; if the iPhone 7 has no headphone port, traditionally connecting headphones will take a hit and wireless and Lightning models will start to come out in larger numbers, improve in quality and range and drop in price. It will be a bad scene for those who've invested in premium wired headphones (although even they will be able to use an adaptor) but for the market in general it strikes us as beneficial.
And while the iPad mini 4 is already wonderfully slim and light, removing a port streamlines the design on the outside and makes space on the inside: the mini 5 could be even slimmer, or perhaps squeeze in a little more battery capacity.
When it comes to implementing new features and entering new market segments, Apple is widely felt to be the slow-turning ocean liner of mobile tech, but it's a fast and usually prescient mover when it comes to ditching soon-to-be-outdated technologies.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: Fast charging
As a general rule, the more portable a computing device is, the more dependent it is on battery power - yet conversely, it'll be relying on a smaller battery unit. The iPad Pro is the least likely iPad to see prolonged usage on the go (most of our Pro use has been desk- or sofa-bound, within easy reach of a power supply), but it has easily the best battery performance of any iPad we've tested.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that battery performance is a massive priority for the iPad mini 5, and efficient and convenient charging is an important element of that. We'd like Apple to implement its own version of Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology, so that you can give the mini 5 a quick blast of power in the coffee shop before proceeding on your merry way. We've grown used to the ultra-fast charging offered by the Apple Pencil's little battery, and would like to see something of the same experience (although based on new technology) brought to the iPads themselves.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: microSD card slot
Aside from being an extraordinarily long shot (Apple has never produced an iPhone, iPad or iPod with removable storage, and realistically never will), it might sound odd to ask Apple to streamline the external design by removing a widely used port, and then in the next section ask Apple to clog up the design with an additional card slot. But let's put it this way: if we're obliged to have one non-essential external port, I'd take this over the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Apple's storage policies have long been frustrating. The substantial step up in price when you select a higher storage allocation, when we know that storage is incredibly cheap; the removal of the 'sweet spot' 32GB option, so that many buyers fall between the stools of not enough (16GB) and more than you need (64GB); and the refusal to countenance either upgrades or removal storage, so that whatever you buy is what you're stuck with for the lifetime of that product.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: Full Apple Pay
Like the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, the mini 4 cannot use the full, in-store version of Apple Pay. (You can buy things online using Apple Pay and verify the payment using your iPad mini's Touch ID, but you can't beep an iPad on the contactless hub in a shop.) This is because it doesn't have an NFC antenna.
There probably won't be a huge number of people queuing up to pay in-store using their iPad mini, but the gap in portability between the smallest iPad and the largest iPhone is getting perilously small. (It could be argued that the iPhone 6s Plus has more in common with the iPad mini 4 than with the iPhone 5s.) Given the iPad mini's suitability as an ereader, there ought to be a solid niche of commuters who'd appreciate the small convenience of using an iPad mini to pay for Underground journeys, and we suspect that it would be a popular move for a variety of other reasons.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: Waterproofing
We mentioned just now that the iPad mini is a terrific ereader, and you know what that means: poolside use. We think the mini line-up needs waterproofing just as much as the iPhones.
Apple has a peculiar attitude to waterproofing. As people are increasingly noticing, the Apple Watch and two most recent iPhone generations are actually reasonably resistant to water immersion, but you wouldn't know it from the technical specs for these products; unlike pretty much all other tech firms, Apple doesn't send its devices off to get IP-rated.
(An IP - or Ingress Protection - rating consists of two digits. The first rates its ability to withstand solid intrusions on a scale of 0 to 6; the second rates fluid resistance on a scale of 0 to 6. So the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone, which is rated as IP68, is top of the class.)
Waterproofing for most companies is a way of bragging about products' capabilities, but Apple seemingly prefers it to be a nice surprise when your iPhone 6s takes a dip and then doesn't die a watery death. But we'd like to be on rather firmer ground when we take an iPad mini 5 to the beach.
iPad mini 5 new features wishlist: Pink option
That's self-explanatory, isn't it? I like the pink iPhone colour option. Don't judge me.
That's it for now. Check back regularly for the latest iPad mini 5 feature rumours, as we'll be updating this very article as new evidence and speculation emerges, and when the first leaked photos appear.