When will Apple release the iPad mini 5 in the UK? Or will it rebrand its smallest iPad as the 'iPad Pro mini'? (Click here to read the latest version of this article.)
The iPad mini 5, you might say, is overdue. It's getting on for a year and a half since 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, and we can't help but wonder what's next for the iPad mini.
We're eagerly awaiting word on the iPad mini 5's release date - or potentially the launch of an iPad Pro mini, if rumours are to be believed. Read on to explore the evidence to suggest that a new iPad mini is coming soon, and new iPad mini 5 features and specs to expect when it arrives.
Will 2017'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, clues and other evidence in one place. We've also got an iPad mini 5 new features wishlist.
Updated, 21 March 2017, with the disappointing news that the iPad mini 5 didn't make an appearance following Apple Store maintenance where Apple added a new iPad and a red iPhone 7, amongst other changes.
When is the iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 release date?
While we thought we'd see a refreshed iPad mini 5 during Apple's March 2017 Store update (read more: What to expect at Apple's March 2017 event), there was no mention of a new small iPad. In fact, Apple has now dropped the iPad mini 2, meaning the iPad mini 4 is the only 7.9in tablet available from Apple. That's not all either, as the iPad mini 4 is now only available in one configuration - 128GB.
So, when should we expect the new iPad mini 5? Oft reliable site DigiTimes has reported that the new iPad mini won't enter mass production until early 2017, meaning we could be faced with a June 2017 or later release for iPad mini 5/Pro mini.
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 has added a new date to its calendar earlier in 2015: a March event where the company released new Macs and the Apple Watch.
At Apple's March 2016 event, the company announced its new iPhone SE, 9.7in iPad Air Pro, iOS 9.3 and new Apple Watch straps. Looking at the current trend and rumours, we think Apple will release the iPad mini 5, or iPad Pro Mini to be released at the 2017 March event. It is also rumoured that it might be named the iPad Pro mini because of its new rumoured launch date - as it would follow the iPad Pro line-up.
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.
While it may seem that we're overdue an update to the iPad mini line, some analyst reports suggest that instead Apple may be phasing the mini out of its lineup.
Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a report in January 2017 suggesting that Apple would announce three new iPads in March 2017: a 12.9-inch successor to the iPad Pro, a new 10-10.5-inch "high-end model," and a 9.7-inch "low-priced option."
Kuo didn't predict the release of any new iPad mini models, but did note that there will be a rise in the average selling price of iPads thanks to "decreasing exposure to iPad mini," suggesting that there may not be any new models on the horizon.
Instead the new 9.7-inch iPad might take up the "budget" spot in Apple's tablet lineup. With that in mind, the rest of this article is predicated on the assumption that there will be an iPad mini 5, though that is no longer certain.
Podcast - Apple's March 2016 event
Design: What will the iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 look like?
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 the two devices look largely 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.
While we're a little sceptical about the iPad mini 5 having a flexible or possibly even foldable display, recent patents suggest that Apple has been working on the technology for the iPhone for a number of years. The technology would arguably be more important on an iPad, allowing users to 'fold up' the large screen of the iPad and put it in their pocket when not in use. We assume that Apple is still experimenting with the technology, and is therefore still a number of years away from release.
For what it's worth we think the Smart Keyboard available for the 11.9-inch iPad Pro is a lot better than its smaller cousin, but even that is a better option for long-term typing than the software keyboard on the iPad's screen. If the iPad mini 5 gets a Smart Connector it could have a (probably limited but still handy) Smart Keyboard of its own, as well as opening up possibilities for other powered accessories.
What are the rumoured new features?
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; 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.
With iOS 10, we see the inclusion of a few features to be included. Be sure to check our dedicated iOS 10 article for the latest developments.
iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 tech 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. It will be interesting to see if the iPad's chassis has a camera bump.
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 certain Apple will scrap the 16GB model and will instead go for 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models of the iPad mini 5. We base these assumption on the recent drop of the 16GB model on the iPhone 7 line, and we're sure to see it continue through Apple's product line.
How much will the iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 cost in the UK?
The iPad mini 4 was released on 9 September 2015 at $399 USD / £319 GBP / $569 AUD / $439 CAD for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model. The 64GB and 128GB models were £399 and £479 respectively with cellular connectivity adding another £100 on top of the listed price.
Since its release, the mini 4 can no longer be found in a 16GB variant, with the Wi-Fi 32GB found for £379, 128GB at £469, and the Cellular variant at £499 for 32GB and £589 for 128GB.
We expect the mini 5 to be released at the same price point, with the iPad mini 5 coming in at £379 for the base model. Given Apple has already axed the 16GB model, we don't expect it to make an appearance in 2017. We would be slightly surprised to see only 32- and 128GB models with the mini 5, where we see Apple offering a 32-, 64- and 128GB variants.
As soon as we know more about its price and storage option sizes, we will update this article.
Our iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 new features 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.
Given the better integration of iOS 10 and 3D Touch, we see the feature being included on the iPad mini 5. Apple's mobile operating platform also integrates well with Live Photos, which is another feature we expect to see included.
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.
No headphone port
We're going out on a limb here, and we know this isn't a fashionable point of view: after the release of the iPhone 7, there might be a removal of the headphone jack on iPads too.
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.
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.
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.
With the inclusion and integration of Apple Pay with macOS Sierra and the Apple Watch, we see its inclusion with other Apple products even more likely. The iPad mini 5, would be a product which would benefit from having Apple Pay integration. We therefore expect to see it included if and when the iPad is released.
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.
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 Pro mini/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.