When will the new iPad Air 3 (or iPad 7) come out? I'm already looking forward to the next iPad's launch date in 2015. And what new features, specs and design changes can we expect in the iPad Air 3?
As soon as the iPad Air 2 was unveiled at Apple's special launch event in October 2014, we started secretly looking forward to the launch of the iPad Air 3 - and ever since iOS 9 was announced, the countdown to the iPad Air 3 launch date began in earnest. No new iPad Air was launched in September or October 2015, so when will the iPad Air 3 come out? Here are all the latest rumours about the new iPad Air 3, from design and new features to dimensions, specs, UK launch date and UK price.
Welcome to our iPad Air 3 rumours article, discussing the latest hints about the iPad Air 3's release date, specs and UK price. In this article we will present all the available information, rumours and clues about the new iPad Air for 2015, including the probable iPad Air 3 release date, new features in the iPad Air 3, and images of the iPad Air 3 - both concept illustrations and leaked photos as they emerge. We will also analyse the iPad Air 3 rumours for their credibility based on our long experience of Apple product launches.
Also read: Apple rumours and predictions for 2016
Bookmark this page and check back regularly for the latest information: as rumours circulate and news leaks out, we will update this article with everything you need to know about the new iPad Air 3: its design, features, size and specifications, the differences between the next-gen iPad Air 3 and the current iPad Air 2, the iPad Air 3's UK launch date and UK price, and much, much more.
Sections in this article:
- iPad Air 3 launch date rumours (updated, 25 Nov, to discuss the mysterious rumour that iPad Air 3 will launch in March 2016)
- iPad Air 3 design (updated, 25 Nov, to cover rumours of a thinner chassis made of 7000-series aluminium)
- iPad Air 3 specs (updated, 25 Nov, to talk about camera specs)
- iPad Air 3 price
- iPad Air 3 new features wishlist
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: When will the new iPad Air 3 come out?
We've previously predicted an October 2015 launch for the iPad Air 3, based on past behaviour from Apple. The iPad Air 2 was unveiled to journalists on 16 October 2014. The iPad Air 1 was announced on 22 October 2013, and released at the start of November. This is Apple's standard iPad release schedule, and the announcement of iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 on 8 June, same as every year, suggested that things are proceeding as usual this year.
But 2016 has been a surprising year for iPad announcements. At Apple's September press briefing, where we would traditionally expect to hear about iPhones, iPhones and more iPhones, the company risked overshadowing the first sighting of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus by unveiling the iPad Pro (and then slipping out the iPad mini 4, which is actually a far better update than last year's iPad mini 3). But there was no sign of the next mid-size iPad Air.
It had been rumoured before the announcement that the iPad Pro was such an important product for Apple that it had shifted resources away from the iPad Air 3 in order to get it finished - with the result that the iPad Pro and iPad mini 4 would launch together this autumn, and the iPad Air 3 would have to wait until 2016. 9to5Mac noted that the report seemed a little "sketchy", but it turned out to be spot on.
Many pundits speculated that the iPad Air 3 had been pushed back to October, the usual month for iPad launches, but Apple kept quiet on the subject. And now we're left to wonder if we'll see any update to the iPad Air lineup between now and autumn 2016. Indeed, some leftfield rumours suggest that Apple may have brought this line to an end, and will in future focus on the mini and Pro ranges. That strikes us as crazy talk, mind you.
iPad Air 3 rumoured to launch in March 2016 - but who started the rumour?
Of late, a number of Apple pundits and tech rumour sites have become fixated on March 2016 as the likely launch date of the iPad Air 3. (And we certainly wouldn't like to rule out a spring launch - it would seem odd for Apple to go two full years between updates of its classic iPad range.) The only thing is that the source everyone is pointing to doesn't actually predict a March launch.
Now, I'm the first to admit that I can't read Chinese, so I'm relying here on good old (not particularly good) Google Translate. But according to that service, the page on MyDrivers that multiple tech websites have linked to says:
"Latest news, Apple has not forgotten iPad Air 3, but postponed, but release indeterminate time, it will be available as early as October, or at the end of this year or early next year."
In other words (and apologies for the stilted translation-ese), the site doesn't claim to know when the iPad Air 3 will launch, observing instead that this is "indeterminate" and then offering three relatively widely spaced possibilities (one of which has already been proved wrong). And it doesn't specifically mention March at all, although the third prediction is vague enough that it could just about include March at a push.
There's a few possible explanations for this:
1) MyDrivers have edited their page, and it no longer says what is did when everyone linked to it - it is a couple of months old, after all (although it seems odd that they'd leave the October prediction intact while editing out a prediction that could yet be spot-on). They could also have set up a redirect to a different article;
2) That there is a MyDrivers page that predicts a March launch, but the first Western journalist to notice it accidentally linked to an older article on the same site and everyone else copied the link in good faith;
3) That Google Translate is letting me down somehow and the article says exactly what the other sites claim it does, and unlike me their reporters can read Chinese;
4) That I am being an idiot in some other unspecified way;
5) Or that nobody bothered to check the source they were linking to and a rumour has therefore been started based on no evidence at all.
Ultimately all that I can state definitively is this: quite a lot of tech websites - not all of them, by any means, but enough to call it a trend - are currently reporting a rumour that the iPad Air 3 will launch in March 2016; and I for one cannot work out where this rumour came from. If anyone reading this does have a source that points to a March announcement, please let me know and I will eat my words. Or at least update this article.
iPad Air 3 UK onsale date rumours
When will the iPad Air 3 go on sale in the UK? There's usually a delay of around 10 days between the announcement and the devices going on sale, so expect the iPad Air 3 to hit UK shops in late October 2015 or early November. If the September theory is correct, of course, expect that date to come forward by a month or thereabouts.
Read next: Apple iCar rumours
Macworld poll: How often do you update your iPad?
The iPad Air 3 is likely to arrive in October, but by no means every iPad owner will make the upgrade. How often do you buy a new iPad?
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Design
Let's start with the iPad Air 3's physical design. What will the iPad Air 3 look like (and feel like)?
iPad Air 3 design rumours: Thinner than the iPad Air 2
Physically, it's rumoured that the next iPad Air will be… wait for it… thinner than its predecessor.
"Additional [rumours] claim the iPad Air 3 will be thinner than the iPad Air 2," says Cult of Mac, "thanks to a smaller battery allowing it to shrink down to just 5mm thick (compared to the 6.1mm thickness of the iPad Air 2), as well as possibly including waterproofing or dust-resistant features."
It's generally a sound prediction to make, given that the iPad Air 1 was thinner than the iPad 4 and the iPad Air 2 was thinner than the iPad Air 1. The iPad Air 2 is already really thin, mind you, and we do sometimes wonder how much thinner tablets need to get before the compromises start to outweigh the benefits. The Air 2 is sturdy and has stood up to more than a year's heavy and frequent use, but we still recall the nervousness with which we handled it in the early days: it's hard to see an even more slender iPad Air 3 inspiring a great deal of confidence in its ability to withstand bending, chucking on a sofa, holding by one edge etc.
If batteries are getting smaller, couldn't they just keep it the same size and incorporate a higher-capacity battery unit, and give us a few more hours away from the charger?
iPad Air 3 design rumours: 7000-series aluminium body
We mentioned above our general nervousness that a thinner iPad Air 3 would also be less robust. But one other change to its physical design could help with that.
The Tampa Bay Review thinks the iPad Air 3 is likely to be made of 7000-series aluminium, like the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. There's a certain logic to this: spending the extra cash on stronger materials to make the newest iPhones more bend-proof than their predecessors was a popular move after the (possibly overstated) traumas of Bendgate. But it does raise the question of why the iPad Pro (which is more valuable) and the iPad mini 4 (which is more portable, and therefore more likely to get crammed into a pocket) missed out on this upgrade.
If the Air 3 is thinner than either of those devices then we have an answer, but that only poses another: what is it about the Air lineup in particular that makes it more deserving of a super-thin body than those other Apple tablets?
iPad Air 3 design rumours: iPad Air 3 colour options
We'd expect the iPad Air 3 to be available in Apple's now-standard three iOS device colour options: silver, space grey and gold.
Every year someone suggests that the next iPad will come in the bright primary colours of the iPhone 5c and every year that person is disappointed. We don't expect the iPad Air 3 to be particularly colourful (except for that lovely gold finish).
iPad Air 3 rumours: Specs
It's time to look deeper into the iPad Air 3. What do the latest rumours say about the iPad Air 3's specs?
iPad Air 3 specs rumours: Camera
When it unveiled the iPad Air 2, Apple upped the megapixel count on the iPad Air 1's rear-facing (iSight) camera, from 5Mp to 8Mp. The iPad Air 2 also gained new camera features: burst mode, panoramas (up to 43Mp), slo-mo, timer mode and time-lapse.
The front-facing (FaceTime HD) camera retained the same (1.2Mp) rating, but Apple said it had improved the sensor and made the pixels bigger for better low-light performance.
Cult of Mac, quoting Latinos Post, has predicted that the cameras on the iPad Air 3 will be specced at 8 megapixels (rear-facing iSight camera) and 2.1Mp (front-facing FaceTime camera). That's a slightly odd pair of specs, given that both iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro are rated at 8Mp/1.2Mp - does Apple really want to spec an Air higher than the mega-costly flagship iPad Pro? Then again, we've always felt that the FaceTime camera is more important for an iPad Air than the iSight camera, which most people use quite rarely, so making an upgrade there might be a good idea.
The similarity between 1.2Mp and 2.1Mp makes it possible, of course, that somewhere along the line an error has crept in, and that the iPad Air 3 will actually have the same camera setup as the Pro.
iPad Air 3 specs rumours: Processor and speed
The iPad Air 2 got a new processor chip, the A8X - a souped-up version of the iPhone 6's A8. This has three billion transistors and offers (Apple says) 40 percent faster performance than the iPad Air 1's A7 chip in most apps and up to 2.5x graphics performance.
Offering a historical perspective (if four years counts as history), Apple pointed out that the iPad Air 2 is capable of up to 12 times faster processing than the iPad 1 (the first-gen iPad, that is, not the iPad Air 1!), and a staggering 180 times faster graphics.
It would be a big shock if Apple didn't upgrade the processor again when it launches the iPad Air 3, and it doesn't take a genius to predict that the iPad Air 3's chip will be an A9 or an A9X, and very speedy indeed. Given the near-overkill of the iPad Air 2's power, mind you, it might make sense for Apple to focus more on power efficiency than on sheer processing welly, and try to improve battery life.
This idea is backed up by the focus on streamlining and power-efficiency that we see in iOS 9, which is said to increase an iPhone 6's battery life by an hour on average. iPad battery life tends to be less of a hot issue than iPhone battery life, granted, but it's clear that Apple is taking power-efficiency seriously at last.
One other thought based on the iOS 9 announcements: new multitasking capabilities are likely to be extremely demanding on processor power (the iPad Air 2 is the only device capable of the most advanced multitasking feature in iOS 9, Split View) so a powerful chip wouldn't be wasted in the iPad Air 3.
iPad Air 3 specs rumours: Screen
We thought that the iPad Air might get a screen upgrade, possibly gaining the Retina HD designation given to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But the iPad Air 2's display is largely the same, with the same resolution and size.
(One screen modification Apple did talk about was an anti-reflective coating: a nice - if unglamorous - upgrade.)
The iPad Air 3's screen, then, may well get a resolution boost - perhaps approaching the 401ppi (pixels per inch) pixel density of the iPhone 6 Plus. We dread to think what this would do to the battery life, though. The iPhone 6 Plus got round that because its larger size allowed it to include a bigger battery.
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: iPad Air 3 UK price
How much will the iPad Air 3 cost in the UK?
Most likely it will cost pretty much what the iPad Air 2 cost when it launched. The iPad Air 2's UK price starts at £399 for the 16GB model in Wi-Fi only, moving up to £479 for 64GB Wi-Fi (as with the recent iPhones, Apple removed the popular 32GB storage option) and £559 for 128GB Wi-Fi. The 3G/cellular models cost £100 more at each configuration: £499 for the 16GB model, moving up to £579 for 64GB and £659 for 128GB.
With the iPad Air 3 filling in these price points, the iPad Air 2 will drop in price, most likely by around £80. The iPad Air 1 could get yet another price cut and remain on sale - much as Apple currently sells three versions of the iPad mini - but it's more likely to be discontinued. Apple usually tries to keep its range simple, and the main reason we can see for it keeping the iPad mini 1 around is that the iPad mini 2 and 3 are so similar.
iPad Air 3 features wish list
It's still too early to offer any concrete details of the iPad Air 3's new features. But what new features would we add, if we were in Jony Ive's shoes?
Here's our iPad Air 3 feature wish list. Some are brand-new wishes: perhaps ideas triggered by issues with Apple's latest line of iPads. Others are features we've been asking for since before the iPad Air 2 but weren't included in that device.
Let us know what features you want to see in the iPad Air 3 in the comments, or let us know on Twitter.
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Larger screen
You can never be too rich, or too thin, or have too much screen space.
In fact, there would be plenty of negatives attached to increasing the iPad Air 2's screen size from its current 9.7in diagonal: mainly increasing the bulk of the device (and having to incorporate a bigger and heavier battery to power the screen for as long), thereby reducing its fantastic portability. But a bigger screen would make the iPad Air more adaptable as a work device, and more immersive for entertainment, so who cares about practicalities?
As many tech fans have pointed out, Apple said it wouldn't make a smaller-screen iPad, then it made the iPad mini - so anything is possible. In fact, we think this could happen, but in a separate product: possibly an iPad Pro. We think the main iPad will continue to be based around a 9.7in screen.
Chances of happening: low (but it could appear in the iPad Pro)
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Faster processor
This too is an obvious one, and something that has happened in essentially every iOS device update: a new, faster processor chip. But is it actually something to be wishing for?
The iPad Air 2 is fast enough to run every current app with ease, and on most apps you won't notice any different in performance between it and the iPad Air 1 (iPad Air 1 vs iPad Air 2 comparison). The iPad Air is effectively faster than it needs to be, and apps are trying their best to catch up.
The iPad Air 3 (or iPad 7) doesn't need to be any faster. It'll probably get a new chip, and there's a good chance it'll be a bit faster, but maybe Apple will go for greater power-efficiency instead?
Yeah, who are we kidding? You've got to be able to boast about processing speeds at the launch announcement.
Chances of happening: nailed on
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Improved camera (and the True Tone LED flash from the iPhone 5s)
The last of our recurring requests that crop up every time. Of course an improved camera would be nice, but we wouldn't cite it as an essential, since the iPad is used less for its camera than Apple's smartphones (less, although tablet camera use is growing all the time), and it's got pretty good anyway. A flash - such as the True Tone LED model in the iPhone 5s - wouldn't hurt, but only if it doesn't affect the price tag or portability too much. A smartphone needs a great camera; a tablet doesn't.
Chances of happening: mid to low
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Face recognition
Ah, something more interesting! What if the iPad Air 3 uses facial recognition to unlock the device?
Face-recognition is already available in the Camera app, but that's facial recognition only in the sense of recognising that something is a face, rather than recognising which one it is - which makes this one a long shot. It does also seem a bit unnecessary, given that Apple has the Touch ID technology, and so does the iPad Air 2. If it wants to do convenient, biometric authentication it can use that.
Chances of happening: low
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Full Apple Pay
This one is slightly complicated.
The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 gained Touch ID fingerprint scanners - one of the components required to use the new Apple Pay online/instore payment service, which allows you to pay for things in shops by scanning your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and touching the fingerprint scanner. And indeed both models can use Apple Pay in the US. (Apple Pay hasn't launched in the UK at time of writing, but it will make its UK launch in July.)
But they get only a limited, partial version of Apple Pay: one that doesn't work in shops. Instead they use the online and app-based versions of Apple Pay, which use Touch ID but don't require the NFC wireless antenna component used when scanning the iPhone 6 on an instore receiver.
A further complication is the discovery of NFC antennae in both devices when they were disassembled; perhaps these could be activated in future and allow for full Apple Pay. Or perhaps they are intended for some other purpose.
Either way, we'd like to at least have the option of instore Apple Pay with the next generation of iPads. Admittedly the average customer is a lot less likely to whip out a full-size iPad at the till, but we thought something similar about iPad photography.
Chances of happening: medium
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Live multitasking
"The fact that you cannot use multiple applications at the same time is a little annoying," said Product Reviews when discussing potential new features for the iPad Air 2, "and it would definitely be a great feature if Apple could add it in. For example you could update your Twitter feed in a sidebar whilst watching a video or check your emails whilst reading an article."
We didn't get it in the iPad Air 2, and it still makes sense for the iPad Air 3, although you'd probably need a bigger screen to be able to use this practically. And maybe it's more of an iOS 9 thing.
Even as a software update it seems very radical indeed for something that (I think) is a niche requirement. How many people check their emails while continuing to read an article or watch a video?
Chances of happening: low
UPDATE: Scratch that. Chances of happening: definite. Multitasking capabilities have been announced for iOS 9:
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Improved stylus support
"I'd like to see more attention paid to the display sensor technology that allows for the next generation of fine tip electronic styluses to be used more effectively and accurately," wrote MacObserver last year. They didn't get their own way with the iPad Air 2, so presumably are still hoping.
This sounds like a nice option, so it's most likely a question of priorities and compromises. And aside from Apple's consistent commitment to touch input in iOS, doesn't this sound like something Samsung would champion?
Chances of happening: low
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Subwoofer and other audio/speaker improvements
The iPad's audio output could be improved; this is certainly true. (The iPad Air 2 has stereo speaker units, but they are so close together that their output is effectively mono.) Yet there are limits on the richness of the audio a slim and portable unit can produce; I suspect that the average iPad owner would rather buy a separate wireless speaker than add any noticeable weight to the iPad Air's chassis.
A touch more bass output would substantially improve the iPad as a games unit, mind you, and it would be great for film fans.
Chances of happening: mid to low
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Increase the storage baseline
"iPads tend to accumulate a lot of stuff," pointed out MacObserver. "Apps, movies and music that make a 16GB iPad an anachronism. Here's hoping..."
In fact, Apple phased out the popular 32GB model instead, leaving the iPad Air 2 (and the iPad mini 3 and iPhone 6 handsets) with an oddly lopsided line-up of 16GB, 64GB and 128GB.
Will Apple phase out the 16GB iPad? It's going to happen at some point - remember the 8GB iPad? - but maybe not quite yet. Plenty of users store work documents and photos in the cloud, rarely game and use a small number of lightweight apps.
Chances of happening: low (for now)
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Memory card slot
We'll say right away: this would be nice in some respects but is highly unlikely.
Apple's philosophy embraces the closed box: the complete product experience bought ready-to-use and held apart from user tinkering and upgrades. Without mentioning that this would encourage buyers to go for the lower-capacity iPads and fill the shortfall with removable memory. And it would ruin the iPad's clean lines.
Chances of happening: no way
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Bluetooth mouse support
It's been argued that touch is less accurate than mouse (or similar) input, and that Apple's more work-oriented users would enjoy being able to use wireless mice with their iPad Air 3. If we were talking about the Mac OS X-running iPad Pro that some have discussed, this would be a no-brainer, but this would call for a major rethink of how iOS works, and we don't think that's likely.
Chances of appearing: low
iPad Air 3 feature wish list: Wireless charging
At the moment wireless charging is big let-down, offering only minor convenience rather than the quantum leap it appears to promise. The Air Voltage Qi Chargers are an example of a (comparatively) recent take on the concept: you buy a case for your device, and a separate charging mat. Simply laying the cased iPhone on the mat starts up the charging process - but it has to touch the mat, and the mat itself has to be plugged in.
If you could increase the range of the charge transmission so that, for example, you just need to be sitting with a couple of feet of the charger for the device in your pocket to start charging - then we'd be talking. Still, if Apple incorporated the technology in the chassis of the iPad so that you don't have to bother with a particular case then it would a bit more appealing.
Chances of appearing: low
Read page 2 for the rumours and predictions we collected in advance of the iPad Air 2's press event. See for yourself how much we (and the rest of the industry) got right, and how much we got wrong!