When is the new iPad Air 3 coming out? I know it's only been a couple of months since the launch of the iPad Air 2, but I'm already looking forward to the next iPad Air launch date in 2015. Also, what new features, specs and design changes can we expect in the iPad Air 3?
The iPad Air 2 was unveiled at Apple's special launch event on 16 October, but we're already looking ahead to the launch of the iPad Air 3 (assuming that's what Apple calls its next full-size iPad - other possibilities include the iPad 7 and the New iPad). It's early days for the iPad Air 3 just yet, but as rumours circulate and information leaks out, we will regularly 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.
Welcome to our iPad Air 3 rumours article, discussing the latest hints on 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 2014, including the 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. (None have emerged yet, unfortunately, so for the time being we will illustrate this article with images of the iPad Air 2.) We will also analyse the iPad Air 3 rumours for their credibility based on our long experience of Apple launches.
Information on the iPad Air 3 is pretty thin on the ground just yet - the iPad Air 2 was only launched in October 2014, after all - so check back regularly for the latest updates. Our latest addition is an iPad Air 3 features wish list.
(If you're looking for information on Apple's rumoured big-screen iPad Pro, however - and the iPad Pro could be the next iPad to launch - we've gathered the rumours about that device in a separate article: iPad Pro release date.)
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: When will the new iPad Air 3 come out?
The iPad Air 3 is very likely to be unveiled in October 2015.
The iPad Air 2 was unveiled to journalists at Apple's Cupertino campus in California on 16 October (and simultaneously to European writers in Berlin). 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.
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.
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Design
Last time around Apple tweaked the design of the iPad Air 1 rather than totally reimagining it. That already-slender device was trimmed down: at 6.1mm thick, the iPad Air 2 is the slenderest tablet Apple has yet produced, and significantly thinner than the 7.5mm-thick iPad Air 1.
Indeed, the successive reductions in depth from generation to generation mean the iPad Air 2 reached a milestone: it is half the thickness of the original iPad.
It's possible that Apple will repeat the trick on the iPad Air 3, but that seems a little unnecessary - how much lighter and thinner does a tablet need to be? We've also started having slight worries about flex on the iPad Air 2: it's not fragile, but there's just enough give, and it feels just delicate enough, that we'd be nervous about its toughness if any more of the body was trimmed off.
iPad Air 3 release date 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.
iPad Air 3 release date 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: Camera
Apple upped the megapixel count on the iPad Air'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.
We're not convinced that Apple will increase the megapixel rating of the cameras on the iPad Air 3, although we will let you know if any information emerges on that score.
iPad Air 3 release date 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 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 7/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 yet; we're expecting it early next year.)
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
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 ther 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!