When will Apple launch the iPad Air 3 in the UK? And what design, tech specs, new features and UK price should we expect from Apple's next 9.7-inch iPad, whether it's called iPad Air 3, iPad Pro 2, just plain iPad, New iPad or something else? Finally, is Apple killing off the iPad Air brand - or even the entire Air brand, laptops and all?

The iPad Air 3's release date is overdue. The most recent mid-size iPad was announced in March 2016, but it wasn't the new iPad Air 3 some had expected; instead, Apple unveiled its 9.7-inch iPad Pro, featuring improved specs, design tweaks and more. Does this mean Apple is going to discontinue the iPad Air line, sticking to Pro branding for both 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPads in future? (And maybe even releasing an iPad Pro mini or iPad Pro 7.9in instead of the iPad mini 5?) Or will it carry on releasing 9.7-inch iPads in both Pro and Air configurations, much as it did with the MacBook Air and Pro?

In this article we look at rumours about the the iPad Air 3's release date in the UK, and discuss new features and design changes. Bookmark this page and check back regularly for the latest information: as rumours circulate and news leaks out, we'll update it with everything you need to know about the new iPad Air 3: design, features, size and specifications, the differences between the iPad Air 3 and the current iPad Air 2, the iPad Air 3's UK launch date and likely UK price, and much more.

If you're more interested in the current iPad range, read our reviews of the 12.9in iPad Pro9.7in iPad Pro and iPad Air 2, and of the iPad mini 4 and iPad mini 2. And remember to check our iPad buying guide 2017 and roundup of the best cheap iPad deals UK.

Updated 15 February 2017, with news of iPad Air 2 stock shortages, suggesting a product update soon; on 19 Jan, with a rumour that new iPads will launch in March 2017, alongside the Apple Pencil 2; on 9 Jan, with a new report predicting three new iPad models in March; on 15 Dec 2016, to talk about predictions of a Westworld-style folding iPad; and on 29 Nov, to discuss rumours of a new line of iPads with a 10.9-inch screen.

Read next: iPad Pro 2 rumours | Apple predictions 2017

iPad Air 3 release date rumours UK: Release date

If an iPad Air 3 is on the way then March 2017 is the most likely release date. But it's by no means certain that Apple will release another iPad Air model.

With no new iPads appearing at either Apple's September iPhone 7 launch or at its October MacBook Pro event, March 2017 looks like the next logical timing for an iPad refresh, although whether these will include an Air model seems less certain.

In January 2017 the Chinese-language tech news site Wei Feng reported a rumour from Apple's Asian supply-chain, claiming that updated iPads would be announced in March 2017 alongside the Apple Pencil 2.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Apple Pencil 2

"Wei Feng network through the supply chain that Apple will be held in March this year, iPad new conference, when a new generation of Apple Pencil stylus will also be unveiled," Wei Feng writes, as interpreted by Google Chrome's translation function.

The Mac Observer also reported, via Weibo, that the Apple Pencil 2 might include a magnet to attach to the side of the iPad Pro - much like with Mircosoft's Surface Pro models. 

There's more reason to expect new iPad models in March, as AppleInsider has reported that the current iPad Air 2 models are going out of stock at many retailers - something Apple typically allows to happen before it phases a product out and introduces new models. 

Amazon, Best Buy, Staples and more are reporting either no or low stock on several iPad Air 2 models, in both the UK and the US, and even the UK Apple store lists a two to three week wait for a new iPad Air 2.

Long, long ago - and wrongly - we predicted an October 2015 launch date for the iPad Air 3. This seemed logical: the iPad Air 2 was unveiled on 16 October 2014; the iPad Air 1 on 22 October 2013. This is Apple's traditional iPad release schedule, and the announcement of iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 on 8 June, same as every year, suggested that things were proceeding as usual.

But 2015 was a surprising year for iPad announcements. At the September press briefing, where we would traditionally expect to hear about iPhones, iPhones and more iPhones, Apple gave the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus some company, in the form of the giant iPad Pro, and the petite iPad mini 4. But iPad Air 3 came there none, either at the September event or in October 2015. Apple instead refreshed its mid-size iPad range the following March, and called it the iPad Pro 9.7in.

iPad Air 3 release date UK: March 2017 launch - but iPad Air 3 'will be last in Air line'

Some pundits - reported by NeuroGadget, among others - are predicting that the iPad Air 3 will be unveiled in March 2017... alongside the iPad Pro 2. Perhaps they're right, but this seems off to us, and appears to go against the strategy Apple has been pursuing with its tablets in recent years.

Having a brand-new (presumably 9.7-inch) iPad Air alongside new iPad Pros of the same screen size would be confusing for customers, and it's hard to see how Apple would differentiate the two. Would the iPad Pro 2 be faster than the iPad Air 3? How much faster does it need to be, given that the iPad Pro 9.7-inch is already far quicker than is necessary to run any app on the App Store? Would the iPad Air 3 be slower than the iPad Pro 9.7in? Would the iPad Air 3 be thinner than the Pro 2, when the Pro 9.7in is already only 6.1mm thick? There are surely ways round this, but it would present a headache for Apple's marketing department.

The differentiation was easier to maintain for the MacBooks, partly because laptop buyers tend to be tech-savvier on average (and are liable to put in more pre-purchase research) than tablet buyers, but also because laptops have more room for difference in terms of specs and the like.

Someone who just wants to read their email can settle for a netbook or Chromebook, while a video editor needs a laptop that's vastly more powerful. But the current iPad range is as fast as anyone could possibly want. Releasing a new tier of products on top, aimed at creative professionals, seems redundant. Releasing a new (slower?) tier of products below, aimed at casual and budget users, would be deeply unlike Apple, which always chases the premium market in any given sector. And seems unnecessary too, given that older iPads are still available.

So we're not exactly convinced by this. Apple may choose to release another iPad Air, but to release it at the same time as a new iPad Pro would a branding challenge, to say the least.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: iPad Air 2

Separately, those same reports also predict that the iPad Air 3 will be the last Air-branded tablet Apple release. To wait this long, release one more Air tablet, then pack up the brand for good? Seems... strange. Still, we shall see.

All of this has been supported by a January 2017 report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has predicted that March 2017 will see Apple announce three new iPad models: a 12.9-inch Pro, a 9.7-inch "lower-priced model," and an in-between 10-10.5-inch "high-end model" with a narrow bezel design.

There was no hint in the report that any of these models would bear the Air branding. It is at least possible that the new in-between size will be the Air 3 if Apple decides it isn't done with the brand just yet, but Kuo has previously that this model would be another Pro, so this seems unlikely at the moment.

Just to add more fuel to the rumour fire, DigiTimes reported on 19 January that all new iPads could be delayed further into 2017 as they have not entered mass production yet. We could be looking at June 2017 or after if this is true.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours

iPad Air 3 release date UK: iPad Air 2's second birthday

It's been well over two years since the iPad Air 2 was first shown off to the world's media. Back in 2014, Apple used to schedule separate iPhone and iPad launch events in consecutive months in autumn, and the iPad Air 2 (and underwhelming iPad mini 3) were revealed on 16 October, just over a month after the iPhone 6. (What an act to follow!)

As we discuss above and below, some pundits think a successor to the iPad Air 2 will be launched soon. Perhaps it will. But now that we've passed the two-year anniversary of the Air 2's launch with no word on the iPad Air 3 (and almost no movement on MacBook Air updates), we need to start facing facts: Apple appears to have lost interest in the Air brand. A two-year hiatus is enormous in the world of tablet updates, and it's been two years and four months.

iPad Air 3 release date UK: The end of the Air brand

There are widespread rumours that Apple has finished with the Air line, and will in future focus on the (7.9-inch) mini and (9.7-inch and 12.9-inch) Pro ranges - or even just unite everything under the Pro branding, with the various lines differentiated by size.

Our feeling, based on the lack of love shown to the MacBook Air recently, is that Apple is moving towards a twin-brand model for its laptops: a MacBook, and a MacBook Pro. Likewise, we could see a product or line of products called simply 'iPad', to sit alongside the Pro models.

iPad Air 3 release date UK: Onsale date

When will the iPad Air 3 go on sale in the UK? There's usually a delay of about 10 days between the announcement and the devices going on sale. If the Air 3 launches in late March 2017, for example, then expect it to hit UK shops in early April.

There are occasionally shortages when a major Apple product launches, so those who are desperate to get their hands on the Air 3 would be wise to place a pre-order if possible. (Pre-ordering using Apple's own Apple Store app rather than on the website often appears to give you a head start that could make all the difference.)

Read next: Best cheap iPad deals UK | iPad reviews | How to set up a new iPad | How to speed up a slow iPad

iPad Air 3 release date rumours UK: Design

Let's look next at the iPad Air 3's physical design. What will the iPad Air 3 look (and feel) like?

iPad Air 3 design rumours: Folding iPad

Gene Munster - perhaps the most famous Apple analyst out there, albeit mainly for consistently getting it wrong when predicting an Apple television - has predicted that Apple will release a folding iPad.

The prediction, reported by Apple Must, is based on Apple's recent patent activity; as we've reported in our iPhone 8 rumour roundup, the firm has taken out a number of 'folding device' patents that seemingly apply to the iPhone, but the larger and less portable iPads actually seem more amenable to such a development.

Munster may have been influenced by a popular current TV show, Westworld. In this series, which centres around a Western-themed park where realistic android 'hosts' interact with human 'guests' living out their fantasies, the programmers of the hosts all use neat folding tablets. It's actually one of the most remarked-upon elements of the show's aesthetic, and makes a lot of sense (if you can solve the technical challenges).

iPad Air 3 design rumours: Smart Connector for Smart Keyboard...

It's an obvious logical progression from the 12.9- and 9.7-inch iPad Pro models, but it seems likely that the iPad Air 3 will have a Smart Connector on the lefthand edge for attaching a Smart Keyboard Cover.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Smart Connector

Most iPad accessories are dependent on their own battery power - even the Apple Pencil has to be recharged, albeit very quickly, when it runs out of charge - but the Smart Connector allows a connected keyboard cover to draw power from the iPad's battery. In the larger iPad Pro's case, that means a very long usage time, since it has a monster battery; hopefully the iPad Air 3 will be able to offer something impressive in that department too.

iPad Air 3 design rumours: ...and Apple Pencil compatibility

When Apple launched the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, it was the only tablet that was compatible with the Apple Pencil. That made sense at the time - it was a unique selling point for Apple's most expensive tablet. But plenty of iPad Air owners have told us they would dearly love to be able to use the Pencil, one of the best styluses on the market, with their device, and it would be reasonable to add compatibility to a wider range of devices over the coming year.

Apple started that process with the 9.7-inch Pro, and we expect Pencil capabilities to diffuse downwards through the range.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Apple Pencil compatibility

iPad Air 3 design rumours: 10.9-inch screen

An upgrade mentioned in the new features wishlist later in this article, and which sounds like it may happen: a larger screen. More specifically, a screen that's larger than that of the iPad Air 2, but smaller than the 12.9-inch display on the larger iPad Pro model.

Barclays Research has predicted that Apple will unveil three new iPad Pro 2 models in March 2017: new 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch models, and a 10.9-inch version that sits in between. The inbetweener will actually have a chassis that's the same size as the iPad Air 2, while achieving the extra screen space by removing the bezel - which may mean the removal of the Home button.

Whether Apple will carry over these changes to the Air line as well remains to be seen.

iPad Air 3 design rumours: Thinner than iPad Air 2

Physically, it's rumoured that the next iPad Air will be… wait for it… thinner than its predecessor.

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.

(Note that the iPad Pro 9.7in, which improves on the iPad Air 2 in most other respects, is the same thickness.)

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?

Indeed, one rumour suggests that the Air 3's thinner chassis will actually mean it has a lower-capacity battery unit than the Air, which seems crazy to us. (Even though improvements in battery technology could mean that this lower-capacity unit actually lasts for a comparable length of time in practice, it seems barmy to consciously choose not to improve battery life when simply keeping the same capacity unit would achieve this.)

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Original iPad and iPad Air 2 thickness comparison

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: Colour options

Like the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, we'd expect the iPad Air 3 to be available in four colours: silver, gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Colour options

Black and Jet Black, the matt and gloss new colour finishes available for the iPhone 7, are also possibilities.

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 the two fairly muted gold finishes).

iPad Air 3 design rumours: Concept showcases everything iPad Air 3 should be

Although we've not seen many leaks for the iPad Air 3, the latest concept video to hit the Internet showcases everything that the unannounced tablet should feature - Smart connector, a flush camera and, more importantly, 3D Touch support. Apart from that, the concept tablet looks similar to the iPad Pro 9.7in but with smaller bezels at the sides of the display. Take a look at the concept video below:

iPad Air 3 release date rumours UK: Tech 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: 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.

Read next: Best iPad games | Best free iPad games

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. The iPad Pro 9.7in has an A9X processor.

Read next: Apple rumours & predictions for 2017 | iPad mini 5 rumours

iPad Air 3 specs: Rear-facing camera gains LED flash

The iPad Pro 9.7in is the first iPad in history to feature a flash. This is attached to the rear-facing camera, but the front-facing camera also gets the Retina Flash feature, whereby the entire screen is induced to light up as a sort of substitute flash. We feel that the iPad Air 3 is likely to get one or both of these upgrades too.

The genie is clearly out of the bottle when it comes to iPad photography: as annoying as you find it when someone holds up their iPad to video a concert, the iPad range are being used as cameras, and Apple knows this. Just look at the hyperbole and feature list here. And a flash is a big gap to have in a device's photographic armour.

iPad Air 3 specs: No 3D Touch

Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most famous Apple pundits out there, predicted that 3D Touch wouldn't make an appearance in the iPad Pro 9.7in, and this proved correct.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: No 3D Touch

In a research paper, Kuo predicted that the a new iPad would launch in the first half of 2016 but wouldn't get the marquee feature from the flagship iPhones.

In the past, Apple has frequently introduced a new feature on the iPhone line and then dispersed it through other iOS devices - Retina displays, Siri, Touch ID - and plenty of analysts have made the obvious logical leap of assuming that 3D Touch will migrate to iPad at some point. Ming-Chi Kuo was the most authoritative voice to doubt this. It would seem strange to allow this popular (if still fairly niche) feature to appear on the iPad Air 3 if it isn't on the iPad Pro, so we assume 3D Touch on iPad will have to wait for a while longer.

Read next: 3D Touch tips

iPad Air 3 specs: Screen resolution

Back in 2014, we wondered if the iPad Air 2 might get a screen upgrade from the Air 1, possibly gaining the Retina HD designation given to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But its 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.) And this idea has been floated again this year.

Back in September 2015 the Chinese-language site MyDrivers (link to translation) made some grand claims about the iPad Air 3's specifications. Most eye-catching among these is the unexpected prediction that Apple will increase the resolution and therefore pixel density of the screen on its next mid-size iPad.

MyDrivers reckons the Air 3 will get a bump up to 401 pixels per inch (matching the iPhone 6s Plus), which translates on a 9.7-inch screen into a resolution of 3112 x 2334. (This compares to 2048 x 1536 at 264ppi on both the Air 1 and Air 2.)

Pixel density is a measure of how tightly pixels are packed on a screen, and increasing it so much would result in an appreciably sharper screen - even though Apple used to maintain that 264ppi was plenty on devices of this form factor.

Moving up to 401ppi on the Air 3 would be a major step forward for Apple, which has previously applied its Retina marketing label to 9.7-inch tablets rated at 264ppi on the basis that they are held further away from the eye than smartphones or even mini tablets (the Retina-rated mini 2 and mini 4 both have a pixel density of 326ppi, matching the non-Plus iPhones).

There is a simple reason why we don't think this is likely to happen. As well as smashing past the pixel density of half of Apple's smartphones, including the just-released and Retina HD-rated iPhone 6s (326ppi), all of which would be held far closer to the face than the iPad Air 3, it would also show up the iPad Pro, which has a pixel density of 264ppi. And the iPad Pro is a very expensive top-end device that is clearly positioned as Apple's flagship tablet. It's hard to imagine anyone happily paying top dollar for a 264ppi Pro when there's a 401ppi Air 3 for, presumably, about £200 less.

Oh, and we dread to think what such a large bump in resolution would do to battery life. The iPhone 6 Plus got round that because its larger size allowed it to include a bigger battery, but we're hearing that the Air 3 will be thinner than the Air 2.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours UK: Price

We expect it to cost pretty much what the iPad Air 2 cost when it launched - and it launched with a base price of £399. These days the iPad Air 2's UK price starts at £379 for the 32GB model in Wi-Fi only, moving up to £469 for 128GB Wi-Fi. The 3G/cellular models cost £120 more at each configuration: £499 for the 32GB model and £589 for 128GB. (These prices have all dropped since the Air 2 was launched - in stark contrast with the prices of most other Apple hardware, which has gone up since the Brexit vote - and the lowest storage capacities have been phased out.)

Mind you, a better comparison point might be the iPad Pro 9.7. That device currently starts at an altogether more intimidating £549, and rises to £849 for the 256GB cellular model.

With the iPad Air 3 filling in its predecessors' price points, the iPad Air 2 may drop further in price; the iPad Air 1 is likely to be discontinued. Apple usually tries to keep its range simple.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours UK: New features wishlist

So much for the rumours concerning the iPad Air 3's design changes, specs and new features. But what new features would we add to the device 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

They say 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?

In fact, since we wrote this wishlist, Apple has unveiled an iPad with a bigger screen; it just isn't called the iPad Air 3. Go and read our 12.9-inch iPad Pro review for more on that one. We think the iPad Air line will continue to be based around a 9.7in screen.

Chances of happening (on the Air line at any rate): low

iPad Air 3 rumours and features wish list: iPad range

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

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 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: fairly high - especially now that Apple Pay has come to the Mac

iPad Air 3 release date rumours and features wish list: Apple Pay

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 arrived with iOS 9:

iOS 9 new features: Multitasking

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 ahead of the launch of the iPad Air 2.

iPad Air 3 release date rumours: Apple Pencil

Since then Apple has launched the Apple Pencil stylus alongside the two iPad Pro models - the only devices that are compatible with it. We wouldn't be surprised if the iPad Air 3 gets Apple Pencil support. 

Chances of happening: decent (albeit the Apple Pencil)

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: decent (the iPad Pro models have quad speakers)

iPad Air 3 release date rumours and new features wish list

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: nailed on (Apple has bumped up the storage baselines across its iPad and iPhone ranges. All iPads now start at 32GB, and Pro models top out at 256GB. Hooray!)

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 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 be far more appealing.

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.

Chances of appearing: still seems unlikely, although we're hearing more and more rumours about this appearing on the iPhone 8.

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!