It's well over a year since Apple last updated the iPad mini. Before that, however, there was an even longer gap: released as part of Apple's 'March madness' hardware week, the fifth-gen 2019 model was the first update to Apple's smallest tablet since September 2015.
The iPad mini has always had a fanbase because of its compact size, but following the 2019 update it became the best-value iPad currently on the market, being better equipped than the standard iPad and cheaper than the largely identical (albeit larger-screened) Air.
Apple fans are never satisfied, however, and if you're wondering when the company will release the next iPad mini, and what design changes, new features and tech specs you can expect, you've come to the right place.
In this article we analyse all the most interesting and reliable clues pointing to Apple's next mini launch - including the prediction that the screen size could be as large as 9in - and do our best to speculate about the future of this product.
Release date: When will the next iPad mini come out?
Is there going to be another iPad mini? Yes, we think so but it's hard to predict.
iPads don't have the reassuringly regular release schedule of the iPhones, and the mini line is even harder to predict than the rest. Here's when Apple has released iPad minis:
- iPad mini: October 2012
- iPad mini 2: October 2013
- iPad mini 3: October 2014
- iPad mini 4: September 2015
- iPad mini (2019): March 2019
For quite a while we've thought the new iPad mini would be announced in October 2020. However, it's been quite the unusual year and that month now looks like it will be for the iPhone 12.
The spanner in the works is that the mini normally gets announced alongside a new version of the Air.
Apple announced the new iPad Air for 2020 at its 'Time Flies' event with other new products - iPad 8th-gen, Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE and Apple One. It was a similar story for the October 'Hi, Speed' event, with four models of iPhone 12 and the HomePod mini prioritised.
With a November event expected to be focused on Mac, it's looking less likely that we'll see a new model of iPad mini this year. This may allow Apple to prioritise new iPads in 2021, with the mini 6 joined by new iPad Pro models.
Is the iPad mini being discontinued?
We doubt it! Things looked bad for the mini line before the 2019 update, but it's now clear that Apple values its smallest tablet. Is there going to be an iPad mini 6? It hangs in the balance, but we think yes.
Things were kept broadly conservative in the 2019 update, for obvious reasons: if the new mini and Air had received the radical, Home-button-free design of the 2018 iPad Pro models, it would have instantly made those very expensive devices less special.
Now that the 2020 Pros have launched, it's possible that Apple's stance will change, since they have other exclusive features to set them apart: most obviously twin-lens cameras and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard. However, it remains a relatively quiet update and we don't think we're at the point yet where the 2018 design can safely be diffused to the rest of the range. After all, compatibility with the first-gen Apple Pencil was kept as a Pro exclusive for two and a half years, not just one.
If the mini loses the Home button - a long shot, as we explain in the design section - we can expect Face ID as part of the deal. Apple still isn't showing any signs of introducing a fingerprint sensor under the screen of its mobile devices, and even when that does arrive it will be applied to the iPhones and/or premium iPads first.
There were and remain some doubts about Face ID on iPad, because tablets aren't picked up as much as smartphones - on the larger iPad Pro in particular, you often have to lean forward over the desk to get your mug in the camera's viewfinder. But that'll be far less of an issue with the light, portable iPad mini.
We suspect that compatibility with the wonderful second-gen Apple Pencil won't arrive in this generation, for reasons already discussed: the first-gen Pencil stayed exclusive to the Pros for two and a half years, and by autumn 2020 the second-gen will have been available on Pro for only two. And the mini could be with us before then, of course.
In general when predicting features for the next iPad mini it must be kept in mind that Apple will almost always want to roll these out to the Pros first, then trickle them down to the Airs and minis the following generation (or later still). So an OLED screen looks unlikely at this point.
We think the Pro tablets' ProMotion screen tech may reach the iPad mini range in 2020, though.
Specs-wise the iPad mini's likely route is gentle incremental improvement, rather than a revolutionary overhaul. Here's what we expect to change.
What processor will the new iPad mini get?
We'll get an A13 processor, for a start. Our colleagues on Macworld US predict a 7nm process, as on the A12 chip, but suggest this could be an improved '7nm+' or even '7nm Pro' version, resulting in better chip density and power efficiency.
Apparently so. Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with bags of experience covering Apple and a good reputation for accuracy, predicts that the mini will jump in screen size from the current 7.9in - not just current, in fact; all five iPad mini models have had 7.9in screens - to somewhere being 8.5in and 9in. That's comparatively whopping.
Will the mini's camera be updated?
We feel the RAM count and rear-facing camera's rating are both relatively unlikely to change after being noticeably improved in March 2019 (from 2GB to 3GB, and from 1.2Mp to 7Mp, respectively).
But the rear-facing camera may get some attention, since it's been stuck at 8Mp for the past two generations. The mini is portable enough to be a handy camera, and 8Mp is on the low side these days.
Apple may also upgrade the 2019 mini's stereo to quad speakers, something that's been offered on the Pro range since 2015.
Software and apps
At WWDC 2019 the iPad's software got plenty of attention. In fact, Apple's tablets now have their own operating system: instead of vanilla iOS, they run an iPad-focused version called iPadOS.
If a new iPad mini launches in September or October 2020 we should see it ship with iPadOS 14, which was unveiled at WWDC 2020 and is currently available in beta form. iPadOS 14 adds an app drawer feature that seems like a better way of accessing all your apps, and brings widgets to the home page.
For in-depth analysis and testing of the current mini model, read our iPad mini (2019) review.