It's now more than a year since Apple unveiled the iPad Pro 11in (2020) and iPad Pro 12.9in (2020) on 18 March 2020. While the one year anniversary of an Apple product doesn't necessarily mean that an update is imminent, there are a number of indicators that a new iPad Pro could be coming soon - the main one being the fact that Apple has announced an event for 20 April 2021.
In this article we analyse the latest rumours and other information that give us an idea of what to expect from the new iPad Pro models, including a Bloomberg report that indicates the new iPad Pro will offer a processor that's "on par with the fastest M1 chip".
Here's everything we know about the new iPad Pro models, from their release date and price to their specs and new features.
Release date: When will the new iPad Pro come out?
With Apple scheduling an event for Tuesday 20 April it looks likely that the iPad Pro will be announced at that event.
The event announcement follows months of speculation about a date for a new iPad Proto launch. Over the months there have been various predictions about a new iPad Pro, with Apple leaker Jon Prosser convinced that there would be a March 2021 launch.
The usually reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published an investor note indicating a spring 2021 for a new iPad Pro was likely. While Bloomberg's Mark Gurman wrote in a March 2021 report that "Apple plans to announce new iPads as early as April". Read more here: iPad Pro In April, M1-level chip and Thunderbolt: Bloomberg.
As well as the new iPad Pro the event is likely to see the launch of a new Magic Keyboard, AirTags and a new Apple TV. There was a suggestion that new AirPods could also launch at the spring event, but there are rumours that they are delayed until later in the year.
iPad Pro on sale date
The new iPad Pro is likely to go on sale soon after the event. However Apple may allow pre-orders with an on-sale date coming later in April or May.
It is possible that there may be stock shortages for the new iPad Pro. In early April 2021 a report from Asian newspaper Nikkei indicated that Apple, like other manufacturers, is being affected by component shortage. According to Nikkei, the production of the upcoming new iPad has been delayed because of component shortages.
The shortages relate to displays and other components required for the screen in the iPad. Read: Global chip shortages mean Apple's iPad and MacBook delayed.
This is backed up by a Bloomberg report, also in April 2021, that claimed there is a great shortage of the new mini-LED screens Apple wishes to use with the new iPad Pro. This may mean that Apple has problems delivering enough models to meet demand.
Price: How much will the new iPad Pro cost?
We expect the entry-level model of the new iPad Pro to cost roughly £750-£800 in the UK, and $750-$800 in the US.
For the past two generations, since moving to the Face ID design, prices have begun at £969/$999 for the 12.9in models and £769/$799 for the 11in variant. Unless Apple introduces incredible new features that bump up the production costs, we'd expect (or at least hope) to see similar pricing on the new devices.
iPad Pro 2021 specs
So much for the new features that Apple will trumpet from the virtual stage. But what about the specs under the hood?
As with every new generation, the 2021 alumni will no doubt arrive sporting the latest in Apple chip technology.
When the current iPad Pros were released, they surprised many by the inclusion of the A12Z processors, which was the first time we'd seen the Z suffix. This could now be the designation given to the Pro range, so we may see an A13Z... although the attention given to the A14 chips when the iPhone 12 came along - chips which we described as revolutionary - makes us think that an A14X might be better from a pure marketing perspective.
But it could be more than an improvement to the A14. According to a 17 March Bloomberg report, the new iPad Pro will have a processor that's "on par with the fastest M1 chip" in the M1 MacBooks and Mac mini.
Whatever chips Apple chooses to use, you can be sure they will offer some of the best performance around, as we've seen from the blazingly fast current iPad Pros.
The Bloomberg report mentioned above report also indicates that the new iPad Pro will feature a Thunderbolt connector, just like that found on the M1 Macs. This would enable use with an external screen, hard drives and other peripherals. This would apparently be faster than the USB-C in found in the current iPad Pro models. The port will look exactly the same so all cables will be backwards compatible.
There's been plenty of speculation over the possibility that Apple could not only introduce 5G capabilities into the iPhone 12 models, but also into the next iPad Pro cellular models.
This would allow users to take advantage of the faster network data services that are now being rolled out, with speeds that can eclipse even their home broadband. As Apple seems to be positioning the iPad Pros as laptop replacements, this feature could make them a seriously powerful mobile platform.
If you're not sure how the technology works or what it has to offer, take a look at What is 5G? for a quick run-through.
The iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max may have transitioned to OLED displays but it's expected that Apple will employ mini-LED technology in the new iPads instead. This promises to be more energy-efficient and less expensive, and avoid the burn-in that OLED panels can suffer where the ghost of an image remains on the screen.
We've already seen reports of Apple planning on launching mini-LED iPad and MacBook models in 2020, so the displays in the iPad Pros 2021 could well continue that trend.
However, it may not be both iPad Pro models that gain the mini-LED tech. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman Apple may only include mini-LED screen with the larger iPad Pro.
...and OLED later
Mini-LED can be viewed as a compromise between the superior local dimming of OLED and the price of LCD, and it looks like iPad fans will have to manage with this hybrid tech in 2021.
But here's a sneak peak ahead: in 2022, Korean sources say, Apple will put a Samsung-supplied OLED panel in the iPad Pro.
Under-screen Touch ID
Face ID is great, but some people prefer the tactile nature of Touch ID, plus is doesn't require an array of special cameras to work. Up until now the inclusion of Touch ID on a device has also necessitated a physical button area for the fingerprint sensor, but as other manufacturers like Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei are proving you can now imbed them underneath the display.
Adopting this technology on the iPad Pros could allow Apple to further reduce the bezels, affording more display for the user with no increase in the size of the device or even the ability to reduce the chassis itself.
iPad Pro 2021 design
The evidence suggests that Apple's 2021 update to the iPad Pro will offer tweaks to the existing design rather than anything more radical.
Tech leaker Sonny Dickson has posted a tweet containing photos of dummy units that indicate the design of the new tablets:
Refreshed iPad Pros and iPad Mini dummies. Triple Camera array on the pros. Central camera up top on iPad mini; slightly thicker. Hard to tell and different in screen size. pic.twitter.com/5Luizv1T2r— Sonny Dickson (@SonnyDickson) April 8, 2021
The iPad Pro models have the same triple rear-facing cameras as the current models, but judging by the photos, the camera module will not protrude as far on the 12.9in model as on the 11in model. More information here: Photos reveal new iPad Pro design.
In January 2021 the site MySmartPrice posted CAD images which it claims are leaked designs from the fifth-generation iPad Pro. The follow largely the same look as the previous model, but with a few millimetres sliced off height and width. (Depth appears to remain the same.) Read more here: Leaked CAD images show 'new iPad Pro models'.
It's also possible that Apple has moved the speakers, but this is less certain.
David Kowalski has used leaked CAD drawings as the basis for render illustrations of the new iPad. These include what he describes as "mystery magnetic connectors on top and bottom":
Thanks to my partners at @pigtou_January 15, 2021
iPad Pro patents
From time to time Apple files a patent for new technology that could end up in a future iPad. We can look at these patents for inspiration for the next big feature that could come to the devices.
Folding displays are one of the hottest battlegrounds in tech, with companies furiously working to master this challenging area. We've already seen the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Microsoft Surface Neo and Huawei Mate X appear, but they've not been without their challenges.
Apple has been reported to have patented various bending and scrolling displays, so could it be that it is preparing to wipe away the competition once more with an iPad that can double in size by being unfolded?
We've already covered this area with our Foldable iPhone rumours article, in which you'll find more details on what such a device could look like. So be sure to take a look at that if the idea intrigues you.
Okay, it's early days and this will probably remain a pipe dream for a while yet, but we've been surprised before and the idea of an iPad mini that can instantly transform into an iPad Max is one we'd be very excited to see.
At the moment, these rumours remain just that, but keep checking back regularly as we'll continue to update this article with the latest news as it appears. In the meantime, take a look at our roundup of the best iPad deals to see if you can snag a bargain on the current generation.
For our thoughts on the products and services Apple will launch this year, read our guide to the new Apple products coming in 2021.