Apple unveiled the iPad Pro 11in (2020) and iPad Pro 12.9in (2020) in March last year. Ten months later it's high time to start thinking about the Apple devices that will replace them in 2021.
In this article we gather and analyse the latest rumours about the specs and new features we can expect from the new iPad Pro models, their likely release date and price, and a wish list of inclusions we'd like to see.
When will the new iPad Pro be released?
The new iPad Pro is likely to launch in March 2021. Read: New iPad Pro coming in March.
The release schedule for iPad Pros is unpredictable, with Apple announcing new sizes and generations at various points in the year, as you can see from this timeline:
- iPad Pro 12.9in (4th gen): Released March 2020
- iPad Pro 11in (2nd gen): March 2020
- iPad Pro 12.9in (3rd gen): November 2018
- iPad Pro 11in (1st gen): November 2018
- iPad Pro 12.9in (2nd gen): June 2017
- iPad Pro 10.5in: June 2017
- iPad Pro 9.7in: March 2016
- iPad Pro 12.9 (1st gen): November 2015
Extrapolating from this data (which suggests a roughly 18-month cycle) might point to new updates around November 2021, but we think Apple will treat the situation as rather more urgent than that. In the context of the iPad Air (2020) being so powerful and feature-rich that many wonder why you'd pay extra for a Pro, we actually think a new iPad Pro will be with us by spring 2021.
And the pundits agree. The usually reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, for example, has published a note suggesting spring 2021 is when to expect the updated iPad Pro (alongside new AirPods). And supply-chain sources cited by Digitimes say large-volume component shipments point to a release in the first three months of this year.
These predictions are backed up by a 3 November report that claims LG is supplying Mini-LED displays for an iPad Pro launch in spring, and that is supported by an earlier September 2020 report that also suggested a Mini-LED 12.9in iPad Pro would launch in "early 2021".
Wondering when that spring Apple Event will be? The company reportedly plans to host an event on 16 March 2021. This was proposed by Jon Prosser, who tweeted the following in October 2020:
Okay, how about “One More Thing” ?— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) October 16, 2020
After this November ARM Mac event, the next Apple Event (currently a digital event) will happen on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 🗓
Event headliner will be AirPods Studio (B515) https://t.co/UxqQr6je1c pic.twitter.com/oCxVhg3owb
You'll note, mind you, that Prosser thought the headliner of the March event would be the AirPods Studio. And the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that Apple a) already launched that product in December and b) called it the AirPods Max instead.
We can all get it wrong, but it's still worth taking some of these rumours with a pinch of salt.
The evidence suggests that Apple's 2021 update to the iPad Pro will offer tweaks to the existing design rather than anything more radical.
The site MySmartPrice has 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.)
It's also possible that Apple has moved the speakers, but this is less certain.
Read more here: Leaked CAD images show 'new iPad Pro models'.
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":
Here's your first rendered look of #Apple #iPad Pro 12.9" 2021 with mystery magnetic connectors on top and bottom based on leaked CAD drawings. + 4k video + dimensions - https://t.co/1LJqfFKg6q— xleaks7 (David Kowalski) (@xleaks7) January 15, 2021
Thanks to my partners at @pigtou_
Follow for more content!#iOS14 #ipadpro pic.twitter.com/WIYS5FrLXS
Price: How much will the new iPad Pro cost?
Expect the new iPad Pro models to start at between £750/$750 and £800/$800.
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.
What new features will we see in the new iPad Pro?
Here are the rumours we've been seeing about new features for the iPad Pro, as well as a few things we'd like to see in the next generation but may turn out to be wishful thinking.
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.
...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.
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've seen the Z suffix. This could now be the designation given to the Pro range, so we may see the A13Z in the new models.
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.
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.
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, as it looks likely that the new models won't be arriving soon, take a look at our roundup of the best iPad deals to see if you can snag a bargain on the current iterations.
For our thoughts on the products and services Apple will launch over the next 12 months, read our guide to the new Apple products coming in 2021, and watch the following predictions video.