It's more than a year since Apple released an iPad mini. Released as part of Apple's 'March madness' hardware week, the 2019 model was the fifth-generation mini and the first update to Apple's smallest tablet since September 2015.
It was a better update than we could have hoped for. 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 mostly 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 - and we're expecting the mini 6 in October 2020.
It's hard to be sure, however. iPads, sadly, 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
See that massive three-and-a-half-year gap between the fourth and fifth generations? That's what makes it hard to guess Apple's next step. Four autumns in a row saw iPad mini releases, then we had to wait ages for the fifth.
The big question is whether the mini is back in the company's good books - whether Apple is again committed to it as a long-term project. If the 2019 update was a success and sales have been good, then Apple will probably update it in 2020. That's what happened with the iPad 9.7in (2017) - it came out, everyone bought it, and it became a yearly fixture, most recently getting an upgrade to a 10.2in screen for autumn 2019.
If sales have been underwhelming, we might not see another mini for another three years - if we get another one at all. But our experience with the new mini is so positive, and our anecdotal sense of industry demand so positive, that we strongly expect this to become a regular spring release.
Now, Apple doesn't release sales figures for individual products; instead, it reports the revenue for each sector. But these numbers looked good for the iPad in 2019. Most notably, iPad revenue in Q2 2019, which saw the launch of the latest mini, was $4.9bn, up from $4bn in Q2 2018.
Apple's financial reporting suggests that, at the very least, the combination of the Air, mini and 10.2in iPad has been a success, so we expect updated versions of all three in 2020 - and the Pros have already been announced.
With all that in mind, our prediction is that the next iPad mini will be available in October 2020 alongside a new iPad Air. It could appear at WWDC 2020 in June, but that event is already so freighted with expected announcements that we expect to be waiting a few more months.
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? 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 on 3 June 2019 the iPad software got plenty of attention. In fact, Apple's tablets now have their own operating system: instead of vanilla iOS, they run a new iPad-focused version called iPadOS.
iPadOS is based on iOS 13, and many of that update's new features, such as Dark Mode, apply on iPad too. But this version has - among other extra features - deeper support for gesture controls that make the iPad a better productivity tool.
If a new iPad mini launches in September or October 2020 we should see it ship with the next generation iPadOS - iPadOS 14.
That concludes our guide to the new iPad mini rumours. However, if you'd rather hear concrete facts about the current range, take a look instead at our iPad buying guide and roundup of the Best iPad deals.
For in-depth analysis and testing of the current mini, read our iPad mini (2019) review.