Released as part of the 'March madness' hardware week preceding Apple's 25 March services press event, the iPad mini (2019) has much to recommend it - and in fact, the new mini has a great claim to be the best-value iPad currently on the market. But regular readers will know by now that Apple fans are never satisfied.
This is why we're already wondering about the follow-up. When will Apple release the next iPad mini, and what design changes, new features and tech specs can we expect? Almost as importantly, how much will the iPad mini 2020 cost?
In this article we gather and analyse all the most interesting, plausible and reliable clues pointing to Apple's next mini launch, and do our best to speculate about the future of this product. Will Apple release a new iPad mini? We think it will - and all the details will be collected on this page.
Release date: When will the next iPad mini come out?
Is there going to be another iPad mini? Yes, we think so - but when it will launch is a harder question. 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 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 three and a half years.
The big question is whether the mini is back in the company's good books - whether Apple is again committed to the iPad mini as a long-term project. If the 2019 update is a success and sales are good (and our suspicion is that they will be) then Apple will probably update in the spring of 2020. That's what happened with the iPad 9.7in (2017) - it came out, everyone bought it, and it became a yearly fixture.
If sales are 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.
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.
But 2020 could be another matter. By then there's a good chance that the next generation of iPad Pros will have been launched, and these will presumably drip with exclusive new features. At which point the 2018 Pro features can safely be diffused to the rest of the range... maybe.
Against this theory: compatibility with the first-gen Apple Pencil was kept as a Pro exclusive for two and a half years, not just one. So don't bet the house on the next mini having an all-screen design - we just think it's a distinct possibility.
If the mini loses the Home button as we propose 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 March 2020 the second-gen will have been available on Pro for only one and a half.
And 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, as do mouse support and a dual-lens camera.
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.
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
As expected, Apple didn't unveil any new iPads at WWDC on 3 June 2019, but the iPad software got plenty of attention. In fact, Apple's tablets are about to get their own operating system: instead of vanilla iOS, they will run a new iPad-focused version called iPadOS.
iPadOS is quite obviously 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 will make the iPad a better productivity tool.
iPadOS launches to the public in autumn, and is rolling out as a beta in the meantime. The next iPad mini, whenever it comes out, is pretty certain to have iPadOS preinstalled.
Read our iPadOS explainer for more details of the interface tweaks and new features in the tablet-focused OS.