Apple has launched one new iPad so far in 2018, but fans are still waiting for the next generation of iPad Pro. It should be a blockbuster: an entirely new, iPhone X-inspired design is heavily hinted at by changes to the iPad interface coming in iOS 12, and just days before the launch a respected analyst predicted that the iPad Pro will replace the Lightning port with USB-C!
In this article we gather the rumours about new iPad Pro (possibly Pro X) models for 2018, covering their specs, features, design, pricing and release date. If you're interested in smaller and cheaper tablets, see our iPad mini 5 rumours, and for buying tips read our iPad buying guide and roundup of the best iPad deals.
We think new iPad Pro models will appear this autumn, but the exact date is still to be confirmed.
So we now look forward and it's likely that Apple will hold an event in October for the iPad Pro 2018, or potentially even November if it's early in the month.
It looks likely that something will be coming soon anyway - assets in the iOS 12.1 beta include an identifier for a "2018 fall" iPad. iOS 12 ony includes identifiers for 2018 iPhones right now. The assets will kick in during the setup process, which suggests that owners of the new iPad Pro models will need to be taught how to use the new gestures that are required after the removal of the Home button.
At the end of June 2016 TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a note (via MacRumors) stating that he still expects to see an iPad Pro with Face ID arrive "in the second half of 2018".
Furthermore, regulatory filings which appeared in early July 2018 hint that five new iPad models are in the works. The iPads listed were A1876, A2013, A1934, A1979, A2014. All were running iOS 11 - suggesting they will be released before iOS 12 launches in late September.
The iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) starts at £619 in the UK for the 64GB with Wi-Fi model, while the 12.9in model starts at £769. (In the US the prices are $649/$799.) We would expect Apple to pitch its 2018 updates at around the same point but this may depend on currency fluctuations and production changes.
Apple bumped up the prices in the UK as the pound weakened following the Brexit referendum result in 2016, and it is possible that prices may rise again while the pound continues to struggle.
With the release of the iPhone X at the end of 2017, it is looking likely that the iPad Pro design will take inspiration from that phone - so you can expect the Home button to be no more, and potentially the iPhone X-style notch. But what else is likely to change in terms of design? We investigate below.
No Home button
Apple is expected to bring across some of the design changes from the iPhone X to the iPad lineup in 2018 - namely the removal of the Home button. This is strongly supported by the iPad interface changes in iOS 12, which mirror that of the iPhone X.
Furthermore, the new iPad icon in the iOS 12 beta strongly suggests a iPad redesign is in the works at Apple. The Home button is missing from the new iPad icon, which you can see below.
The removal of the Home Button isn't necessarily a surprise. However, the icon does seem to suggest that there will be no iPhone style notch, which probably means that Apple is able to incorporate the Face ID camera and associated components into the bezel at the top of the device.
Bloomberg's sources back in November 2017 expected "at least one" new iPad model to ditch the Home button and go for an edge-to-edge screen, replacing Touch ID with Face ID.
Back in October 2017, KGI Securities analyst Mini-Chi Kuo predicted that the new iPad Pro would include the TrueDepth Camera for Animoji and Face ID.
Further evidence of an iPhone X-style iPad came from developer Steven Troughton-Smith who on 5 July tweeted that he had spotted more evidence that Apple will launch an iPad with Face ID.
Troughton-Smith has tweeted his discovery of an iPad version of AvatarKit - the software that Animoji uses.
New in iOS 12: AvatarKit comes to iPad. Still requires a TrueDepth camera to do face tracking, though, i.e. an iPad with Face ID pic.twitter.com/9TvP2vsP6X— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) July 3, 2018
If the iPad is to offer Animoji it follows that it will be equipped with a TrueDepth camera.
New iPad gestures in the iOS 12 beta also suggest that the new iPad will lack a Home Button in favour of the Face ID camera.
Apparently the Face ID camera will be capable of recognising users even if the device is held in landscape - developer Guilherme Rambo noted this when he found code in the beta that indicated that Face ID will work in landscape orientation.
Further evidence that Face ID will work in landscape also came in the iOS 12.1 beta. Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted code that showed that Face ID has support for landscape orientation.
Face ID has support for landscape orientation (presumably for iPad only), and iOS 12.1 seems to care a lot more about whether an external display is connected (perhaps due to iPad USB-C rumors; it won't have the Lighting HDMI adapter as an intermediary for video-out)— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 18, 2018
There are also clues in the Accessibility settings in iOS 12 that appear to confirm Face ID's presence.
A report from Japanese supply chain site, Mac Otakara, in July, suggested that Apple was facing difficulties getting Face ID to work in landcape orientation. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has indicated that the new iPad Pro will offer horizontal Face ID support.
We think it would be unlikely that Face ID won't work when the iPad is held in landscape mode, given that the iPhone X can recognise a user when they are lying on their side in bed. It would be surprising if Apple wasn't able to find a solution to this problem before launch. Presumably during the face capture process users could rotate the device, or similar. Or two orientations could be saved, perhaps.
The current iPad Pro is available in two screen sizes: a 12.9in and a 10.5in version.
It seems that by removing the home button and slimming down the bezels the new iPad Pro model will enable Apple to push the screen size of the 10.5in model closer to 11in.
A Chinese report in March 2018 claimed that an 11in iPad Pro is on the way, along with the 12.9in version.
That suggests that the larger 12.9in iPad Pro would be no larger than it is currently - but it may be the case that Apple is able to make the dimensions of that model smaller while still accommodating the larger screen.
Smaller bezels may mean the iPads themselves can go smaller. A report on Japanese site Macotakara claims the dimensions of the 10.5in model will go from 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1mm to 247.5 x 178.7 x 6mm, while the 12.9-inch device will shrink from 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm to 280 x 215 x 6.4mm.
That suggests the 12.9in model will maintain screen size while shrinking in terms of dimensions, while the smaller model will gain a larger screen without getting much bigger.
Of course the device itself will have rounded corners, but there is increasing evidence to suggest that, like the iPhone X, the new iPad's screen will follow the curves of the chassis.
The icon found in the iOS 12 beta appeared to hint at a very slight rounding at the corners of the screen, but it was too small to be sure. However, another asset has since been discovered and it seems more conclusive.
The asset is a UI mask for rounding the corners of app interfaces, and its shape is unmistakable.
The Galaxy Tab S4 went on sale on 10 August 2018 and is likley to be big competition for Apple's iPad.
The Tab S4 has a Super AMOLED screen with a pixel density of 287ppi (2560x1600 resolution). It ships with a stylus too. We compare the twotablets here: iPad Pro v Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.
So, will Apple be able to match the screen on the S4? Bloomberg's sources back in November 2017 didn't expect this screen to be OLED. They don't say why not, but after the production difficulties (and supply shortages) that the iPhone X's OLED screen seemingly caused, the company may be shy of going all in on the technology just yet.
We're seeing the first concept illustrations of the 2018 iPads. Remember that these are entirely unofficial: they're designs that people unconnected to Apple have come up with as a way of visualising the most popular rumours.
Here are some images from the ever-creative Martin Hajek, who has gone for an edge-to-edge, Home-button-free, notched-screen design for the next iPad Pro model. He calls it the iPad Pro X, but while it makes use of the WWDC 2018 artwork it was not announced at WWDC.
Hajek has released a number of image sets on this theme. In an earlier set he added a smart new Apple Pencil that looks great in black and silver.
Tech specs and new features
Let's look next at the internal changes in the new iPads.
iPad Pro models generally include a modified version of the processor in the preceding iPhone - last time around the iPhone 7 came out with an A10 Fusion chip, and the iPads got an A10X Fusion.
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X both come with the A11 Bionic processor, so we'd expect the iPad Pro models released in 2018 to feature a slightly souped-up A11X Bionic - although the A11 is terrifically fast already.
Alternatively, the new iPad Pro could ship with the A12 chip destined for the iPhone X successor.
A DigiTimes report in August 2018 suggests that the new iPad Pro models will ship with a new USB Type-C, 18W power adapter that will speed up charging.
Then on 10 September, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that the new iPad Pro will ditch the Lightning port in favour of USB-C, and will ship with a new 18W USB-C charger.
If you are concerned that the iPad will follow the lead of the iPhone and drop the headphone jack you should have no reason to fear. Japanese site Macotakara claims that Apple won't be bundling a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter with the iPad Pro - which suggests that the 3.5mm jack will be present on the device.
However, other reports suggest that Apple will ditch the headphone jack with the new iPad Pro models. And that it won't include a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the box...
Relocated Smart Connector
This is a weird one to be frank. Apparently Apple is going to be relocating the Smart Connector from the side of the iPad (which enables the iPad to be used with a keyboard in landscape orientation) to the bottom of the device, just above the lightning port.
There are a few reasons why this seems unlikely. First, it would be illogical to take away the option of typing in landscape mode. The 'leaked' images that seem to indicate the relocation of the port also see it moved to the back of the device - which again is illogical because how would the keyboard connect?
Then there is the suggestion is that Apple is doing this because it wants people to use the iPad in portrait orientation because Face ID won't work in landscape. Which is just ridiculous if you ask us!
Here's the so called evidence, either way:
A CAD image from OnLeaks also showed a new outline on the back of the iPad.
Just got my hands on a purported 2018 iPad Pro CAD showing a unknown thing located on the back of the tablet... NB: I can't confirm the accuracy of that CAD I share for discussion purposes only because of that weird and yet unexplained detail... ? pic.twitter.com/9R7jeLDfLV— Steve H. (@OnLeaks) July 30, 2018
Following that render, a case appeared that has a cut out where the smart connector would be located. The case with the mysterious cutout appeared on Slashleaks.
Here are a few snippets that could point to the future of the device.
In Feb 2018 Apple was granted a patent, spotted by Patently Apple, for "Dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections". That's quite a mouthful, but if you check out the details it reads a lot like a second display for an iPad or Mac - one that would be used for a software keyboard.
There are two applications, one with the second display connected to the body permanently and movable via a hinge, and the other allowing it to be removed and reattached as required.
It seems likely that this second screen would be used as a touchpad-style keyboard. There are also suggestions that it could be used with the MacBook in the future.
As ever we must caution readers that patent activity sometimes results in product development many years down the line, and sometimes results in nothing at all. It's unlikely that we'll see anything from this in 2018, although it's an interesting train of thought for Apple to be riding.