- New iPad Pro coming before end of 2019
- A13X processor will feature improved power efficiency
- Will get similar upgrades to the iPhones, including triple-lens camera on the rear
- 64GB storage tier likely to disappear
- Will run iPadOS
- Apple 'developing 5G iPad Pro' for launch in 2021
- New iPad Pro prices to start at £769/$799
Where next for the iPad Pro? It's been 11 months since the unveiling of new Pro models in October 2018, complete with all-screen design, Face ID and USB-C, and we're eagerly looking ahead to the next generation.
What can we expect from the new iPad Pro models released in 2019? In this article we speculate about their release date, specs and new features (such as 5G connectivity, predicted to arrive in 2021), and discuss what they're likely to cost.
If you're interested in cheaper alternatives, read about the rumoured 10.2in iPad and the new iPad Air rumours. And for advice related to the current range, read our iPad buying guide and roundup of the best iPad deals.
Release date: When will the new iPad Pro come out?
We were thinking that the next iPad Pro would arrive some time between spring and early summer in 2020. However, a Bloomberg report on 22 August claims it's sources say the new iPad Pro (and a new 10.2in iPad) will launch before the end of 2019.
An April 2019 report from Ming-Chi Kuo (covered by the Chinese-language site Economic Daily News) said mass production of the new iPad Pro would begin between Q4 2019 and Q1 2020, so it looks like we are nearer the beginning of that timeframe.
A launch in the September/October 2019 timeframe wouldn't be a surprise: Apple has released at least one new iPad Pro model per year since 2015. Here are the launch dates so far:
- iPad Pro 12.9in (1st gen): Nov 2015
- iPad Pro 9.7in: Mar 2016
- iPad Pro 12.9in (2nd gen): Jun 2017
- iPad Pro 10.5in: Jun 2017
- iPad Pro 12.9in (3rd gen): Nov 2018
- iPad Pro 11in: Nov 2018
However, a yearly update isn't a necessity for the iPad Pro - Apple fans tend not to update their iPads as often as their iPhones, and that's particularly so with the expensive and extremely future-proofed iPad Pro. At the same time, the company needs its premium pro devices to justify the price by having state-of-the-art components, so won't want to leave too long a gap.
For these reasons a wait of 12-18 months is likely. The earliest we expect to see new iPad Pro models is autumn 2019, but our money is still on a launch the following spring or maybe not until WWDC in June 2020.
There was an Apple Event on 10 September for the iPhone 11 but the only iPad to be announced was the 10.2in model.
New iPad Pro prices
What will the next iPad Pros cost? We predict they will start at £769/$799 - the same price as the 2018 models, although it's possible that you may get more storage for your money.
There have been a few major price bumps in recent years but there were justifications for those: either currency fluctuations related to Brexit, or the wholesale redesign of the 2018 Pro models. This time we're hopeful that prices will stay closer to the previous generation.
Here's the full price list for the 2018 models.
|iPad Pro 11 (Wi-Fi)||iPad Pro 11 (4G)||iPad Pro 12.9 (Wi-Fi)||iPad Pro 12.9 (4G)|
Expect similar pricing for the next batch, although (as we will discuss later) the 64GB storage tier may disappear. If so, we would hope and expect the new entry level - presumably 128GB - to roughly match the price of the old 64GB tier.
iPad design changes
After extensively redesigning its Pro lineup for 2018, we're not expecting anything like as radical for 2019. Apple tends to be conservative, design-wise, and after shrinking the bezels and removing the Home buttons it's likely to keep things broadly the same for at least a couple of generations now.
It's possible Apple could try to make the Pro even slimmer by moving some of the screen tech from behind the display and into the bezels at the edge, but we find this unlikely because a) it would likely mean bigger bezels and b) the Pro is already astonishingly - and almost worryingly - slim as things stand.
Conversely, we can't see Apple shrinking the bezels any further than it already has (in an attempt to more closely ape the almost all-screen look you get on the iPhone X and XS) because iPad users tend to be more attached than iPhone users to a physical 'grip'. Apple can add palm-rejection tech as much it likes; people will still dislike leaving sweaty hand- and fingermarks on their screens.
Specs & features
It goes without saying that the next generation of iPad Pros will be formidably specced, but this far ahead of launch it's near impossible to predict what exactly that will entail.
For a starting point, let's look again at the specs of the larger 2018 iPad Pro:
- A12X Bionic processor, Neural Engine, M12 coprocessor
- 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB of storage
- 12.9in (2732x2048 at 264ppi) LED 'Liquid Retina' screen, True Tone, ProMotion
- 12Mp rear-facing camera, f/1,8, flash, 4K video, slow-mo at 240fps
- 7Mp front-facing camera, 1080p video, 'Retina Flash' feature, Portrait Mode, Animoji
- Four-speaker audio
- Face ID facial recognition
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
- USB-C connector, no headphone port
- 280.6mm x 214.9mm x 5.9mm; 631g/633g (Wi-Fi/cellular)
Expect an A13X processor with a moderate speed boost from today's chips. The above model got a double bump from the A10X because two generations of iPhone had appeared since the last update but that shouldn't apply here; we don't expect the A14 chips until the autumn of 2020.
Our colleagues on Macworld US have discussed what we might expect from the A13 chip. They predict that like the A12, the A13 family will be built via a 7nm process, ahead of a switch to 5nm in 2020; but the process itself is likely to be upgraded to (chip maker) TSMC's "7nm+", which uses Extreme Ultraviolet lithography to build chips with better density and power efficiency. It may even use a brand-new "7nm Pro" process.
The April 2019 Ming-Chi Kuo report referred to earlier predicts that the new Pros will use 'LCP Soft Board' to connect the components. LCP stands for Liquid Crystal Polymer and would reduce signal loss and improve networking performance.
The storage allocations look generous now but by the time product launches Apple may decide to drop the 64GB option. (If it does so, expect the entry level to be a reintroduced 128GB, with a gap before 512GB and the terabyte.)
The cameras haven't received much love in recent iterations, although they are always likely to be a lower priority here than on the iPhones. We'd expect Apple to bring back the OIS feature mysteriously lost from the rear-facing camera in 2018 and we may get a megapixel bump at last.
The Bloomberg report we mentioned earlier claims the new iPad Pro will have all the new camera tech coming to the new iPhones. So we can expect such features as:
- A new camera system with a third sensor for ultra-wide angle photos and videos
- The three sensors will capture three images simultaneously and use artificial intelligence to create a combined photo
- The photos will rival traditional cameras
- There'll be improvements to low light photos
- Improved video recording with users able to retouch, apply effects, alter colors, reframe and crop video
Citing an unnamed Chinese supplier, the Japanese-language site Macotakara predicted earlier in August also predicted that both sizes of iPad Pro will feature the same triple-lens rear camera expected to appear in the late-2019 iPhone.
However, there may be an even bigger change coming to the rear cameras on the iPad Pro. A report from The Elec (a South Korean title) quotes an 'industry source' who claims that the 2020 iPad Pro will arrive in March next year and when they do they will feature 3D sensing cameras on the back.
Apparently the cameras will use time-of-flight technology that measures the time it takes for a laser to bounce off an item to create a 3D map. This technlogy could also appear on the 2020 iPhone. Before you get too excited, The Elec eventually removed their report after claims that the information wasn't true... (Via MacRumours).
This is what that setup will look, according to a dummy model of the iPhone 11 we were sent by the case maker Pitaka:
What will Apple do with the screens? For the past three generations the larger model has stayed the same size (12.9in) while the lower tier has crept steadily upwards (9.7in, 10.5in, 11in). Does this mean an 11.8in iPad Pro is on its way?
We don't think so. For obvious reasons, this isn't a game Apple can carry on indefinitely; the point of difference between its two Pro lines is getting smaller and smaller, and eventually there will no point paying extra for the larger model.
Add to that our belief that Apple will not offer any substantive design changes this time around and we think a repeat of the 12.9in/11in pairing is most likely.
What about OLED? It's hard to know how much display tech will move on in the next 18 months, so we may have to eat our words, but right now that (apparently no-brainer) upgrade looks impractical. OLED panels are still very expensive, and a 12.9in one would be bankruptcy-inducing.
On top of this, it is currently difficult to offer 120Hz on an OLED screen. This is why the 120Hz Razer Phone 2 has an LCD.
Wish list of new features
The 2018 iPad Pro tablets are phenomenal devices, full of power and impressive features. But they're not perfect. Here are some of the features and improvements we'd like to see in 2019 or 2020.
Let's look further into the future. One last insight from the April 2019 Kuo report we've mentioned twice before in this article is that Apple is currently developing an iPad Pro with 5G capabilities, but it won't release this until after the much-anticipated 5G iPhone. 2021 is one rumoured release date for the 5G iPad Pro.
Wondering what 5G is and how it'll affect you? We're still in the early days of rollout - as far as the UK is concerned, EE launched its 5G network in May 2019, and Vodafone followed in July - and coverage remains patchy. But if and when you can get 5G in your area, you'll see much faster cellular connection speeds.
In pre-launch lab tests, 4.5Gb/s or even higher was achieved, but in the real world you can expect between 10 and 20 times faster speeds than is currently possible with 4G. Tech Advisor's real-world EE testing found that speeds "would consistently hit between 150-400Mbps".
Wider Pencil compatibility
It's mildly annoying that Pro 2018 users are forced to upgrade to the newer (and much better) Pencil, because their devices don't have Lightning ports and therefore cannot charge up the first-gen model. It's similarly a shame that owners of 2015, 2016 and 2017 iPad Pros aren't allowed to upgrade, because none of those work with the Apple Pencil 2.
Working out which iPads work with which Apple Pencils is a bit of a pain, to be honest. We'd love it if Apple could find a way for the next Pro to work with both Pencils.
The 2018 Pro redesign was a bold one, removing the Home button and radically shrinking the bezels for an almost all-screen design. But who's happy with almost?
Going full-screen would present design difficulties, and Apple would probably have to include a notch for the front-facing camera and sensors. We could probably live with that - although the removal of bezels on such a physical, grab-friendly device would be an opinion divider.
What luxury this would be, with deeper blacks and brighter colours - but it would be pricey, too.
Remove camera bump on rear
It baffles us that so many iPhones and iPads now have rear cameras that stick out noticeably, making it obligatory to use a case or refrain from putting your device on a hard surface. But this strategy has been pursued for so long (the iPhone 6 was criticised for its bump) that we're starting to suspect that Apple either doesn't care to change it, or doesn't know how to without making fatal compromises elsewhere.
Regardless of this, we find it a shame to have to hide the iPad Pro's beauty in a drab covering, especially when the rear camera is such a low-priority inclusion. Perhaps blemish removal could be achieved by opting for a less powerful lens... or even a thicker body. Controversial!
We miss the headphone jack - and the 2018 iPad Pros don't even have a port for Lightning headphones. Please can we have it back?
Software and apps
We didn't get any new iPad hardware at WWDC on 3 June 2019. But iPad owners were not ignored: there was the surprising news that instead of iOS, Apple's tablets are going to run their own dedicated operating system, called iPadOS.
iPadOS is based on iOS 13 and includes many of its new features such as Dark Mode. But it adds gesture controls designed to improve workflow, and a number of other tweaks from Apple's standard mobile OS.
iPadOS launches to the public in autumn 2019, and is rolling out as a beta in the meantime. We expect the new iPad Pro to come out later than that, with iPadOS preinstalled.
Read our iPadOS explainer for more details of the new tablet-focused OS.