- New iPad Pro release in spring/early summer 2020
- A13X processor will have improved power efficiency
- 64GB storage tier likely to disappear
- Apple 'developing 5G iPad Pro' for launch in 2021
Where next for the iPad Pro? It's been seven months since the unveiling of new Pro models in October 2018, complete with all-screen design, Face ID and USB-C, and we're now eagerly looking ahead to the next generation.
What can we expect from the new iPad Pro models released in 2019 or 2020? 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.
We expect the next iPad Pro to arrive some time between spring and early summer in 2020. An April 2020 report from Ming-Chi Kuo (covered by the Chinese-language site Economic Daily News) says mass production will start in the Q4 2019 to Q1 2020 timeframe.
Readers may be disappointed to hear that 2019 might not see the launch of a new iPad Pro model, since Apple has released at least one per year since 2015. Here are the launch dates:
- 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
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 would be on a launch the following spring or (perhaps more likely still) at WWDC in June 2020.
(This assumes a major update. If we're just talking about a minor spec bump Apple could release a new Pro earlier than this, although that could still annoy a few people who bought the Nov 2018 models!)
New iPad Pro prices
What will the next iPad Pros cost? 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 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 finger-marks 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 bring back the OIS feature mysteriously lost from the rear-facing camera in 2018 and we may get a megapixel bump at last.
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.
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 it can get a 5G iPhone out of the doors.
Wondering what 5G is and how it'll affect you? When it arrives, 5G will provide much faster cellular connection speeds. In lab tests, 4.5Gb/s or even higher has been achieved, but in the real world you can expect between 10 and 20 times faster speeds than is currently possible 4G.
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.
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 - 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?