- New iPad Pro could arrive in spring 2020
- A13X processor will offer improved power efficiency
- Will get triple-lens camera on the rear, with time-of-flight tech
- 64GB storage tier likely to disappear
- 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 more than 12 months since the unveiling of new iPad 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.
If you were hoping that you wouldn't be waiting much longer for a new iPad Pro you will be disappointed though: a well respected analyst and a creadible report both suggests that the new tablet won't launch until spring 2020. More below.
What can we expect from the new iPad Pro model when it is released? In this article we speculate about the release date, specs and new features including a new 3D sensing camera, mini LED screen, and updated processor. We also discuss what the pre pro iPads are likely to cost and when the iPad Pro will gain 5G connectivity.
If you're interested in cheaper alternatives, read about the 10.2in iPad that launched in September 2019, and the new iPad Air 2020 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?
In 2019 Apple launched a new iPad mini, revived the iPad Air and introduced a new 10.2 iPad. You might be thinking that a new iPad Pro will surely arrive soon.
It looks like you'll have to wait a little longer. TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is a very well respected Apple analyst, published a research note in mid-November 2019 claiming that we’ll see the iPhone SE 2 and a new iPad Pro in "first half of 2020", via MacRumours.
He isn't the only one expecting the new iPad in the spring. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman wrote in November 2019 that Apple intends to release new iPad Pro models that feature rear 3D sensing in the first half of 2020.
This report contradicts an earlier Bloomberg report (in 22 August 2019) that claimed its sources indicated that the new iPad Pro will launch before the end of 2019. The Bloomberg report stated that: "Coming in 2019: refreshed versions of the iPad Pro with upgraded cameras and faster chips". That report also mentioned the 10.2in iPad, which launched in September 2019, so it could be assumed that the prediction that a iPad Pro would arrive alongside the 10.2in Pad was incorrect.
Kuo also published predictions in mid October 2019 that show the iPad Pro as coming in Q1 2020.
New iPad Pro price
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.
However, there is one reason why the prices might increase. There have been suggestions that in response to increased Chinese tarrifs Apple may hike the prices of various products. Hopefully Apple won't push this increase onto consumers though.
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.
What is likely to change is the camera layout on the back, more on that below.
Specs & features
It goes without saying that the next generation of iPad Pros will be formidably specced, and there are already lots of rumours about what new features might appear, including a new Time of Flight (ToF) system that will be able to map out a 3D representation of the space in front of you. We may also see a Portrait Mode camera coming to the rear of the iPad Pro.
We'll go into more detail about those and other new features below, but first, as a point of comparison, we'll just run through 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)
The cameras on the iPad Pro haven't received much love in recent iterations, although they are always likely to be a lower priority here than on the iPhones (which are a size more suited to photography). 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. However, the really exciting news is that there may be Augmented Reality targetted improvements coming to the camera.
The Bloomberg report we mentioned earlier, along with other reports, claim the new iPad Pro will have some new camera tech, specifically a Time of Flight system that will be able to judge the distances between items in front of you and then map out a 3D reproduction of the space. This should be useful AR games and applications.
This new 3D system may be set to arrive on the 2020 iPhone. It may also bring features like the Portrait photography mode to the iPad Pro.
This isn't the first we've heard of the new 3D camera set up. A report from The Elec (a South Korean title) back in August 2019 quoted an 'industry source' who claimed that the 2020 iPad Pro would arrive in March 2020 and will feature 3D sensing cameras on the back.
The Elec eventually removed their report after claims that the information wasn't true... (Via MacRumours). However, the rumour emerged again when in October 2019 analyst Ming Chi Kuo predicted that an iPad Pro with a rear-mounted time of flight sensor was in the pipeline for 2020.
This new camera technology is likely to have an application in AR, rather than being used to take 3D photos of our friends and surroundings.
That's not all. Citing an unnamed Chinese supplier, the Japanese-language site Macotakara predicted earlier in August 2019 that both sizes of iPad Pro will feature the same triple-lens rear camera that appeared in the iPhone 11.
One reason why we expect an update to the iPad Pro soon is that, while it's considered a Pro version of the iPad, there is only a minor difference between its processor (the A12X) and the processor inside the iPad Air and iPad mini (the A12).
We expect an A13X processor to appear inside the iPad Pro - that would be a moderate boost to the processor currently found in the iPhone 11 series. We don't expect the A14 chips until the autumn of 2020.
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, but we anticipate that 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.
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 for the display though? 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.
We are hearing that the new iPad Pro could adopt a mini LED screen supplied by Epistar, though. That rumour, from TF International analyst Ming Chi Kuo, indicates "the future iPad and MacBook displays will each use approximately 10,000 LEDs, compared to 576 in Apple's upcoming Pro Display XDR." This display technolology may not be adopted until late 2020 or even mid 2021, though, according to the analyst.
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.
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
Instead of iOS, Apple's tablets now 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 launched to the public in autumn 2019. Read our iPadOS explainer for more details of the tablet-focused OS.
Another change coming in the autumn of 2019 is an easier way for developers to bring iPad apps to the Mac. Apple's Project Catalist will hopefully result in more iPad apps making their way to the Mac, but will it work in the other direction? Can we expect to see more Mac apps on the iPad? This is thought to be the long term plan, with the first such apps appearing in 2021. But we could see Mac apps on the iPad sooner than that, thanks to the new Sidecar feature in macOS Catalina that allows users to hook their iPad up to a supported Mac and use it as a second screen. Read more about Sidecar here.
How often does Apple launch a new iPad Pro?
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): November 2015
- iPad Pro 9.7in: March 2016
- iPad Pro 12.9in (2nd gen): June 2017
- iPad Pro 10.5in: June 2017
- iPad Pro 12.9in (3rd gen): November 2018
- iPad Pro 11in: November 2018
As you can see from those dates, there is no reason why Apple should be expected to update the iPad Pro every 12 months. 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.