There's been a bit of a theme to Apple's releases in recent times: bigger screens and lower prices. Following on from the launch of the iPhone SE in April it looks like the company is gearing up to update the iPad Air later in 2020, and you've guessed it: reports indicate the new iPad Air will have a larger screen and a lower price.
In this article we speculate about the release date, price, design, new features and tech specs of the next iPad Air. Here's everything we have heard about Apple's plans.
The current iPad Air came out more than a year ago in March 2019. At the time we thought Apple was possibly replacing the standard iPad with the new Air model, but Apple dropped a new non-Air iPad shortly before the end of 2019.
Then in March 2020, rather than updating the iPad Air, Apple launched new iPad Pro models with A12Z Bionic processors and an Ultra Wide camera with depth-sensing LiDAR scanner.
So it's clear that the iPad Air is the next in line for an update, but when? This year seems probable and there are reports and tweets to suggest as much, although others are suggesting we may have to wait until 2021.
Twitter user @L0vetodream tweeted in March 2020 that an iPad Air with a "full screen with no notch" that will use Touch ID under the screen is coming.
the new iPad Air will be using the mini led screen, comes with full screen with no notch, not Face ID，but Touch ID under the screen— 有没有搞措 (@L0vetodream) March 10, 2020
Then a China Times report in April 2020 suggests that this new iPad Air will enter production in the third quarter of 2020 (between July and September). But it notes that if it features a MiniLED is rumoured it may not be in mass production until 2021. (More on these new features below).
Well-connected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicated in May 2020 that Apple is preparing new generations of iPad Air and iPad mini. He believes that a new iPad Air with a 10.8in screen will arrive in the second half of 2020 (while an iPad mini with an 8.5-9in screen won't appear until spring of 2021). Nothing was announced at WWDC on 22 June, so that's about the best we can hope for.
The 2019 incarnation of the iPad Air has a reasonably conservative design: the Home button is still there, most obviously, so you don't get the risky but super-cool all-screen (or rather almost all-screen, since there's no notch) design that we got on the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models. Which makes sense; if we had access to that design for £479/$499, why would we shell out for a Pro?
That looks likely to change next time around. The reports and rumours are suggesting that the new iPad Air will have an all-screen design BUT there won't be a notch. Instead the Touch ID feature and the Home button will be concealed underneath the glass. If Apple pulls this off we think it will be a popular solution for those who prefer to retain the Home button for a simplified control system that doesn't involve memorizing multiple swipes.
The arrival of Touch ID under the screen might be the big news, but there may also be a change to the screen size thanks to thinner bezels. Indications are that the new iPad Air screen could measure 11in diagonally (it's currently 10.5in).
Specs and new features
Aside from the under-glass Home button and associated Touch ID fingerprint sensor, what other specs and new features can we expect to grace the Air in 2020?
We don't expect it to gain any of the new feature Apple bought to the iPad Pro in March 2020. Apple walks a tightrope with its mid-market and budget tablets: it wants them to be appealing to the mass market, but it doesn't want to make them so appealing in terms of feature set that nobody needs to buy a Pro and pay the higher price. So whenever predicting what a non-Pro iPad will be able to do, you should always look at the equivalent Pro and scale downwards by 25 percent.
We'd suggest that if there's a feature that isn't in the Pro lineup already, it would be a major surprise for it to make it into the next Air. That's why we'd take claims that the next iPad Air will feature a MiniLED as some reports/tweets are suggesting. Mini LED has a number of advantages - we could see thinner, more lightweight devices, without sacrificing colour accuracy, contrast and dynamic range. All with the efficiency of OLED.
There are a number of reports talking about MiniLED for the iPad but the general consensus is that this is a feature that will come to the iPad Pro first and that it won't arrive until 2021.
However, what is more likely is that the new iPad Air gain some of the features of the 2018 iPad Pro. This is proposed by Japanese blog Macotakara, which suggests that the new generation iPad Air will be based on the 2018 11in iPad Pro.
For example, it will adopt the camera from that iPad Pro. This 12MP wide-angle camera (f/1, 8 aperture) will be a great improvement on the 8MP camera with (f/ 2.4 aperture) and no flash found in the current Air.
Macotakara also suggests that the 11in iPad Pro will offer a USB-C port instead of Lightning, another feature adopted from the 11in iPad Pro.
As for the processor, that's more difficult to predict. The iPad Air currently has a A12 processor while the 2018 11in iPad Pro had a A12X Bionic processor and the 2020 iPad Pro has a A12Z - which apparently has an extra processor core. Those are all versions of the same processor. Perhaps the new iPad Air will ship with the A12X to provide a slight bump on the previous version. It would certainly be unlikely to see an A13 processor in the iPad Air before the iPad Pro gained one.
Another possibility is that we might get a boost to the RAM allocation for the iPad Air (2GB in the 2018 9.7in, 3GB in the 2019 Air, but dwarfed by the 4GB/6GB in the 2018 Pros).
Here's the pricing (at time of writing) for the iPad Air (2019):
- iPad Air (2019, 64GB, Wi-Fi): £479/$499
- iPad Air (2019, 256GB, Wi-Fi): £629/$649
- iPad Air (2019, 64GB, cellular): £599/$629
- iPad Air (2019, 256GB, cellular): £749/$779
As usual with iterative updates, we'd expect and hope that Apple would hit the same entry-level price in 2020. However, that China Times article we mentioned earlier suggests that Apple could be lowering prices this year. These are difficult economic times and the launch of the iPhone SE with the specs of the iPhone 11 Pro at a price more than half that of the flagship model indicates that Apple is willing to drop prices.
One factor to consider is the price of the iPad 10.2in - unless Apple reduces that model's price from £349/$329 we can't see the company reducing the price of the Air to the same level.
That's it for now: we'll update this article regularly as more iPad Air rumours emerge. If you're more of a 'products that have been confirmed to actually exist' type of person, you may prefer to read our iPad buying guide and our roundup of the Best iPad deals.