It's been almost three years since the iPad mini 4 was unveiled in September 2015, and yet that device is still one of the best 8in (7.9in) tablets around - for some the size is perfect. But we can't help but worry about the future of the range. Will the iPad mini 5 arrive in 2018, and if so, will it be a major overhaul, or a damp squib like the mini 3? Could we even see an iPad Pro mini?
Or is the iPad mini going to be abandoned by Apple, and eventually assigned to the scrapheap?
We've gathered all of the iPad mini 5 rumours, hints, clues and other evidence in one place. Read on to explore the evidence and find out about the features and specs we would expect to see on a new iPad mini if it ever arrives.
If you're looking for an iPad to buy right now, you might find our iPad buying guide useful. We've also got plenty of iPad deals to share with you. (And for talk of the iPad 9.7in, read our review of that product.)
New iPad mini: Release date
It's been so long since the launch of the iPad mini 4 that we're losing faith in this product line ever being updated at all - but bearing in mind the phenomenal success of the mini line back in the day (for a time it was the most popular iPad of all) and the popularity of the bargain-priced iPad 9.7in, there's surely appetite for a new model.
However, it's not looking good for the future of the iPad mini line. A Bloomberg report in late August 2018 suggested that there will be no new iPad mini in 2018.
"A person familiar with the company's plans" apparently told Bloomberg that the iPad mini would not be upgraded.
It’s not clear whether the person was speaking about the mini iPad not being upgraded in time for the September iPhone event, but it looks likely that it isn’t ever going to be updated.
We may have more clarity following Apple's now confirmed event on 12 September. Will Apple give the iPad mini an update then? It's possible, but we think it's unlikely.
Apple's decision not to update the iPad mini doesn't mean that the iPad mini won't continue to be sold. A DigiTimes reporte on 17 August 2018 indicated that Apple has no "further plan for the iPad mini series" but stated that Apple will continue to sell it.
How long the iPad mini will remain on sale remains to be seen, though.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that the days of the iPad mini are numbered. He said in a note to investors back in March 2018 that the iPad mini has been a flop because it has been replaced by large-screen smartphones.
In a note to investors Kuo said that he has seen: "Strong demand for low-price 9.7-inch iPad in 2017. iPad shipments hit 43.8mn units in 2017, well above the 35mn units forecast by the market at the beginning of the year. The primary driver was the low-price 9.7-inch model, whose selling points are competitive pricing and a significantly larger panel than those of six- to seven-inch smartphones (iPad mini was a flop because it was replaced by large-screen smartphones). In a bid to strengthen its selling points and to differentiate it more from low-price Android tablets, the new low-price 9.7-inch iPad (starting mass production in 2Q18) will likely support Apple Pencil."
Kuo also issued a report back in January 2017 suggesting that Apple would announce three new iPads that year (a statement that was proven to be true), but no new mini - and that there would be a rise in the average selling price of iPads thanks to "decreasing exposure to iPad mini".
In a report from BGR in May 2017 a source claimed Apple was phasing out the iPad mini line completely - but couldn't confirm when this would happen. And after the lack of a new iPad mini at WWDC 2017, TechCrunch said the fourth model "is probably going to be the last iPad mini ever".
New iPad mini: Price
With the iPad now starting at £319/$329 for 32GB - less than the iPad mini, which starts at £399/$399 (although that's a 128GB version) - the iPad mini is no longer Apple's cheapest iPad.
Even if you compare the 128GB iPad mini with an 128GB iPad, the iPad mini costs just £10 less. With three-year-old tech, nobody can state that at its current price the iPad mini is a good deal.
It would be logical to expect Apple to introduce a new iPad mini 5 at a lower price than the 9.7in iPad that arrived on 27 March 2018 costing £319 (that iPad was priced lower in order to appeal to schools). Could we see an iPad mini for under £300? It just wouldn't be in Apple's nature to cut the price to that extent, so we think it's very unlikely.
New iPad mini: Design
Just suppose there is a new iPad mini. What can we expect to see...
The iPad mini 4 has plenty to recommend it, but in broad design terms it's actually pretty close to the very first iPad mini; it's been slimmed down and had various features added, but the two devices look largely the same. Can we expect a more radical redesign this time around - something like the jump from rounded-corner iPhone 3GS to sharper-edged iPhone 4?
If it arrives the iPad mini 5 may be even thinner than its predecessor (which is already an incredible 6.1mm), at just 5mm. It's certainly possible - the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablets are already 5.6mm thick, but we're not sure it's entirely necessary.
7000-series aluminium chassis
The iPad mini 5 could also have a different chassis, this time made with 7000-series aluminium like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 handsets to make it more durable, particularly if it is indeed thinner to help prevent the tablet from bending.
While we're a little sceptical about the iPad mini 5 having a flexible or possibly even foldable display, patent activity suggests that Apple has been working on the technology for the iPhone for a number of years. The technology would arguably be more important on an iPad, allowing users to 'fold up' the large screen of the iPad and put it in their pocket when not in use.
We assume that Apple is still experimenting with the technology, and is therefore still a number of years away from release.
The iPad Pro models (both 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch) feature a Smart Connector: a set of data and power ports on their lefthand edge, when held in portrait orientation, which connect to a keyboard case.
For what it's worth we think the Smart Keyboard available for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a lot better than its smaller cousin, but even that is a better option for long-term typing than the software keyboard on the iPad's screen. If the iPad mini 5 gets a Smart Connector it could have a (probably limited but still handy) Smart Keyboard of its own, as well as opening up possibilities for other powered accessories.
New iPad mini: Tech specs
It's believed that the iPad mini 5's thinner design could be made possible by a new, smaller battery, says Cult of Mac: while the mini 5's battery unit may have a lower capacity than the 5,124mAh component in the mini 4, superior battery technology mean it will be able to match its predecessor's real-world battery performance.
Apple isn't expected to up the camera quality in the iPad mini 5, so expect 8Mp on the rear and 1.2Mp on the front. (A better front-facing camera would be nice, though, particularly for FaceTime.)
The processor should be improved to an A9 processor over the A8, so we'll see a speed bump and improved graphics for the iPad mini 5, and we could also see an improvement when it comes to the display's resolution. Having launched new iPad Pro models with the super-fast A10X Fusion chips, Apple may even manage to include this, or the slightly less powerful A10 Fusion from the iPhone 7. The iPhone 8's A11 is unlikely to make an appearance, we would guess.
As for storage, we'd expect the mini 5 to be made available with 32GB and 128GB specs. But Apple may go even further, given that the 2017 iPad Pro models are offered in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB flavours.
New features wishlist
We've looked above at the new features we think are likely to appear in the iPad mini 5. But what are the features we'd like to see? Here's our iPad mini 5 wishlist.
No headphone port
We're going out on a limb here, and we know this isn't a fashionable point of view: there might be a removal of the headphone jack on iPads, and this could be a good thing!
While the iPad mini 4 is already wonderfully slim and light, removing a port streamlines the design on the outside and makes space on the inside: the mini 5 could be even slimmer, or perhaps squeeze in a little more battery capacity.
When it comes to implementing new features and entering new market segments, Apple is widely felt to be the slow-turning ocean liner of mobile tech, but it's a fast and usually prescient mover when it comes to ditching soon-to-be-outdated technologies.
As a general rule, the more portable a computing device is, the more dependent it is on battery power - yet conversely, it'll be relying on a smaller battery unit. The iPad Pro 12.9in is the least likely iPad to see prolonged usage on the go (most of our use has been desk- or sofa-bound, within easy reach of a power supply), but it has easily the best battery performance of any iPad we've tested.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that battery performance is a massive priority for the iPad mini 5, and efficient and convenient charging is an important element of that. We'd like Apple to implement its own version of Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology, so that you can give the mini 5 a quick blast of power in the coffee shop before proceeding on your merry way.
We've grown used to the ultra-fast charging offered by the Apple Pencil's little battery, and would like to see something of the same experience (although based on new technology) brought to the iPads themselves.
microSD card slot
Aside from being an extraordinarily long shot (Apple has never produced an iPhone, iPad or iPod with removable storage, and realistically never will), it might sound odd to ask Apple to streamline the external design by removing a widely used port, and then in the next section ask Apple to clog up the design with an additional card slot. But let's put it this way: if we're obliged to have one non-essential external port, we'd take this over the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Apple's storage policies have long been frustrating. The substantial step up in price when you select a higher storage allocation, when we know that storage is incredibly cheap; the removal of the 'sweet spot' 32GB option, so that many buyers fall between the stools of not enough (16GB) and more than you need (64GB); and the refusal to countenance either upgrades or removal storage, so that whatever you buy is what you're stuck with for the lifetime of that product.
The iPad mini is a terrific e-reader, and you know what that means: poolside use. We think the mini line-up needs waterproofing just as much as the iPhones.
Apple didn't used to send its devices off to get IP-rated, but some of its more recent products have proudly stated their credentials in this area: an impressive IP67 on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and IPX7 on Apple Watch first-gen and Series 1. The Apple Watch Series 2 and 3 are rated on a different scale: resistant to a depth of 50 metres under ISO standard 22810:2010.
(An IP - or Ingress Protection - rating consists of two digits. The first rates its ability to withstand solid intrusions such as dust on a scale of 0 to 6; the second rates fluid resistance on a scale of 0 to 8. So the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone, which is rated as IP68, is top of the class. An X indicates that a product hasn't been tested on a particular scale.)
That's self-explanatory, isn't it? I like the pink iPhone colour option. Don't judge me.
That's it for now. Check back regularly for the latest iPad mini 5 feature rumours, as we'll be updating this very article as new evidence and speculation emerges, and when the first leaked photos appear.