Two new iPad Pros were announced during Apple's 30 October special event, but none with that sought after 7.9in compact screen size. But while it may have been left out of the launch party for a third year in a row, the iPad mini 4 remains on sale - and there's still hope for a new model.
It's been more than three years since the iPad mini 4 was unveiled back in September 2015, and that 7.9in screen and slim chassis remains a popular design. Will there ever be an iPad mini 5, or will Apple discontinue the line?
In this article we round up and analyse all the iPad mini 5 leaks and rumours. Read on to find out about the features and specs we would expect to see on a new iPad mini. This will be valuable info if you have an ageing mini and think it might be time to buy a replacement.
New iPad mini: Release date
On 23 Oct legendary analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that a new mini is in the works, but it turns out it wasn't quite ready for the special press event on 30 Oct 2018, in which new iPad Pro models were launched along with a redesigned Apple Pencil, a new Mac mini and a 13.3in MacBook Air.
It's been so long since the launch of the mini 4 that we had been losing faith in this product line ever being updated at all - a Bloomberg report in late August suggested there would be no new iPad mini in 2018 - but bearing in mind the phenomenal success of the mini line back in the day and the popularity of the bargain-priced iPad 9.7in, there's surely appetite for a new model.
Apple has kept the iPad mini 4 on sale - for now. Which means there is renewed hope that it hasn't given up on its smaller iPad just yet.
Even if Apple decides not to update the iPad mini, that doesn't necessarily mean it will stop being sold. A DigiTimes report on 17 August 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 He said in a note to investors back in March 2018 that the iPad mini has been a flop because it has been replaced by large-screen smartphones.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 43.8 million units in 2017, well above the 35 million 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".
The end of the iPad mini is no surprise given the low price of the 9.7in iPad, the larger screens on the iPhone XS, and iPhone XR, and other larger screened smartphones.
However, people looking to buy tablets aren't necessarily looking for a phone - the tablet might be for a child to watch YouTube on, or play games, or it might be a laptop replacement, in which case the smaller sized iPad mini may well appeal more than a larger model.
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
In design terms the iPad mini 4 is 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?
Will the iPad mini gain the thinner bezels and larger screen that is rumoured for the larger iPad Pro models? Can we expect Apple to remove the Home button and add Face ID capabilities to the mini iPad?
If Apple does update the iPad mini then the removal of the Home button seems likely. As a result we could see a bigger screen and even more compact dimensions.
The current iPad mini has the following dimensions:
- 7.9in screen
- 203.1mm x 134.8mm x 6.1mm
The standard size iPad dimensions are as follows:
- 9.7in screen
- 240mm x 169.5mm x 7.5mm
With the iPhone XS Max having a 6.5in display compared to the iPad mini's 7.9in is there much of a difference between the two devices in terms of size?
Here are the iPhone XS Max dimensions:
- 6.5in screen
- 157.5mm x 77.4mm x 7.7mm
That screen might be a similar measurement diagonally, but the dimensions are a world apart. There are many circumstances where a wider display will be more user friendly than a narrow display.
If it ever arrives, the iPad mini 5 may be thinner than its predecessor (which is 6.1mm). It's certainly possible, although the 2018 iPad is 7.5mm thick, so maybe Apple's unlikely to make the smaller model any thinner.
The new iPhones lack an audio jack for plugging in headphones. Could the iPad see the same fate? It's thought not, based on the fact that the 2018 iPad and 2017 iPad Pro models have maintained their audio jacks.
The iPad Pro models 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. It's possible that this could find its way to an iPad mini.
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. It's feasible that we could see it on the iPad mini - but we'd expect to see it on the standard iPad first.
New in the 2018 iPad Pro is USB-C, and if Apple ever updates its iPad mini we'd expect to see this change here, too.
New iPad mini: Tech specs
To get the best idea of what specs we can expect, we'll start by looking at the specs of the current model:
- A8 processor
- M8 Motion coprocessor
- 128GB storage
- 8MP camera
- 1.2MP FaceTime camera
- 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 9 hours of cellular browsing
The 2018 iPad has an A10 chip, so we would expect a new mini to match that, along with the M10 coprocessor.
We don't expect Apple to up the camera quality, so 8Mp on the rear and 1.2Mp on the front seems likely, as is the case with the 2018 iPad. (A better front-facing camera would be nice, though, particularly for FaceTime.)
As for storage, we'd expect the mini 5 to be made available with 32GB and 128GB specs, like the iPad in 2018. But Apple may offer 64GB, 256GB and 512GB flavours as it does with the iPad Pro.
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 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.