A new year usually means a new iPad from Apple. The year 2021 looks like it won't be bucking this trend, as rumours begin to emerge of when, and how, the company is planning to update its least expensive tablet.
In this article we gather up everything that's known so far about the new iPad for 2021.
When will the iPad (2021) be released?
The 8th-gen iPad was launched as recently as September 2020, so it's still relatively new, especially when you take into account the longer refresh intervals that Apple often applies for its tablets.
But we've seen a few rumours suggesting that Apple intends to update its baseline tablet in the first half of 2021, although there was no announcement at the Apple Event on 20 April.
While this might seem a bit soon, one of the reasons could be that it will feature a new design with thinner bezels.
iPad release dates are unpredictable, though, with Apple oscillating between March and September launches over the past few years. Here's when the last few models appeared:
- iPad 5th gen: March 2017
- iPad 6th gen: March 2018
- iPad 7th gen: September 2019
- iPad 8th gen: September 2020
How much will the new iPad (2021) cost?
Pricing has been reasonably stable when it comes to the entry-level iPad in recent years. Here's how they've lined up:
- iPad 5th gen: £339/$349
- iPad 6th gen: £319/$329
- iPad 7th gen: £349/$329
- iPad 8th gen: £329/$329
As you can see, the iPad has wavered between around £300/$300 and £350/$350 over the past few generations.
While there has been some speculation that Apple may try to hit the magic £299/$299 price point, we'd be surprised if it managed to get down to that figure, especially with the profit margins the company likes to maintain. Still, if it does, it would be a great bargain for most people that want a simple, day-to-day iPad.
New iPad design
One rumour that seems to be gathering pace is that Apple will adjust the design of the new model taking inspiration from the previous generation iPad Air.
This could also be accompanied by a move from the current 10.2in display up to the 10.5in panel used on the previous-generation iPad Air. The biggest display is something that cnBeta expects while Mac Otakara is less certain about the size.
However, Mac Otakara does believe that the 2021 iPad will replicate the design of the older iPad Air, making it thinner and lighter.
The idea that Apple would borrow from the last-generation iPad Air design is not that surprising. Apple has always been quite pragmatic about raiding its parts bin to reuse the chassis and components from retired models. This would fit in quite neatly as a way to improve the product without needing to retool or expend much energy on design.
Home button and Lightning
The 2021 iPad is expected to retain the Home button and Touch ID as well as the Lightning port (rather than Face ID and USB-C seen on the iPad Air and iPad Pro models).
We fully expect the new iPad to come with a Home button, as the kind of redesign we saw with the iPad Air (2020) feels far too expensive to bring to the entry-level device. There are rumours, though, that the iPad mini could go down that route in 2021, so keep an eye out for that.
New iPad Specs
Chinese tech site cnBeta suggested that Apple will boost the RAM to 4GB, start with 64GB of storage and fit the A13 Bionic processor that was used in the iPhone 11 range and current iPhone SE. We've also seen these specs reported on Wccftech, so it looks like there could be some credence to the rumours.
The increased storage is something we regard as essential, as the 32GB on offer with the current baseline unit is far too small for a tablet. Most cheap Android smartphones come with at least double that capacity.
The A13 Bionic chip would be a good boost in terms of performance, although the A12 Bionic that comes in the current iPad is a good processor. While Apple does usually move cheaper products on to newer chips when updating them, the iPad is a strange beast in this area.
The 6th-gen iPad came with an A10 Fusion processor, which had appeared a couple of years earlier in the iPhone 7 range. Then the same chip was used in the 7th-gen iPad when it arrived in 2019. This was quite a gap from the higher-powered silicon being used in other iPads and iPhones at that point.
There was relief, then, when Apple bestowed the A12 Bionic on the 8th-gen iPad. But it's hardly a foregone conclusion that the 9th-gen model will get a processor bump.
As you can see, there's still a lot we don't know about the next generation iPad. So, be sure to check back here regularly, as we'll be updating this article as more news becomes available.