What Should We Expect from the iPad Air 3?

The iPad Air 3 Is Rumored to Make Its Debut at a March 15th Event.

The iPad family is expecting a new addition soon. Image © Apple, Inc.

Note: Apple announced the 9.7-inch "iPad Pro" on March 21st.  Read all about Apple's newest tablet...

October came and went without the unveiling of a new iPad Air, but with a rumored event scheduled for March 15, Apple won't wait a full two years to update their 9.7-inch tablet. The iPad Air 2 was released alongside the iPad Mini 3, and since its debut in 2014, Apple has upgraded the Mini line and introduced the iPad Pro.

But the iPad Air is still the gem in the lineup, with most people opting for the iPad Air 2 over any other model.

An iPad release in March is nothing new. The original iPad was announced on January 27, 2010, and released on April 3rd of that year. Its successor was announced on March 2nd, 2011 and went on sale nine days later. The iPad 3 also debuted in March before the iPad 4 moved the release schedule to October.  

The iPad Air 2 vs the iPad Pro vs the iPad Mini 4

So what can we expect from the iPad Air 3?

More speed. But probably not iPad Pro speed. The iPad Air 2 was a departure for Apple. The iPad had previously laid claim to a processor similar to the same-year iPhone, although usually clocked slightly faster. The Air 2 introduced the tri-core processor, which added an additional core processor to the mix. This made the multi-core speed of the iPad Air 2 incredibly fast. In fact, while the iPhone 6s's improved A9 processor has more straight line speed, the iPad Air 2 still zooms past it in multi-core tests.

So where will the iPad Air 3 land? It's possible the iPad Air 3 is powered by the A9X processor that runs the iPad Pro. The A9X took the iPad well into PC territory, running about as fast as a midrange laptop or desktop. But Apple may want to reserve the A9X for its "Pro" iPad. A nice surprise would be a tri-core variant of the iPhone 6s's A9 chip.

This would make the iPad Air 3 nearly as fast as the iPad Pro and quite capable of keeping up when performing advanced features like multitasking, but not steal the thunder from the iPad Pro's overall performance.

An Air-Sized Smart Keyboard. While the tablet industry is slowing down, the hybrid industry is starting to speed up. More people are finding the idea of a tablet that can convert to and from a laptop to be appealing. The iPad has long had the benefit of keyboard cases that turn it into a laptop, and now that the iPad Pro sports a Smart Keyboard, we should see the same with the Air 3. This means the iPad Air 3 would get the smart connector that helps power the Smart Keyboard, which may open up some interesting options from third-party accessory manufacturers. Read About iPad Keyboard Tips and New Smart Keyboard Shortcuts.

The iPad Pro's Speaker System. One incredibly cool think about the iPad Pro is the sound system. It easily blows away the iPhone 6s and the iPad Air 2. With speakers as each corner of the tablet, the sound shifts based on how you are holding it, so you never get a muffled sound. While the iPad Air 3 may not get the volume, there's a good chance they'll get the design, which will carry a marked improvement in sound quality.

The Apple Pencil. This one should be a no-brainer, but it is still in the 'maybe' category. Not only would it extend the usability of the iPad Air 3, it would also extend the audience for the Apple Pencil. Apple would definitely sell more of their smart stylus if it could be used by the millions of people that would invariably flock to the iPad Air 3. So why is it just a maybe? The Apple Pencil is a stylus in name only. It actually works quite differently than a stylus and requires a lot from the tablet to make it work. But I think Pencil support is more likely than not.

More Goodies. The iPad Air 3 is also expected to get an LED flash for the back-facing camera. This will help the Air take better pictures in low light conditions. And speaking of low light, the Air 3 should also come with iOS 9.3, which will include Night Shift, a feature that will shift the colors of the screen to output less blue light at night. The exposure to bright blue light is thought to impede the ability for some people to fall asleep. The iOS update will also include password locks for notes, updates for the News and Health apps and other new features.

How to use the Virtual Touchpad on the iPad

What Not to Expect From the iPad Air 3

3D Touch. The inclusion of 3D Touch would be huge for the iPad. Not only does it offer additional controls for apps and provide a new way to play games, it would also go well with the music industry where the feature can mimic aftertouch on MIDI keyboards, a feature that allows the musician to manipulate the sound of a note by pressing harder on the key.  The Best MIDI Accessories for the iPad.

Live Photos. I haven't heard much about Live Photos coming to the Air 3, but this is a feature Apple may want to keep exclusive to the iPhone, just as Apple may want to keep the Apple Pencil exclusive to the iPad lineup.

Pro Tips: Use the iPad Like a Pro