New iPad Rumors: Here's What to Expect

Will the iPad get a Touch Bar? Is it the end of the mini?

The iPad Pro with smart keyboard and Apple Pencil
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro may not get the same upgraded treatment as its bigger brother. Apple, Inc

While Apple released a new super-charged iPad Pro 12.9-inch and a brand new size with the 10.5-inch iPad Pro in June, there are still a few iPad rumors floating around that have gone unresolved. Where was the iPad Pro mini? Have we seen the last 7.9-inch tablet from Apple? And will we ever see another iPad Air? How about features like 3D Touch

The Second Generation iPad Pro Exceeds Expectations

All iPads have the same basic features. Several key aspects, however, do change.

While the newest iPad Pro models didn't receive a 3D Touch upgrade, a feature that is currently iPhone-only, they did manage to exceed some expectations. The new A10X Fusion chip was announced as 30 percent faster than the original iPad Pro, but it turns out to be even faster. In fact, the iPad Pro is as fast as the newest MacBook Pros in some tests, which is amazing when you consider that much power is in a much cheaper tablet.

The display on the iPad Pro also got a major boost. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro released last year got a True Tone display upgrade, which includes support for a wider gamut of colors. The new iPad Pro models turn this up to eleven with a 120 Hz display, which will refresh twice as fast as the old display. This will make graphics much smoother.

What's Next for the iPad?

The newest iPad Pro models are absolute beasts, but it is hard to call them anything other than iterative upgrades. And that's fine. The word 'iterative' seems to have a bad connotation around some water coolers, but PCs have been going through iterative upgrades for the past few decades and no one seems to mind.

But there are a few unresolved rumors floating around iPad Pro features:

The Home Button. The only physical button on the front of the iPad remains in place... for now. But with the iPhone X dumping the Home Button and Touch ID in favor of Face ID recognition, we can expect the same to be in line for the iPad Pro. After all, if Apple is done with fingerprint recognition, they will move all of their lineup to Face ID, right?

Not so fast. One thing that may hold Apple back is company policy.  Not Apple's policy, of course, but other companies that have yet to approve face recognition as an acceptable security feature. With the iPad Pro being aimed at the enterprise, Apple might delay replacing the Home Button... for now.

The No-Bevel Screen. This one goes hand-in-hand with dumping the Home Button. An iPad that is all screen would need either Face ID or the ability to use Touch ID by pressing the screen itself, which is another technology Apple has been playing around with these days. This one is definitely in the works.  Apple loves to make the most of every inch of the iPad, and currently, the Home Button is wasting space.

An iPad Pro X? It's quite possible we'll see two radically different iPad Pro models with the 3rd generation. Apple could keep a version with a Home Button and Touch ID similar to its iPhone 8 and iPhone 8S release and a version with Face ID mimicking the iPhone X release.  

3D Touch. Apple has worked to differentiate the iPhone and iPad lineups in the last few years. The iPad has gained multitasking features that take advantage of the greater real estate on the display. The iPhone has 3D Touch, which gives the user another way to manipulate the device by pressing the finger harder or lighter against the display. This is the type of feature that would seem a no-brainer for the iPad, but we have to remember that the new iPad Pro models already have a special display with extra sensors to support the Apple Pencil, so it isn't exactly a matter of simply porting the iPhone display over to the iPad.

The Next iPad and iPad Pro Model Release Dates

Until this year, Apple had remained relatively consistent with the release cycle of the iPad. The original iPad up to the third generation were released in the March-April timeframe. The fourth generation and the introduction of the iPad Mini occurred in the October-November window, with Apple sticking to holiday releases for the next several years. But now that Apple has (1) released a new iPad model (5th generation) without a major announcement event and (2) released new iPad Pro models during their annual worldwide developer's conference (WWDC), it becomes a little more difficult to predict.

Don't expect another announcement at next year's WWDC. It's unusual for Apple to release hardware during an event that is dedicated to software. The October-November timeframe in 2018 is the earliest we will see another iPad Pro, and it is more likely Apple will skip 2018 altogether and release the next set of Pro models in the spring of 2019.

Why such a long layoff? Apple is treating the iPad like the computer it is. And we don't see yearly releases around the iMac or the MacBook Pro. The newest iPad Pros are as fast as MacBooks, so there is really no need to beef up performance after only a year.

But that doesn't mean we won't see a new iPad until 2019. The 5th generation iPad announcement was rather lackluster coming as it did in the form of a press release. It also borrows technology, using the processor found in the iPhone 6S to power the tablet. We may see a new entry-level iPad sometime in 2018, but that would likely be during the holiday season.

What's Up With the Touch Bar and Apple Pencil 2?

One of the more interesting rumors is of the Touch Bar that debuted with the Mac, later making its way to the iPad. We didn't see that in this iteration, but an iPad that ditches the physical Home Button and includes a Touch Bar could certainly have some interesting ramifications. Not only could the Touch Bar act as a fingerprint sensor, it would give apps a dedicated space for buttons, sliders and other automated tasks.

A rumor of a new Apple Pencil, a stylus for the iPad, with a magnetic strip that both attaches to the iPad and charges the Pencil is also making the rounds. This one sounds pretty cool, but you have to wonder how comfortable it might be with a magnetic charging strip along the side. If Apple can accomplish this while keeping the exterior smooth, it would be a nice addition.

Is the iPad Air Officially Dead? And Will We Ever See Another Mini?

With the release of the 5th generation iPad, which didn't even rate a special event, I think we can safely say the "Air" moniker is dead. The MacBook Air is the low device on the totem pole for the Mac lineup, so perhaps Apple wants to move away from branding the 5th generation iPad an 'entry-level' tablet. Although it is quite obvious that it is exactly that: Apple's entry-level iPad.

But at least the iPad Air 2 got an upgrade even if it dropped the Air name. The iPad mini 4 is still (curiously!) for sale without a potential upgrade in sight. Most rumors point to the iPad mini 4 being the last of the line, with the move to larger displays on the iPhone Plus models edging out the smallest iPad. This may be true, but there is still a segment of the market that prefers the 7.9-inch size because of the portability it offers, so we might not want to count the mini out quite yet.