Even though Apple just refreshed the iPad Pro in March, many people are already asking about what to expect from the next revision. The next-generation iPad Pro is rumored to pack 5G, mini-LED display technology, and much more. Read on as we recap all of the rumors.
The 2020 iPad Pro update
Apple updated the iPad Pro in March, focusing primarily on an upgraded camera system and the new Magic Keyboard — which also works with the 2018 iPad Pro. The new 2020 iPad Pro camera includes the new LiDAR Scanner alongside a 12MP Wide camera, as well as a 10MP Ultra Wide camera.
Internally, the 2020 iPad Pro packs the A12Z Bionic processor and 6GB of RAM. In many respects, this year’s iPad Pro update is an iterative refresh on the 2018 iPad Pro. For 2021, however, we expect a much more drastic overhaul.
One of the biggest changes coming with the next-generation iPad Pro refresh is mini LED display technology. mini LED is expected to bring a variety of improvements, including display quality enhancements and longer battery life.
Instead of one large backlight that spans the entire screen, a mini LED display is made up of many smaller dimming zones that can be turned on and off individually. This allows for black content areas to be truly black because the screen components are simply turned off completely in that region.
Reports have said that Apple is interested in adopting mini LED screen panels because they offer a rich wide color gamut, high contrast ratios, high dynamic range, and localized dimming. mini LED is also believed to result in thinner panels that are more power-efficient. Meanwhile, OLED displays have issues with burn-in, color shifting, and high production costs. mini LED aims to solve these problems while offering similar contrast levels.
For the iPad, this is particularly notable. Whereas the iPhone transitioned to OLED starting with the iPhone X, the iPad Pro still uses an LED-backlit display.
You can read more about what Apple’s switch to mini LED will mean for users in our full roundup here. The iPad Pro won’t be the only Apple device to switch to mini LED, with reports suggesting other iPad models will follow suit, alongside the Mac lineup.
We expect other flagship features of the iPad Pro display to remain the same: 11-inch and 12.9-inch variants, True Tone for color temperature adjustments, ProMotion for 120Hz refresh rates, and Liquid Retina quality.
Connectivity: 5G iPad Pro
Much like the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro coming later this year, the next-generation iPad Pro will also bring 5G connectivity for the first time. Details here are a bit unclear, but the iPad Pro rollout is likely to be similar to the iPhone 12.
This means that the iPad Pro is likely to include support for both versions of 5G: sub-6 GHz 5G and mmWave 5G. As we’ve explained before, mmWave is the technology with more impressive gigabit-like speeds, but its range is much smaller. Meanwhile, sub-6GHz 5G rollouts in the United States typically achieve speeds in the 100-150 Mbps range, but with a much wider range.
Apple is still expected to use modems from Qualcomm for its initial rollout of 5G. Apple is in the process of developing its own in-house 5G modems, but those aren’t expected to be ready until at least 2022. With that being said, Apple is likely to switch away from Qualcomm modems gradually, and the switchover could start with the iPad Pro. It’s just a question of when that switchover begins.
Finally, the next iPad Pro refresh will also bring a more dramatic performance upgrade. The most recent 2020 iPad Pro features the A12Z Bionic processor, which is technically the same as the A12X Bionic processor, but with an additional GPU core enabled.
Apple’s next iPad Pro update is expected to feature the upcoming A14 processor, manufactured with a 5-nanometer processor. According to a recent supply chain report, Apple’s partner TSMC is on schedule to start the production of the A14 processor using a new 5-nanometer process in Q2. It will come to the iPhone 12 later this year, then the new iPad Pro in 2021.
What kind of performance should you expect? Early estimates suggest that the A14 in the iPhone 12 could be as powerful as the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The iPad Pro variant of the A14 is likely to be even more powerful.
These improvements are due mainly to the 5nm manufacturing process. You can read more details on the A14’s expected performance here. All of the newest 2020 iPad Pro models also pack 6GB of RAM for the first time, and it’s unclear if Apple has plans to increase RAM amounts with the next-generation.
Release and pricing
Whether or not the addition of features such as 5G and mini-LED correlates with an increase in price remains to be seen. Technologies such as 5G are notoriously expensive and battery intensive, so it’s certainly possible that Apple uses this as a reason to increase pricing. Currently, the iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 11-inch and $999 for the 12.9-inch.
As for a release date, reports had originally suggested that the next iPad Pro revision would be released later this year, marking a rare occurrence of Apple releasing two product refreshes in the same year. More recent reports have said that supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19 have forced Apple to delay the release until 2021.
With that in mind, additional delays and changes are not of the question. Apple’s hardware development and supply chain testing are in flux right now because of COVID-19, and it’s possible that the next iPad Pro revision is delayed even far. Ultimately, this means that the 2020 iPad Pro introduced in March will be the only update this year, but that a new model with more drastic changes is likely the way for 2021.
Should you wait or buy now?
The answer to this question likely varies depending on what iPad Pro you currently have, or if you’re a first-time buyer. My personal advice is this: if you have a 2018, hold onto it until we see what Apple has in store for 2020. Plus, the Magic Keyboard is backward compatible with the 2018 iPad Pro.
If you’re a first-time iPad Pro buyer, the 2020 iPad Pro is an excellent purchase and you won’t be disappointed in the slightest. We also regularly see deals on refurbished 2018 iPad Pro models, which might be an option to consider if you want to jump into the iPad Pro ecosystem immediately, but without breaking the bank.
What do you think of these rumors? Did you buy the new 2020 iPad Pro or are you holding out for a more notable iPad Pro update with 5G? Let us know in the comments below!
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.