It has been more than a year since the release of the current iPad Air, which first made an appearance in March 2019 following a five-year hiatus for the Air branding. The logical release date would’ve been March 2020, but as we now know, Apple chose to focus on the iPad Pro models, boasting the new A12Z Bionic chipset, an additional ultra-wide lens and a depth-sensing LiDAR sensor. So, when will the next iPad Air be released?
Though it missed the yearly cycle window, it’s still widely rumoured that an updated iPad Air will make an appearance in 2020, although it wasn't announced at WWDC 2020, and whispers suggest that the release has been pushed as far back as 2021. An April 2020 report from China Times suggests the new iPad Air will begin mass production in the third quarter of 2020, but with a caveat: if Apple decides to go for a MiniLED display, mass production will be delayed until 2021.
Well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has suggested that a 2020 release is still on the cards. In a May 2020 note to investors, Kuo claims that Apple is working on new models of iPad Air and iPad mini, with a 10.8in Air model due for release in the second half of 2020. Those waiting for a new iPad mini might have a little longer to wait, with Kuo suggesting a Spring 2021 launch for Apple’s small tablet.
If you can’t wait that long, take a look at our selection of the best iPads available right now.
To get a good idea at how much the new iPad Air will cost, let’s look at Apple’s current pricing:
- iPad Air (64GB, Wi-Fi): £479/$499
- iPad Air (256GB, Wi-Fi): £629/$649
- iPad Air (64GB, cellular): £599/$629
- iPad Air (256GB, cellular): £749/$779
With this in mind, we expect Apple to aim for the same entry-level price with the updated iPad Air - it’s what it tends to do with most of its product range, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch - but both China Times and Ming-Chi Kuo suggest that Apple could be dropping the price of this year’s iPad Air.
It’s not as crazy an idea as it would’ve been a couple of years ago, but with the release of the iPhone SE with iPhone 11-level specs at a respectable £419/$399, it’s possible that Apple could cut the cost of the iPad Air.
That then leaves us with the 10.2in iPad, currently on sale at £349/$329. It’d be hard for Apple to offer the iPad for much lower than £349/$329, so we imagine the new iPad Air will replace the 10.2in iPad as the entry-level model in the iPad range if Apple does drop the price as suggested. It’d certainly tidy things up a little, with Apple’s at times confusing iPad branding leaving consumers confused.
To call the iPad Air (2019) design familiar is probably being too kind at this point. Apple has used a broadly similar design across the iPad range - bar the Pro models - for quite some time now, complete with forehead and chin and a physical Home button. It’s certainly a step away from the Touch ID-enabled, full-screen design of the iPad Pro range, but according to reports, that could all be changing this year.
Various reports suggest that the next iPad Air will sport the same all-screen design as Apple’s iPad Pro range, but with one crucial difference: there won’t be Face ID support. Some things have to be exclusive to the high-end Pro range, right? Of course, with a full-screen design, there’s no place for the Home button, so what will you use for authentication?
Much like the iPhone SE Plus rumoured for release in 2021, the next iPad Air is said to feature an in-display fingerprint reader for use with Touch ID. It’s not a new concept - the technology has been available on Android devices for a few years now - but Apple has yet to introduce the tech to any iPhone or iPad. If Apple pulls it off as well as some Android manufacturers, it’ll allow Apple to expand the screen-to-body ratio of the tablet without sacrificing the high-end biometrics available on the current iPad Air.
The shrinking bezels of the display mean that the new iPad Air will likely sport a larger display without a change to external dimensions. That’s claimed by both China Times and Ming-Chi Kuo, but the two sources can’t agree on sizes: China Times claims it’ll be 11in while Kuo suggests it’ll be a more modest 10.8in - the latter certainly makes more sense, as an 11in bezel-less display will look a little too similar to the 11in iPad Pro for Apple’s liking.
Features and spec
Aside from the introduction of an under-display fingerprint scanner, what else should we expect from the new iPad Air? It’s safe to say that the iPad Air probably won’t feature any of the features from the new iPad Pro range, including the snazzy LiDAR scanner or secondary ultra-wide lens, but we could see some features from the older 2018 range - and that’s backed up by Japanese blog Macotakara.
The site suggests that the next-gen iPad Pro will be based on the 2018 11in iPad Pro. With this in mind, we could see the iPad Air’s camera offering upgraded from the current 8Mp f/2.4 lens to a 12Mp f/1.8 wide-angle camera, complete with flash. It’s also suggested that the iPad Air will follow the iPad Pro’s transition to USB-C, with Apple apparently ditching the traditional Lightning cable with the next-gen tablet.
It gets a little murkier when it comes to the processor: the current iPad Air sports an A12 processor, while the iPad Pro from 2018 featured the A12X Bionic and the 2020 iPad Pro features the A12Z. If you hadn’t guessed, those are all versions of the same processor.
While you might assume that the iPad Air would get the same A13 chipset as the iPhone 11 range, we doubt Apple would introduce the next-gen chipset on an entry-level tablet while the premium range was stuck on a variant of the A12. That all being said, it’s most likely that the iPad Air will feature the A12X Bionic, offering a small upgrade in performance while still not outshining the flagship iPad Pro range.
The logic of not outshining the iPad Pro range means the rumours of the new iPad sporting a MicroLED display, mentioned earlier, should be taken with a large pinch of salt. While the introduction of the MicroLED tech would allow for thinner, more lightweight devices without sacrifice to overall quality, the general consensus right now is that the iPad Pro would likely get the tech first.
That’s about all there is to know about the new iPad Air right now, we'll update this article as news arises, so check back soon for the latest details on Apple's upcoming tablet.