iPad Air 3 release date, news and rumors
Update: Apple may launch a 9.7-inch iPad Pro tomorrow, according to the latest rumors, giving us more than a straight-up iPad Air 3 revision. Here’s everything we know before the March 2016 keynote.
It’s been over 500 days since the iPad Air 2 launch, and Apple’s flagship tablet is overdue for a specs refresh. The good news is that it may have inherited some extra Pro-level features in that time.
Everything we’re seeing is pointing to a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, instead of a generic iPad Air 3, giving more consumers a chance wield the Apple Pencil and a normal-sized tablet.
That’s not to say we weren’t impressed with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro late last year. It’s more of a case of its size and price being inaccessible for far too many. It may have served as a test of things to come.
If true, the features aren’t too hard to anticipate. The name game is what we’re unsure about: Will it be called the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPad Air 3, simply new iPad or a different moniker altogether?
We’ll be at the event and updating this page in real time, so keep your aging tablet hardware locked and F5 reloaded. Until then, here’s everything we expect from Apple’s March 21 keynote.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Apple’s next super-thin tablet
- When is it out? Monday, March 21, 2016 launch date
- What will it cost? Estimated to be $599 (likely £479, AU$829)
9.7-inch iPad Pro release date
Tomorrow, Apple is poised to announce a smaller iPad Pro (replacing the need for an iPad Air 3) during its first press conference of 2016 at its Cupertino headquarters.
However, the actual release date won’t be Monday, March 21 like you’re probably hoping. Instead, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will likely be made available on a not-too-distant Friday in the future.
Friday is the day of the week Apple favors for launching new products. We have the same expectations for the debut of the iPhone SE, its smaller 4-inch phone running iOS 9.3, and new Apple Watch bands.
The wait for a new 9.7-inch iPad has been a long time coming. Initially, an iPad Air 3 was expected by the end of 2015; Apple has never broken from its annual tablet release cycle (it’s only sped it up once).
The company did tied us over with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4. And to be honest, that kept us satisfied. The iPad Pro feels like an innovative, new product while the iPad Mini 4 is a big improvement upon the iPad Mini 3.
Rumor is that Apple wanted to hold off releasing the third iteration of the iPad Air, as it didn’t want to overload consumers with too many different choices. Good decision.
9.7-inch iPad Pro price
The iPad and iPad Air line have stuck to the same basic price point since the very beginning, but that could finally change with Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
It’ll cost $500 in the US due to all of its extra components, according to the newest, heartbreaking rumor. That’s $100 over what the iPad Air 2 launch price was back in October 2014.
In the UK, we estimate the price will be £479 and in Australia AU$829. That’s how much it costs to go from 16GB to 32GB, Apple may bump everything down the line.
Hopefully that’s a strong hint that Apple is also finally doing away with the 16GB entry-level size. It would make sense – but it also may be wishful thinking.
9.7-inch iPad Pro design and specs
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro, if you buy into the rumors, will take almost all of its cues from the larger iPad Pro. In six months, Apple has learned how to fit the Pro-level specs in a smaller aluminum frame.
It’ll still look like the sub-pencil-thin iPad Air 2 on the outside, but beneath the design is thought to be the powerful Apple A9X processor, 12-core PowerVR GPU and 4GB of RAM. It’s a beast in a smaller box.
Even more exciting than what’s on the inside is what it’s capable of on the outside: the Smart Connector and Apple Pencil seem to be in full support for mobile productivity to the max.
With the magnetic Smart Connector, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will be able to connect to and power a new Smart Keyboard (one that fits the smaller tablet dimensions), and potentially other new accessories.
But what if you’re a multimedia iPad user, one who is “read only” instead of “read and write?” There’s good news for Netflix bingers here, too: all four speakers of the iPad Pro are said to be onboard.
That rumor was backed up by an iPad Air 3 case has appeared on Chinese retailer site Alibaba. It shows off the quad speaker setup, as well as a space for the magnetic powered Smart Connector for whenever you want to connect up something like a keyboard accessory.
9.7-inch iPad Pro mystery specs
Not all of the iPad Pro specs are so clear cut. For example, there’s a (literal) cut out of the back of its tablet casing, giving us a hint at an LED camera flash.
It suggests the long rumored camera feature may be real this time around. That said, there’s no official word these renders are based on real evidence and it could be that it’s all based on rumor.
Touch ID and a 9.7-inch screen size seems like a given for this smaller iPad Pro, but the resolution and screen technology could see improvements, especially with its use of the Apple Pencil.
It may come with a 4K screen resolution of 2334 x 3112, according to rumored specs from MyDrivers, but that sounds a bit far from the iPad Air 2 and its 1536 x 2048 screen resolution.
We’ll almost certainly see an increase in levels of pressure sensitivity, and we’re hoping for but less likely is the chance of 3D touch technology, like we’ve seen on the Apple Watch and iPhone 6S.
Another thing we’d like to see: 32GB becoming the smallest size. For now we don’t have much to go on, but the 12.9-inch iPad Pro has two options: 32GB and 128GB, so that’s a good sign as any.
Then there’s the shooter – not many people focus on the camera possibilities of the iPad Air, but the new version is rumored to stick with an 8MP sensor and add in an LED flash to make it easier taking night shots.
iPad Air 3 rivals
Apple is its own worst enemy here – all the big competitors to the iPad Air 3 are other tablets made by Apple. You’re covered by the iPad range whether you want something a little smaller or even a little bigger as well.
There’s the iPad Mini 4 from Apple that comes with an upgraded processor and a gorgeous 7.9-inch screen. It’s one of the most portable and light tablets on the market right now.
If you’re looking for bigger; it’s the iPad Pro. This comes with a huge 12.9-inch display and a very powerful A9X processor under the hood. It will cost you a little bit extra though as this tablet doesn’t come cheap.
9.7-inch iPad Pro and iOS 9.3
With Apple up to iOS 9.3 beta 7, I’m more than confident that the company will launch iOS 9.3 to one and all at tomorrow’s launch event.
It’s be the perfect cherry on top after the new iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro debut to the world. And, from years past, we know that Apple loves launching new hardware with new software.
While iOS 9 brought improvements to Siri and Apple Maps, true multitasking for iPads and a new on-screen keyboard, the iOS 9.3 update adds Night Shift and multi-user logins for education.
9.7-inch iPad Pro keynote
That’s everything we have heard about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but there’s surely going to be more news coming straight from Apple in the next 24 hours.
The company has sent out the invites to its event, and techradar will be in attendance, bringing you all of the new iPhone and iPad coverage live from Apple headquarters.
Every rumor we’ve reported on is fair game to be announced at the event, but in terms of which ones will reveal themselves, we’ll have to wait just a while longer.
What we want to see
1. Ditch the 16GB size
With the iPad Air 2 Apple got rid of the 32GB option and offered 64GB for the same price. That was much appreciated but oddly a 16GB model was still in play.
Given how big many apps are now getting and the fact that no iPad is ever going to offer expandable storage that just doesn’t really cut it, especially if you want to store videos, games and music on your slate too, which is half the fun of having one. So we’d like to see Apple finally abandon the 16GB size and make 32GB the smallest.
2. Better slow motion video
Any regular readers will know we’re not the biggest fans of cameras on tablets, but if you’re going to include a feature at least do it right, which Apple hasn’t really done with slow motion video on the iPad Air 2.
It’s an option, but it’s capped at 120fps, which just doesn’t cut it when the less powerful iPhone 6 can reach 240fps. So we want twice the frames and twice the smoothness on the iPad Air 3, which can actually use the feature better as it’s got that larger viewfinder.
3. Bring back the silencer
While the iPad Air 2 is a better device in most ways than the iPad Air, one thing changed for the worse. We’re talking of course about the removal of the silencing switch.
Technically it’s not needed any more, as silencing the tablet is easily achievable through Control Center, but having a switch was much, much easier so we’d like to see it come back for the iPad Air 3.
4. Don’t make it any thinner
There’s a worrying trend among smartphone and tablet makers to create ever slimmer devices. There’s no denying that slimmer slates can look better and be more portable, but the most extreme examples are slightly ludicrous, not to mention impractical, as they force batteries to be shrunk and hamper the device’s durability.
At 6.1mm thick the iPad Air 2 is right on the edge of what we’d consider to be an acceptable thickness, so we really don’t want the iPad Air 3 to get any thinner.
5. Better battery life
The iPad Air 2’s battery life is more than reasonable, with the slate happily chugging along for up to 10 hours of web browsing or video viewing, but it could still always be better and if you’re an avid gamer you’ll find its life is cut significantly short.
We hope then that the iPad Air 3 will get a battery boost, so we can be confident that a transatlantic flight or epic train journey won’t leave us dying of boredom.
6. Up the resolution
The iPad Air 2 already has one of the best tablet screens around, but if Apple keeps a 1536 x 2048 resolution for the iPad Air 3 it risks feeling a bit dated.
The likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S and Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet already have it beaten. In fact when it comes to pixel density both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus have the edge and let’s not even get started on all the QHD phones we’re seeing now.
Sure, tablets aren’t phones, but with all the media we enjoy on them they’re every bit as deserving of a super sharp screen.
7. Improved daylight visibility
As well as being sharper we hope the iPad Air 3’s screen is easier to see outdoors, especially in bright sunlight.
You can just about use the iPad Air 2 without a roof over your head but there’s plenty of room for improvement here. A big selling point of tablets is mobile entertainment and one that you can’t really use outside is significantly limited in that sense.
8. Front-facing speakers
Given that the iPad Air 2 just has a single speaker it manages to kick out some fairly impressive sounds, but stereo speakers would be a definite improvement.
While we’re on the subject, it would be great if they were moved from the base of the slate to the front, so that they’re actually oriented towards you when you’re watching videos and playing games.
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