Our current pick as the best iPad for most people is the 9.7in model released in 2018: it’s a fast, portable tablet with (first-gen) Apple Pencil support and an affordable price tag. We’re therefore keen to know when the follow-up device will be released, and what it will look like.
In this article we round up all the leaks and speculation about the iPad 2019 update. This year’s iPad could grow from 9.7in to 10.2in thanks to smaller bezels, and its release date could be immanent, as suggested by the registering of new model numbers. There may even be a second new iPad in the works at Apple, this time with a 10.5in screen, like the 2017 iPad Pro, but not a Pro model, we have more information about that rumour below.
We also examine price, design changes, tech specs and new features that are expected.
If you’re interested in the current generation, you may like to read our round-up of the best iPad deals.
When will Apple release the new iPad? It is possible that Apple will reveal a new iPad at the event on 25 March 2019. March launches for the iPad is something of a tradition.
The previous two models in the series were both announced in March. The iPad 9.7in (2017) was launched on 24 March 2017, and the iPad 9.7in (2018) launched on 27 March 2018.
Yet more evidence of a spring launch came on 25 Jan 2019 when emerged that Apple had registered seven new tablet model numbers with the Eurasian Economic Commission, a step that has been an excellent indicator of imminent releases in the past. The numbers – A2123, A2124, A2126, A2153, A2154, A2133 and A2152 – are believed to refer to a mixture of iPad and iPad mini models in various storage and Wi-Fi/cellular flavours.
Previous devices have been registered around a month ahead of launch, which suggests in this case that we should expect a March release date for the new 2019 iPad, which just so happens to coincide with the 25 March event.
An alternative theory holds, however, that we’ll have to wait until the second half of 2019 for the new iPad. This is according to a Chinese report, linked below, which predicts a physical redesign with smaller bezels and a 10in screen. But until we hear corroborating evidence for this, we’ll still expect a spring update.
The iPad’s appeal is heavily based on its refreshingly sensible pricing. Starting at just £319/$329, it’s within most people’s budgets, and cheaper even than the much older and less powerful iPad mini 4 (although that device does come with more storage as a base offering). Here’s the full price list:
- iPad 9.7in (2018, 32GB, Wi-Fi): £319/$329
- iPad 9.7in (2018, 128GB, Wi-Fi): £409/$429
- iPad 9.7in (2018, 32GB, cellular): £449/$459
- iPad 9.7in (2018, 128GB, cellular): £539/$559
So we certainly don’t expect a premium price tag for the new iPad, and Apple would, we imagine, love to hit the same starting price as in 2018. But it’s more likely to achieve this in the US than in the UK, where Brexit-related political uncertainty and currency fluctuation may see price rises across the board.
And if the more radical redesign discussed below comes to pass, that’s likely to push up the price still further. Indeed, if Apple releases two versions of the iPad, a 10.2in and a 10.5in model, then we can expect the pricing structure to change. Apple is likely to incentivise people to buy the 10.5in model by making the price of the 10.2in model less of a bargain in comparison.
A Chinese report, in December 2018 suggests that a new iPad mini will come out in 2019, replacing the 9.7in model as the budget option; and as a result the mid-size model will be priced higher and have a more advanced design and spec, more on that next. We have a separate article detailing expectations for the new iPad mini here.
Design & Size
There’s one big question here: will Apple bring the full-screen design across from the Pro line? The shrunk bezels, removed Home button, Face ID and bigger screen-to-body ratio of the 11in and 12.9in Pros from 2018 wowed our reviewers and the public alike, and would surely be a hit on the 9.7in chassis.
That Chinese report mentioned above predicts that the bezels of the 2019 iPad will get smaller (although not to the same extent as the iPad Pros) and the screen consequently increased to 10in within a chassis of roughly the same size.
Now even KGI analist and Apple expert Ming Chi Kuo has added his prediction that the new iPad will measure 10.2in thanks to those reduced bezels. Kuo made the claim as part of a note to his investors in February 2019. One problem with the bigger size is that the iPad would no longer qualify for a free version of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel because Microsoft believes any device over 10in is used for work and therefore commercial purposes – which means you have to pay. Read about how to get Office for free on the iPad here, and on the iPad Pro here.
Both iPad 7 (10.2”) and the “new” iPad (10.5”, non-Pro) are coming. But not at the same time.
— CoinX (@coiiiiiiiin)
13 March 2019
CoinX has a good track record with such leaks. Apple is currently selling a 10.5in iPad Pro – the 2017 model – in addition to the two 2018 iPad Pro models (in 11in and 12.9in variants). It makes sense that the company might replace that older iPad Pro model with a standard iPad if it’s proven to be a popular size.
We’re not sure whether the next iPad will lose the Home button in favour of Face ID. Our suspicion is that Apple won’t do this yet. Partly this is because some people love the old design (particularly the Home button; it isn’t totally clear if this will be eliminated in the above design) and the company will probably want to keep catering to those buyers. But more importantly we think it’s because the Pros need to stay special.
The first Pro model in 2015 had Apple Pencil compatibility to set it apart from the rest of the line-up, and Apple didn’t give that up to a non-Pro device until 2018 – that’s three years of exclusivity. We’d be very surprised if it let a non-Pro tablet get the all-screen design after only six months.
This means we expect the design to stay mostly the same – maybe the curved underside will be replaced by the squared-off edges of the 2018 Pros, but other than that we don’t see much changing. Which will disappoint some, but remember that the iPad 9.7in is all about offering good-quality tablet computing at an affordable price, not offering the very latest developments.
(Maybe Apple will see fit to include a laminated screen, though. We hope so, since that cheap-feeling, slightly flexible display was the main negative cited in our reviews of the 2017 and 2018 models.)
Specs & new features
There are a couple of obvious parameters when discussing the specs of the next iPad. It needs to show enough improvements on the 2017 and 2018 specs to persuade people to buy or upgrade, but it can’t get too close to the spec of the (much more expensive) iPad Pros or it will cannibalise the higher-margin sales.
Within those boundaries, where will Apple pitch the new iPad in terms of specs and features? Let’s explore some of the possibilities.
This is an obvious place to start. The company finally allowed the Apple Pencil to play with a non-Pro iPad last year, and then roughly six months later it announced a second-gen Pencil that was, again, Pro-only. Will the 2019 iPad 9.7in work with the original Pencil, the new Pencil, both or neither?
Probably just the old one, same as the 2018 model. It’s important for Apple to keep some things exclusive to the Pro line-up, and the brilliant new Pencil (which attaches magnetically and charges wirelessly, whereas its predecessor attached precariously and charged stupidly) is a big reason to pay extra.
The 2018 iPad Pro models haven’t got twin-lens cameras like the newer iPhones, but they can still do Portrait Mode for selfies thanks to software alone. This feature is also offered on the iPhone XR, and may be sufficiently mainstream in Apple’s eyes to allow it to be included on the next iPad 9.7in.
OK, this is unlikely but we’ll give it a passing mention because there’s been a lot of talk about foldable phones recently, while the story might actually be about foldable tablets, or at least smartphone/tablet hybrids. Could Apple be considering launching a foldable iPad?
It does seem that Apple is looking into the idea. And it is supposedly already in negotiations with suppliers. A report claims that Samsung Display is in negotiations with Apple with a view to supplying the company with foldable display to be used for an iPad/Phone hybrid.
Samsung is said to have provided 7.2-inch displays to Apple. The company already provides the OLEDs used for the iPhone XS and XS Max so it’s no real surprise that Apple would work with them.
However, LG may also be supplying Apple with foldable displays. Read more about Apple’s foldable iPhone plans here.
Some tech specs can be guessed well in advance.
Following on from the 2018 model’s A10 processor chip, the 2019 model is likely to get an A11, which would offer a speed bump without threatening the A12X-equipped Pros.
The display is unlikely to get a higher resolution: the 2018 iPad and iPad Pros alike have 264ppi pixel density. Expect, once again, 9.7in at 2048 × 1536.
Apple may feel able to include the ProMotion tech which selectively adjusts screen refresh rate up to 120Hz depending on what you’re doing, in order to preserve battery life. As the name suggests, this is a Pro feature, but it was first rolled out in summer 2017 and the company may feel ready to open this up to the mainstream.
And what about ports? We’d be very surprised indeed if Apple replaced the Lightning port with USB-C, as it did on the 2018 Pro models, since that was done specifically to cater for artists and creative professionals who are the iPad Pro’s target market. But, sadly, the headphone jack may bite the dust.