Major Upgrades Coming to the iPad in 2021
Apple is looking to launch an updated ninth-generation iPad with a larger display, the A13 Bionic chip, 4GB of RAM, and a thinner, lighter design in the first half of this year, according to recent reports.
Reports from cnBeta and Mac Otakara, citing supply chain sources in China, have offered similar projections for the ninth-generation iPad, explaining that the updated device will have a thinner, lighter design. The reports differ, however, in the speculated screen size of the ninth-generation iPad. cnBeta believes the device will have a larger 10.5-inch display, while Mac Otakara says it will retain the same 10.2-inch display of the current model.
Under cnBeta's prediction, it would be possible to achieve a larger 10.5-inch display and thinner design by reusing the chassis and front panel of the third-generation iPad Air. This seems highly plausible because Apple tends to trickle designs down its iPad lineup. For example, the design of the first-generation iPad Air came to the fifth-generation iPad, the design of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro came to the third-generation iPad Air, and the design of the 11-inch iPad Pro came to the fourth-generation iPad Air. Reusing this design would also allow Apple to keep costs down for the lower price point of the entry-level iPad.
Mac Otakara has directly said that the ninth-generation iPad will feature a design based on the third-generation iPad Air. The device will reportedly be "significantly thinner" than the current entry-level iPad at 6.3mm. The current eighth-generation iPad is 7.5mm thick, so a 6.3mm chassis would mark a significant design change. It is also expected to be lighter at 1.01 pounds as opposed to the current 1.08 pounds. However, this projection is more distant from that of cnBeta, since neither the display nor the chassis could be the exact components from the third-generation iPad Air.
Both reports say that the entry-level iPad will retain the Home Button with Touch ID and the Lightning port. cnBeta also claims that the new iPad will feature the A13 Bionic chip and 4GB of RAM, while Mac Otakara adds that it is expected to have a fully-laminated display, an anti-reflective coating, P3 wide color support, and True Tone.
These rumored specifications would offer some clear upgrades over the current model, while not cannibalizing the mid-range fourth-generation iPad Air, which has a refreshed iPad Pro-style design, a 10.9-inch display, the A14 chip, Touch ID integrated into the Power Button, and USB-C.
However, it would be peculiar for Apple to update its entry-level iPad so soon after the eighth-generation model was released. Apple unveiled the eighth-generation with the A12 Bionic chip in September 2020. This was a very minor update, though, with only the chip being upgraded from the A10 Fusion to the A12 Bionic and no other specs changed. So while this ninth-generation iPad is rumored to be released sooner than expected, it is perhaps made more likely by the fact that the previous update was so minor.
cnBeta says that the ninth-generation iPad may start at a slightly lower $299 price point with storage configurations starting at 64GB, which is double that of the current-generation, and be released in the spring of 2021.