iPad Air 6: Key Upgrades to Expect
The current iPad Air was introduced in March last year, adding the M1 chip, Center Stage on the front-facing camera, a faster USB-C port, and several new color options, but it was still a fairly minor upgrade over the previous model from September 2020. As we near a year since the fifth-generation iPad Air was introduced, what can users expect from the sixth-generation model?
As of 2023, it has been some time since the iPad Air had a major hardware refresh. Yet due to its positioning between the entry-level iPad and the iPad Pro, it is not immediately clear what a new iPad Air model could gain without cannibalizing the iPad Pro. There have been few concrete rumors about the features the next iPad Air will offer as yet, so the overall picture of what to expect is still fluid. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said that an iPad Air update this year with a minor "spec bump" is not out of the question, suggesting that the upgrade will be fairly iterative, targeting several small but significant areas.
A chip upgrade is the most certain feature coming to the next iPad Air. The iPad Air currently contains the M1 chip. There have been no reports about what chip the next-generation iPad Air will feature, but by early 2024, the M2 chip will have been in the iPad Pro for over a year, meaning that the chip should be more than suitable for the iPad Air. There is even the possibility that it could skip the M2 and get the M3 chip instead, depending on timing.
A minor spec bump is also likely to include upgrades to the front and rear cameras, potentially bringing features like Photonic Engine to the iPad for the first time. ProRes video recording, Audio zoom, stereo audio recording, Portrait mode, and Portrait Lighting support are all plausible upgrades in this area.
A horizontally oriented front-facing camera and a Thunderbolt port are among the other potential features for the sixth-generation iPad Air. The latest iPad Pro models brought connectivity upgrades like Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 to the iPad for the first time. By 2024, these capabilities will be overdue to make their way to the iPad Air. Similarly, Apple Pencil hover, another iPad Pro-exclusive feature, could finally trickle down to the iPad Air in 2024.
A new iPad Air launching this year is certainly more likely than a new iPad Pro emerging, but Apple historically has only updated the device around every two years. While a refresh to add the M2 chip is possible in 2023, it may be more probable that Apple will again wait two years to update the device and target 2024 for a more worthwhile upgrade.
2023 appears to be shaping up to be a quiet year for iPad hardware refreshes, and while it is possible we could see some new models, the current picture suggests that new iPads this year are unlikely on the whole. 2024, on the other hand, is looking like it will be a much more significant year for the iPad lineup.