Tim Cook Says to ‘Pencil Us In’ for Apple’s iPad Event on May 7

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It looks like Apple will be turning its new iPad launch into a gala affair after all. Today, the company announced a special event for May 7 with the tagline “Let Loose.”

The event ties in directly with a prediction that Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman made earlier this month that new iPads were expected to launch the week of May 6. While it wasn’t clear at the time whether Apple would be doing that quietly via a press release, as it’s often done for iPads in recent years, it looks like the company is indeed holding an event to show off its new iPad lineup.

In a way, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. After all, we’ve gone a year and a half without any iPad announcements from Apple, which means it’s time for a big splash, both from the hardware and how Apple chooses to present it.

Rumors on what to expect have been swirling for months, which means we can pretty much bank on a new M3-powered iPad Pro lineup featuring new OLED screens and an iPad Air that will get a bump to the M2 chip and a larger 12.9-inch model. However, recent reports have also pointed to Apple introducing a new Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard.

In a tweet this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave us a pretty on-the-nose hint to that effect, telling everyone to “Pencil us in for May 7!”

As if that weren’t enough, the animation on Apple’s Special Events page shows a hand twirling an Apple Pencil in front of a colorful, paint-like Apple logo. The graphic shared by Cook extends that animation to show the stylus being used to calligraph, paint, and sketch the logo, suggesting that the new Apple Pencil may have a more artistic focus.

The event is also being announced on the main Apple home page with a static image that changes each time you refresh the page.

While this event is expected to follow the same virtual format as other recent Apple events, it’s also taking place much earlier than usual, starting at 7 a.m. PT / 10 a.m. ET rather than the more typical 10 a.m. / 1 p.m. time. That’s not quite as big of a change as the evening Scary Fast event Apple held in October, and while it’s still unusual, and it’s unlikely the time change means anything more than it did last fall.

Some speculated that the evening timing of Scary Fast was intended to announce a tie-in with a Japanese game developer, as it would have been 9 a.m. the next morning in Japan. However, in the end, it seemed that Apple merely chose the late hour to line up with a more whimsical Halloween theme.

What’s Coming on May 7

While Apple will undoubtedly have one or two surprises in store, the event is widely expected to herald the release of a new iPad Pro and iPad Air lineup and accessories to match.

The premium tablets will adopt OLED technology for the first time, bringing the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models back in sync after the larger one leaped ahead with a mini-LED screen in 2021. The new display panels could make the iPad Pro models noticeably thinner but also pricier.

The iPad Air was initially expected to be a more modest spec bump, with a 12.9-inch model joining the family as a more affordable version of the larger iPad Pro. This will likely include an M2 chip to bring it in line with the latest Apple silicon, but a rumor last week suggested that the 12.9-inch model could also gain mini-LED panels leftover from the iPad Pro. It’s still unclear if that will happen, but the report came from a generally reliable source.

Both the iPad Pro and iPad Air are also expected to get a new position for the front-facing camera, following the 2022 10th-generation iPad in moving it to the long edge so it’s more suitable for use in landscape orientation. That will undoubtedly require the Apple Pencil to dock somewhere else, which is where the new third-generation Apple Pencil comes in.

However, that stylus is expected to offer more than just new charging magnets. Code found in the iPadOS 17.5 betas revealed a new “squeeze” gesture and there are reports that Apple is exploring ways to make it work with the Vision Pro. There have also been rumors that Apple is working on a Find My Pencil solution to help you locate the stylus when it goes missing, but it’s unclear whether that’s coming or what form it will take.

The so-called “Apple Pencil 3” is arguably long overdue. Rumors of Apple’s work on the next-generation stylus go back at least three years and suggest several other possible new features, including a new rolling gesture, a more realistic painting feel, and even a color sensor and a camera. Most of these have been gleaned from patents Apple has filed, and we’ve heard no concrete reports that any of them are actually in the works, at least not yet.

There are also reports that a new Magic Keyboard will be unveiled, but details on that are considerably vaguer. The new keyboard may be little more than a new design to accommodate the slimmer iPad Pro, although it’s also expected to be sturdier and make the iPad Pro a more viable laptop replacement.

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