5G iPad Pro with Mini-LED Tech Is Coming, But Might Not Arrive Until 2021

iPad Pro 2020 Concept Credit: EverythingApplePro
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Despite the release of a new iPad Pro last month, we’ve been hearing multiple reports that Apple has another new iPad Pro model up its sleeve for later this year, which would likely introduce 5G wireless technology and even better displays.

While it might seem odd for Apple to debut two new iPad Pro models in the same calendar year, it’s not entirely unprecedented; back in 2012, Apple did the same thing with the original iPad, releasing a third-generation model in March, followed by a Lightning-equipped fourth-generation iPad less than six months later, after the new connector came to the iPhone 5.

This time around, however, the next big thing for the iPad Pro would of course be 5G wireless technology, which may simply not have been ready to debut on the iPad Pro last month. However, we’ve also been hearing for a while that Apple is working on mini-LED display technology for future iPad Pros and MacBooks, and there are still reports that a better camera system could be in the works (although we’re still pretty sure that leaks from earlier this year mistook the LiDAR Scanner for a third optical camera).

The fact is that the 2020 iPad Pro, while impressive, is still a fairly modest upgrade from the late 2018 model that came before it. In fact, other than the new LiDAR Scanner and ultra-wide camera, there’s not much that’s different. The standard wide angle camera is identical to the prior model, and the “new” A12Z is the same chip as 2018 A12X with the eighth GPU core switched on.

So there’s a lot of room for another iPad Pro that could represent a bigger upgrade, with reputable analysts saying that there’s a modem with an A14X chip coming for a more significant performance boost, but the question as always comes down to the timing.

You see, most rumours on new Apple products come from supply chain sources — the companies that are ramping up to actually build these products — and not from within Apple itself. This means that analysts have to be good at reading the tea leaves from suppliers to try and infer Apple’s actual plans, and while the most reliable analysts often get the “what” correct, they’re often much less accurate on the “when.”

Early 2021?

Now a new investor note from Chinese research firm GF Securities, shared by MacRumors, is suggesting that the timeline for the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a mini-LED display is being pushed out to early 2021. While the note suggests that this is a delay from Apple’s original plans, citing “complex panel design” as the reason for it, it’s just as possible that this could have been within the range of Apple’s original timeframe for the new model in the first place.

Then of course there are the delays being caused by the ongoing global pandemic, and as much as China seems to be on the road to recovery, the need for Apple’s engineers to travel to the country to oversee the engineering and verification testing of new production assemblies is almost certain to throw a wrench into Apple’s plans. By most reports, the new iPad Pro that we now have was already well into production before the crisis reached its full peak.

What’s interesting is that the investor note in question only mentions the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, although that could mean either Apple is only planning to upgrade the larger iPad Pro with the new screen technology, or that the 11-inch model won’t see a similar delay. Another rumour from leaker Joe Prosser, who accurately predicted yesterday as the launch date of the iPhone SE, suggests there’s also new 5G iPad Pro coming “towards the end of this year” with an A14X chip but no other changes. This could refer to an 11-inch model that might not feature the newer display technology at all, or could suggest that Apple plans to offer a minor spec-bump with 5G this fall, and then introduce the mini-LED version across the entire lineup in 2021 (a follow-up Tweet by Prosser suggests it’s the latter).

So much like the situation with the iPhone 12, the rumour mill is all over the place right now, quite possibly because even Apple itself hasn’t fully figured out what it’s going to be able to accomplish later this year in these uncertain times. From everything we’ve heard, it sounds like a pretty safe bet that we won’t have to wait another 18 months to see another new iPad Pro, but exactly when we’ll see it still remains anybody’s guess.

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