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Lately, it feels like the iPad mini has once again become one of the most neglected products in Apple’s current lineup. But we’ve been hoping that it’s simply living on a longer release cycle – and recent reports are backing that up.
If all goes according to plan, we should see the sixth generation of Apple’s diminutive tablet make its debut later this year, although it’s still not clear exactly what it’s going to look like.
In his new “Power On” newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman was asked by a reader when the new iPad mini can be expected, and he responded that it should still be on for this fall, and added that it’s going to be a pretty big deal compared to what has come before — featuring the biggest redesign that the smaller tablet has ever seen.
The new iPad mini should be a go for this fall. It’ll be the biggest redesign in the nine-year history of that product. Look for a design more similar to the iPad Air, complete with the latest processor and a larger screen with slimmer bezels. A redesigned iPad mini is a fascinating update for a company that seemed to almost discontinue the line a few years ago.Mark Gurman
Over the past couple of years, rumours of the next-generation iPad mini have been sharply divided into two very different camps, with one side suggesting a relatively minor design refresh while the other insisted that it would be getting the full-screen home buttonless design that came to the fourth-generation iPad Air.
Since both rumours come from generally reliable sources, it’s been hard to figure out which reports are more accurate, and in fact it’s led to speculation that Apple could be working on two different versions of the iPad mini.
At this point, however, it sounds like Gurman remains firmly on the side of a big redesign. While his comments are brief and therefore somewhat vague, the key point is that he expects it to sport a “design more similar to the iPad Air,” which of course went with a whole new design last fall.
Where the iPad mini Fits In
Ultimately, the question always came down to what Apple’s intentions were for its smaller tablet.
The first four generations of iPad mini came out in an era when there was only one other iPad model — the version that has effectively now become the entry-level iPad. In those days, there was the iPad, and the iPad mini, and that was it.
In 2015, however — the same year the iPad mini 4 came along — Apple started to mix things up with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This was later followed by more standard-sized 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 11-inch versions that made it clear that Apple was dividing the iPad family into two tiers.
However, in early 2019, Apple surprised everyone with a new third tier of iPad models that sat right in the middle of the very affordable iPad and the pricey and feature-rich iPad Pro. This included not only the third-generation iPad Air, but also the fifth-generation iPad mini — resurrecting the smallest iPad after four years of silence on that front.
As an aside, it’s important to note here that Apple clearly defines product generations by name rather than capabilities. While the 2019 iPad Air and iPad mini were considered the third and fifth devices to bear those names, respectively, they were actually both the first of their kinds, defining a new middle ground for the iPad lineup.
In fact, the iPad Air 3 had much more in common with the 2017 iPad Pro than it did with the 2014 iPad Air 2, and the iPad mini 5 was just a smaller version of that more sophisticated tablet. In prior generations, the iPad mini had generally been a step down from its corresponding iPad model — for example, the 2014 iPad mini 3 had an A7 chip compared to the A8X-equipped iPad Air 2.
In 2019, however, not only was the iPad mini 5 a step up from the entry-level iPad, but it was the equal to the iPad Air 3 in every way except for the physical size.
Many analysts and other folks saw no reason why this trend wouldn’t continue, so when the iPad Air 4 came along with an edge-to-edge screen and Touch ID in the side button, the iPad mini 6 was expected to follow suit. However, that smaller tablet didn’t materialize at that time — and we’re still waiting for it.
However, when conflicting reports appeared earlier this year that suggested that the iPad mini might retain the same design with a slightly larger screen — similar to the way the 2017 iPad Pro grew from 9.7 inches to 10.5 inches — we began to wonder if Apple was perhaps planning to drop the iPad mini down a tier and sell it as an entry-level tablet instead.
A series of leaked photos also seemed to support this notion, although it’s important to keep in mind that these were photos of dummy casings fabricated by case manufacturers from leaked information, so there was no guarantee that they accurately represented what Apple was working on.
More recently, however, prolific leaker Jon Prosser has also weighed in with new information that points to the same major redesign that Gurman is hinting at, along with the possibility of a smaller Apple Pencil — likely the same one that’s been identified as the “Apple Pencil 3”.
Considering that Gurman and Prosser have sometimes been at odds when it comes to Apple product rumours, the fact that the two of them are in agreement here shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, not only does it make sense that the iPad mini would continue following in the footsteps of the larger iPad Air, but it also lines up with what we’ve been hearing from reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo since early last year.
Of course, none of this rules out the possibility that Apple may have at least considered an entry-level iPad mini as well, and this is the most likely reason for the conflicting reports. We certainly can’t rule out the possibility that there’s another lower-cost version waiting in the wings, but it’s also possible that this other iPad mini idea was something that never made it beyond Apple’s R&D labs.
Either way, however, it’s clear a much more exciting iPad mini is coming soon, and it’s really the only one worth talking about right now.