Although much of the attention in recent weeks has been focused on Apple’s upcoming “iPhone 9”, which is expected to be its latest low-cost iPhone, it seems like we could see an iPad Pro next month as well, if new supply chain reports are to be believed.
According to a new paywalled report from DigiTimes, shared by MacRumors, production of a new iPad Pro is already underway in China, with a launch expected “around March.” Although the report notes that production has been ramping up a bit more slowly than expected due to the Lunar New Year holiday and the coronavirus epidemic, it suggests that the new device is still on track to at least begin shipping, although it may take until after April before production reaches its maximum peak.
Although it’s fairly obvious that a new iPad Pro is on the horizon — it’s been over a year since Apple last refreshed its flagship tablet — few expected to actually see it prior to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, since this would line up with the 18-month release cycle that the high-end iPad seems to be sliding into. Of course, as we noted last week, Apple would not artificially delay the new iPad Pro if it’s possible to have it ready sooner.
What About the 5G iPad Pro?
We heard other reports last week — from DigiTimes no less — that suggested that the new iPad Pro might not actually be arriving until the fall, although these reports specifically mentioned the 5G-capable iPad Pro, so it’s entirely possible that Apple could release an updated iPad Pro without 5G next month, and then hold off the 5G version until September for release alongside the 5G-capable iPhones that are almost certain to debut at the same time.
This would make for an uncharacteristically odd release schedule for the iPad Pro, especially if Apple chose to release both Wi-Fi and Cellular versions this spring; not everybody pays attention to the Apple rumour mill, and many customers would undoubtedly be disappointed at purchasing the newest iPad Pro only to find Apple releasing another model only six months later.
Further, while you might think it would be odd for Apple to release a 5G iPad Pro before the 5G iPhone arrives, Apple did exactly that back in 2012 with its third-generation iPad, which was Apple’s first-ever device to offer LTE support, six months ahead of the debut of the iPhone 5.
Other than 5G support, the new iPad Pro is expected to gain the same triple-lens camera system currently featured on the iPhone 11 Pro models, and could even feature the same 3D Time-of-Flight camera system expected to arrive on this year’s iPhone models.
However, the earlier report from DigiTimes also pegged the ToF camera system as not arriving until the fall, which actually seems to make slightly more sense, it would be extremely odd for an iPad to leapfrog the camera system that Apple is planning to add to its new iPhones.
It’s especially worth noting that DigiTimes has a very spotty track record when it comes to interpreting the supply chain information is gleans into the proper context. While it’s unlikely that DigiTimes would be wrong about Apple manufacturing new iPads, since those reports come out of the supply chain, there could be some confusion about which models are in production right now.
Although we haven’t heard much about Apple’s non-Pro iPad lineup recently, those models are much more typically released in March, so it’s possible that what Apple has in production right now are new iPad Air and iPad mini models and the new iPad Pro could still be coming later.