Apple Has a Thinner, Faster Entry-Level iPad Ready to Go for This Fall

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It looks like there will be one more addition to the supporting cast of products at next month’s iPhone launch event, as a new report suggests that Apple also plans to update its entry-level iPad just in time for the back-to-school season.

We already know we’re going to see four new “iPhone 13” models that come in as direct successors to last year’s iPhone 12 lineup, along with at least a redesigned Apple Watch Series 7.

Despite rumours of multiple Apple events scheduled over the next few months, it’s a safe bet that the Apple Watch will once again debut alongside the new iPhones, returning to the normal schedule after Apple was forced to split up its product announcements due to last year’s pandemic-related production delays.

There’s also strong evidence that an iPad mini 6 is on the near horizon, with a more modern design that reflects last year’s iPad Air, plus the possibility of Apple’s newest A15 chip and even a mini-LED display.

If all of this is true, it could be a big enough deal to warrant a separate event — especially since Apple is still sticking to virtual events.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has confirmed all of the above, Apple’s sixth-generation iPad mini will also be joined by a new ninth-generation iteration of its entry-level iPad, and while this one doesn’t appear to be in for any major design changes, Gurman predicts a thinner design and a faster processor.

Thinner and Lighter

We heard reports earlier this year that Apple was looking at slimming down the next model of its baseline iPad, with Mac Otakara noting that it could get much closer to the 2019 third-generation iPad Air, which was the slimmest traditional iPad model that Apple ever made at a mere 6.1mm and 456 grams.

By contrast, last year’s 8th-generation iPad came in at 7.5mm thick and weighed 490 grams. While Gurman hasn’t offered any specs, Mac Otakara’s sources suggest that this year’s 9th-gen model could go down to 6.3mm and 460 grams.

The End of the A12?

Reports of an improved CPU are a bit more interesting, as it’s a bit harder to gauge what Apple might do here.

The current 8th-gen iPad already features the A12 CPU, which formed the baseline for almost every iPad model — even the iPad Pro — until the fourth-generation iPad Air sped past that with an A14 chip last year.

Even the 2019 iPad Air 3 and iPad mini 5 used the same A12 chip, and the 2018 and 2020 iPad Pros used the souped-up A12X and A12Z variants.

While there are rumours that the new iPad mini 6 may get the latest and greatest A15 SoC, we’re a bit skeptical on that one, since this would put it ahead of the fourth-generation iPad Air, for which no update appears to be in the cards.

In either case, it would be a bit unusual for Apple to include the A14 chip in its $329 entry-level iPad, although it’s certainly not out of the question. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, however, Apple has never used the iPhone 11’s A13 chip in an iPad, so that’s certainly a possibility as well.

Apple has also tended to skip over the odd-numbered A-series chips for its iPads in recent years — the A11 was never used in any iPad model, and the A9 was solely found in the 2017 fifth-generation iPad — the one that resurrected the entry-level iPad lineup after it had languished for nearly three years.

Either way, the new 9th-gen iPad is likely to move beyond Apple’s A12 chip, which along with the new iPad mini 6 moving to an A14 or A15, and the iPhone XR likely to be discontinued this year, could spell the end of that chip in Apple’s mobile devices.

The A12 is still used in the latest 2021 Apple TV 4K, of course, but that’s hardly a mainstream device. It’s also a recurring trend for Apple’s living room devices; the 2017 Apple TV continued to use Apple’s A10X long after it had otherwise been retired, and until it was discontinued earlier this year, Apple’s full-sized HomePod used the same A8 chip that was first introduced with the iPhone 6 back in 2014.

The Affordable Option

While the ninth-generation iPad will likely be a much less exciting update than everything else Apple has in the queue, the $329 model has always been a great option for families and students, offering a really affordable way to get into the Apple iPadOS ecosystem. A move toward a powerful processor would make this year’s model particularly compelling.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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