The iPad mini 5 has just hit its lowest price ever at third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, leading to speculation that they may be clearing out old stock to make way for a new model.
It’s pretty rare to see deep discounts on Apple products like this even during peak sale seasons like Black Friday. Although Apple’s entry-level 10.2-inch iPad has seen some good sales, the company’s mid-range iPad mini and iPad Air have generally maintained their list prices. However, right now the fifth-gen iPad mini is $49 off at several major retailers, meaning you can pick up a 64GB Wi-Fi iPad mini for only $350 at Amazon or a 256GB cellular model for $630.
Although by all reports Apple is planning to release a new iPad Pro very soon, we’ve heard almost nothing from the usual rumour mill about Apple’s other products, although conflicting rumours suggest that there could be some supply chain reports that are mixing up reports of the iPad Pro and other iPad models.
Apple last updated the iPad Pro lineup back in 2018, so it’s safe to say that one is definitely due for a refresh, and by all reports we’re poised to see some pretty exciting changes in this year’s model, including better OLED displays, a triple-lens camera system like the iPhone 11 Pro, and ultra-fast mmWave 5G.
On the other hand, Apple surprised us last year with a long-overdue update to the 2015 iPad mini along with the introduction of a new mid-tier model which reused the old iPad Air name, but since both of those had come after years of neglect, it’s actually kind of difficult to figure out what Apple’s iPad product roadmap is like. Sometimes we’re not even sure Apple knows exactly what it’s doing here.
With the iPhone, you can pretty much bet the farm that Apple is going to release a new model every September. In fact, the lineup has become so predictable that it can often be pinned down to an exact date. By comparison, Apple’s iPad release schedule is all over the place. If recent rumours are true, the iPad Pro seems to be settling into an 18-month cycle, with prior refreshes in June 2017 and October 2018, but everything else is a mixed bag.
Still, it’s possible that now that Apple seems to have figured out a more complete “good-better-best” iPad lineup, it may move to taking it more seriously and releasing new models annually. This would kind of follow in the steps of what Apple did with its MacBook Air lineup, which floundered for a couple of years until it came back to the forefront in late 2018.
What Could Be Coming?
There’s a fair bit Apple could do with a new iPad mini if it wanted to get adventurous. So far, Apple has been reserving the best features for the iPad Pro, which gained Face ID and support for a whole new Apple Pencil while all of its smaller siblings have stuck with Touch ID, and the original first-gen version of the stylus.
However, if the iPad Pro is going to leap to a triple-lens camera system, it’s going to be leaping well ahead of the rest of the iPad family, which means it could be time to bring at least some of those other features to the mid-range, with a sixth-generation iPad mini that adds Face ID and improves the single-lens camera system. In fact, if Apple were to follow the same model as it uses with its iPhone 11, the iPad Air and iPad mini could step up to a much-improved dual-lens camera and gain Face ID and a similar new design, leaving the standard 10.2-inch iPad as the only remaining Touch ID version, which would parallel the upcoming “iPhone 9” model.
On the other hand, it’s still possible that if Apple were to update the iPad mini at all this year, it could choose to go for an iterative update instead. Last year’s entry-level 10.2-inch iPad, for example, added almost no improvements over the 2018 sixth-generation model other than the larger screen and Apple’s Smart Connector, but otherwise retained the same 2017-era A10 CPU, standard screen, and basic camera system as its predecessor.
If Apple is planning a more iterative approach like this, it would certainly explain why we haven’t heard any news of an update to its other iPad models, since it would be easily eclipsed by what’s coming in the new iPad Pro. However, this would also make it a good time to take advantage of the lower prices on the current fifth-generation iPad mini.
Although Apple has cancelled the event it was planning for the end of this month, that won’t necessarily delay any of the product releases the company was planning, and in fact may even result in them being spread out by press release over the coming weeks, since there’s no need to unveil them all at once if there’s no event. Last year’s iPad mini and iPad Air came out quietly by press release anyway, so if there are new iPad models coming this spring, it’s a safe bet we’re not going to have to wait too long to find out.