Don’t Expect a 120Hz ProMotion Display on the Next iPad mini, Hints Analyst

According to Ross Young, the screen type used in the iPad mini isn’t compatible with ProMotion.
iPad mini 6 2021 Credit: Apple
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Ever since Apple finally brought its faster 120Hz ProMotion display technology to the iPhone 13 Pro last year, many have been wondering where it will pop up next. Some recent reports have pointed to Apple’s next-generation iPad mini, but a display analyst is telling us otherwise.

According to Ross Young, who’s known to have his finger on the display industry’s pulse, the screen type used in the iPad mini isn’t compatible with ProMotion.

The iPad Pro uses an Oxide LCD specifically designed to handle the higher variable refresh rates. Young says that the “a-SI LCD” used in the other iPad models isn’t equipped to handle this.

Of course, it’s certainly possible Apple could eventually shift to these more capable Oxide LCDs for the iPad mini. However, if that were in its plans for a 2023 iPad mini, Apple would have to be sourcing the smaller displays now, and Young would undoubtedly have seen some evidence of that.

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The Hope of a Better iPad Display

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about the iPad mini getting better display technology. Last year the iPad mini 6 was expected to go all the way to mini-LED. That seemed pretty far out at the time since even the 11-inch iPad Pro was still waiting to get the better screen technology.

It’s also noteworthy that we have yet to see Apple use a mini-LED display in a device with a screen smaller than 12.9 inches. While supply chain problems were the most common explanation for the 11-inch iPad Pro being left out in 2020 — and there’s undoubtedly some truth to that — it’s also possible that Apple hasn’t been able to produce smaller mini-LED displays that meet its standards. Reports that the 11-inch iPad Pro might go to OLED instead support this notion.

Of course, part of the problem is that mini-LED was viewed as Apple’s “next big thing” for displays, so many figured that the company would be extending it to as many of its devices as possible. However, it’s become apparent that Apple is reserving mini-LED for its highest-end products, at least for now. So far, despite rumors of the new screen tech appearing on everything from the iPad mini to the MacBook Air, mini-LED displays have come only to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

We suspect the same will be true of the new ProMotion displays. Apple has had 120Hz displays in its products for much longer than mini-LED — it’s been around since the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and second-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro arrived in 2017. However, it’s also been the exclusive domain of the iPad Pro lineup for nearly as long.

While there’s strong evidence that Apple wanted to bring the 120Hz ProMotion displays to its iPhone 12 Pro lineup in 2020, that would still put it over three years after the first iPads arrived with the screen. To be fair, those iPads used LCD panels, while Apple has been using OLED screens on its high-end iPhones for nearly as long. Presumably, adapting the 120Hz technology for OLED took a bit more time.

While Apple is likely exploring many different ideas, the hopes of either mini-LED or ProMotion displays coming to the company’s non-pro products is likely more wishful thinking than anything else. The iPad mini has been in the same class as the iPad Air since the pair were re-launched in 2019 to form Apple’s new mid-tier iPad lineup.

Those first two models were identical in all but physical size, and although they’ve now fallen a little bit out of step — the iPad mini 6 still sports an A15 chip, while the iPad Air 5 has an M1 — they still have far more in common with each other than the iPad Pro. This includes display technology that’s still identical in every way but size.

Apple’s iPad lineup loosely mirrors its iPhone lineup. The iPad Pro and iPhone Pro are at the top, while the iPad Air and iPad mini sit alongside the standard iPhone models, and the entry-level iPad parallels the iPhone SE.

If Apple were to bring ProMotion to the iPad mini 7, it would either have to do the same for the iPad Air, shrinking the gap between that and the iPad Pro, or it would have to acknowledge that the iPad mini 7 was in a new class by itself, which would also place it a notch above the iPhone 14.

Very preliminary rumors last year — before the iPhone 13 had even launched — hinted that the entire iPhone 14 lineup might gain ProMotion displays, but that’s been quashed by more recent and reliable reports that indicate that the premium displays will remain exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro — for now at least.

Apple likes to keep the iPhone Pro displays a notch above the standard models. ProMotion will undoubtedly come to the non-pro iPhones eventually, but probably only after Apple has come up with something even better for its pro models. This year’s always-on display could be a step in that direction, leading to ProMotion on the iPhone 15, but it’s too early to tell yet.

Similarly, rumors of an iPad mini Pro have been circulating in various forms since 2016, so it’s possible that’s what some of these reports could be referring to. However, most of the evidence we’ve seen is that Apple plans to go bigger, not smaller, with its iPad Pro lineup.

Of course, we can’t rule out that a ProMotion-equipped “iPad mini Pro” is on Apple’s product roadmap, but there’s been scant evidence of its existence so far. The rumors of an “iPad mini Pro” last year turned out to be mostly pointing to the iPad mini 6 due to its radical new design.

[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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