Is an ‘iPad mini Pro’ Coming This Fall?

2021 iPad Lineup Credit: Svetapple.sk
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While Apple has been pretty aggressively updating its iPad lineup over the past year, there’s one model that’s starting to feel a bit neglected: The diminutive iPad mini.

First introduced back in 2012, the iPad mini received annual updates like clockwork for the first four generations, however this came to a screeching halt in 2016, when suddenly no iPad mini 5 was forthcoming. In fact, around the same time, the entry-level iPad model also stalled out after the iPad Air 2, leaving us wondering if Apple was going to be abandoning the lower-cost iPads in favour of the much more premium iPad Pro lineup.

While the standard iPad finally did see another update in early 2017, it would be another two years before the fifth-generation iPad mini arrived, and when it finally did, not only was it surprising to see it updated at all, but Apple had also moved it up into a new mid-tier range of iPad models, basically making it a smaller version of the iPad Air 3 — a model that bore more of a resemblance to the 2017 iPad Pro than it did to its similarly named predecessor.

In fact, the iPad naming was a bit of a confusing mess over the first few years, with the fourth-generation iPad being succeeded by two models of “iPad Air” before making a return as the “fifth-generation iPad.” The original iPad Air and iPad Air 2 weren’t the more premium models that the third-generation version became — they were simply replacements for the standard iPad. By 2017, however, Apple had returned to simply using the “iPad” name, leaving us to believe the “iPad Air” moniker was dead — until it threw a spanner into the works with the “iPad Air 3.”

So along the same lines, when the iPad mini rose from the ashes in its fifth iteration, it had also been promoted in much the same way; Apple essentially resurrected its 2015 iPad model names as the new middle ground, and by the time it released the fourth-generation iPad Air last fall, it had become apparent that a whole new era of iPad models was upon us, with an edge-to-edge display and a Touch ID sensor placed in the side sleep/wake button. For all intents and purposes, the new iPad Air was more like an iPad Pro Lite.

Meanwhile, however, the iPad mini was nowhere to be seen. Although the usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo had predicted a new 10.8-inch iPad and iPad mini last spring, only the larger tablet was slated to arrive in 2020, with the 9-inch iPad mini not expected to arrive until early 2021.

While Kuo seemed to expect that the sixth-gen iPad mini would continue to follow in the footsteps of the larger iPad Air, adopting the same edge-to-edge screen design, another report earlier this year from Mac Otakara threw some cold water on that notion, predicting instead that although Apple would be bumping the screen size, it would only be going to a more modest 8.4 inches and sticking with the previous design.

If true, this would follow the design change that bumped the iPad Pro from 9.7 inches to 10.5 inches a few years ago by simply narrowing the bezels rather than eliminating them entirely — a design that was subsequently adopted by every standard-sized iPad since the 2019 iPad Air 3, which also had an identical physical design to the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro.

An iPad mini Pro?

Now another rumour has surfaced this week that suggests Kuo and Mac Otakara could both be right — they might simply be talking about two entirely different iPad mini models.

According to MacRumors, there’s a somewhat sketchy report that’s come out of Asia this week that suggests that an “iPad mini Pro” could arrive in the second half of this year.

The news comes from a Korean blog, Naver, which doesn’t really have any track record at all for previous Apple rumours, but it claims that the new iPad mini Pro features an 8.7-inch display, and comes in slightly wider and shorter than the current iPad mini 5.

The new device is rumoured to have already passed Apple’s initial research, development, and profit planning stages, and could begin design validation testing soon — the last step before it goes on to mass production.

The report from Naver is somewhat corroborated by another Chinese leaker, Kang, who claimed on Weibo that a “full-screen, smaller-sized iPad” is in the same design stage, although no other details were provided.

Two iPad minis?

Several sources have already suggested that the so-called “iPad mini 6” would see a March launch, which leads us to believe that this alleged “iPad mini Pro” would be a different device entirely.

It’s also notable that Kuo has shared in the past that Apple is looking to bring its mini-LED display technology to the iPad mini as well, and it’s extremely unlikely that the upcoming iPad mini 6 would be the first device to gain that — especially since most recent reports have said that the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro could be the only iPad to gain mini-LED technology this year, potentially even excluding the 11-inch iPad Pro. If true, this suggests that Apple has perhaps been struggling to produce smaller mini-LED displays as yet.

However, it does seem reasonable that an “iPad mini Pro” with mini-LED could be on the horizon, but it would be an odd sort of product development for Apple, which has yet to combine “mini” and “pro” in the same product.

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