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Over the past year or so, Apple has updated almost its entire iPad lineup — twice over in the case of the iPad Pro, in fact — and yet there’s one iPad that once again seems to have been left out in the cold.
We’re talking, of course, about the smaller iPad mini, which has always seemed to feel like the red-headed stepchild in Apple’s iPad lineup, with a release cycle that sometimes makes us wonder if it’s following in the footsteps of the iPod touch.
The comparison isn’t entirely without merit, either. Both the iPod touch and iPad mini began strong, with annual releases in the first four years of their lives with the iPod touch, that came from 2007 to 2010, while the first iPad mini debuted in 2012, and carried on strong until the iPad mini 4 was released in 2015.
After their fourth-general models, however, both the iPod touch and iPad mini went more dormant.
The iPod touch did see two more updates spread out into 2012 and 2015, but after that, things got very quiet for the iPod touch and iPad mini, leading many to believe it was the end of the line for both devices.
Then, almost four years later, almost out of the blue, Apple released an iPad mini 5. This wasn’t just an update to the fourth-generation model, however, as it also moved the iPad mini into a new middle tier of the iPad family that Apple created with the third-generation iPad Air.
A Smaller iPad Air
Unlike the dry spell from 2015 to 2019, this time around we’ve had every reason to believe that Apple is still working on an update to the smaller iPad, although we’ve also been hearing conflicting reports about what form it might take — to the point that we’ve been wondering if Apple might have two iPad mini models in the works.
However, well-known leaker Jon Prosser is clearing up some of the confusion, with a new set of renders based on leaked information that suggest that the iPad mini 6 will continue to be a counterpart to the iPad Air, adopting the same features and design language we saw in the full-sized iPad Air 4 last fall.
Prosser claims to have obtained schematics, CAD files, and real hands-on images of the newly redesigned iPad mini, showing it to be everything we’ve been hoping for in the new sixth-generation model.
This includes a physical design that will be very similar to the iPad Air 4 and iPad Pro, with the now-standard flat-sided design that’s also come to the iPhone 12 lineup. In fact, as Prosser notes, it’s really just “iPad Air, but small.”
This also means that we’ll get an edge-to-edge screen with no home button, but also no Face ID. Instead, just like in the iPad Air 4, the sleep/wake button on the side of the device will double as a Touch ID sensor.
Naturally, it’s also getting the same USB-C treatment as its larger sibling, although apparently it’s only going to come in three colours: Silver, Black, and Gold, rather than the more colourful rainbow that’s available on the full-sized iPad Air 4.
It will also still feature a single camera and use Apple’s Smart Connector, although the smaller size will limit compatibility with Apple’s current keyboard accessories.
Sources have also told Prosser that the speakers have been “dramatically improved,” describing them as “crazy nice.” This presumably refers to an improvement over the iPad mini 5, as opposed to the iPad Air 4, which probably isn’t too high of a bar to set, as the speakers on the older model weren’t anything to write home about.
Even though it seems to be following in the footsteps of the iPad Air 4, it looks like the iPad mini 6 could leapfrog its larger counterpart in at least one area — sources say that Apple will add 5G connectivity to the cellular model, making it the second iPad to gain faster wireless connectivity.
Lastly, it looks like Apple is going to accomplish all of this in a device that will have the same footprint as the iPad mini 5. Of course, the reduced bezels will make for a larger screen, but Prosser’s sources didn’t offer any indication on exactly what we can expect. Other sources, however, such as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have been predicting for a while that Apple’s next iPad mini would feature a display of around 8.5 inches, which makes sense when you do the math.
Apple Pencil mini
Prosser’s sources have also said that the new iPad mini 6 will include Apple Pencil support, while adding that a new, smaller “Apple Pencil mini” may come along as a companion for the smaller iPad.
Although the iPad mini 5 already supports the Apple Pencil, it only works with the older, first-generation model. This means it charges via the Lightning port, and doesn’t dock directly onto the edge of the iPad like the second-gen Apple Pencil does.
If the iPad mini 6 is going to gain the same design as the iPad Air 4, however, it’s a safe bet that Apple wants to add dockable wireless charging for the newer Apple Pencil. The only catch is that it might be a bit awkward with the full-sized Apple Pencil 2.
The current Apple Pencil is 6.53 inches long. According to Prosser’s sources, the iPad mini 6 is expected to come in at 8.12 inches on its longest edge. This would leave less than one inch of clearance on either side of the Apple Pencil. This means it would almost certainly block the volume buttons as well.
Shortly before Apple’s April event, we saw several leaked photos depicting a next-generation “Apple Pencil 3”, which led everybody to assume Apple was working on a successor to its 2018 second-generation stylus. However, we were also left wondering exactly what a new Apple Pencil could bring to the table, and when Apple launched its new M1 iPad Pro in April with no mention of a new stylus, we had to assume the rumours had simply missed the mark.
However, now Prosser has another theory that makes a lot more sense. When actually looking at the scale of the leaked images, it’s clear they depict a significantly smaller Apple Pencil.
It’s hard to say at this point whether this will be a special “Apple Pencil mini” that’s released to go with the iPad mini 6 or whether it really is the “Apple Pencil 3” that will become a smaller replacement for the second-generation Apple Pencil. Either way, though, it’s understandable that Apple would want to wait to unveil this one until it had the iPad mini 6 ready to go, which will likely come later this year.
Other iPad mini Rumours
While the iPad mini 6 appears to be coming into focus, we’ve heard reports from other generally reliable sources that a new iPad mini would stick with the old-school iPad design, with full bezels and a home button.
We’ve even seen leaked photos of fabricated casings, although it’s also important to keep in mind that these casings were dummy mockups made by third-party accessory makers, not official Apple parts.
Nevertheless, since case makers usually build these from leaked schematics and CAD drawings, we can’t discount these rumours and photos entirely, but we also think it’s becoming pretty clear that these don’t show the entire picture.
With several reputable sources all reporting that the so-called “iPad mini 6” will be a direct counterpart to last year’s fourth-generation iPad Air, the only possible explanation for these other reports — if they’re true at all — is that Apple is indeed working on a lower-tier iPad mini that could be a smaller version of the entry-level 10.8-inch iPad.
Considering that the iPad mini didn’t become a more premium device until the fifth-generation model came along in 2019, it’s not inconceivable that Apple may still feel there’s a market for a lower-cost 7.9-inch iPad that just focuses on the basics.
This would also explain rumours we’ve heard about an “iPad mini Pro” coming this fall. Remember that even leakers and analysts who get their hands on completely accurate specs for Apple’s unreleased devices usually have no idea at all what Apple is actually going to call them, so at this point, “iPad mini 6” is merely a placeholder, and it could just as easily be something like an “iPad Air mini.”
Of course, the other explanation for these rumours of a more basic iPad mini could simply stem from prototypes that Apple was working on before it decided to go with the more modern iPad Air design style. Apple works on a great many things that never see the light of day. What does seem certain is that a more powerful iPad mini is on the way; whether we’ll also see a lower-cost model remains an open question, however.
[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.]