When Apple announced the new 2020 iPad Pro earlier this year, many wondered if it was just an interim model to tide us over while Apple prepared to release another more advanced model in the fall.
This seemed particularly believable considering that the 2020 iPad Pro was a relatively modest upgrade from the 2018 model that didn’t even really offer a CPU bump, and after 18 months of silence on the iPad Pro front, many considered what Apple packed into the latest iPad Pro to be a little underwhelming, with the only real marquee feature being the new LiDAR scanner.
So we can’t blame folks for thinking that Apple had something better just around the corner, and even after the 2020 iPad Pro launched, rumours persisted that Apple was working on another 2020 iPad Pro, which wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented, as back in 2012 Apple released both the third- and fourth-generation iPad models only about six months apart.
This theory was bolstered by the fact that there have been rumours of Apple working on a 5G iPad Pro for well over a year now, and even reports that Apple could bring ultrafast mmWave 5G technology to the iPad Pro before it arrives on the iPhone, which is of course expected to gain 5G support this year.
In reality, however, it looks like Apple is planning to do a lot more with the next iPad Pro than merely adding 5G support, and there’s every indication that it’s going to be a much more exciting upgrade; however it’s also beginning to sound more and more like we won’t see it until at least early next year.
By all reports, the next big thing for the iPad Pro will be a switch to Mini-LED screen technology, providing displays that blow away current OLED technology — something it plans to bring to several devices in its lineup, including an updated 16-inch MacBook Pro and a rumoured 14-inch MacBook Pro.
However, we may never know for sure whether Apple ever hoped to have Mini-LED in the cards for 2020, but at this point several reports have said that Apple’s Mini-LED tech isn’t coming at all until next year, reducing the chances that we’ll see another iPad Pro later this year.
5G iPad Pro?
Of course, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that Apple could choose to do another minor update to the 2020 iPad Pro just to add 5G support, but most leaks suggest that Apple won’t bother, which makes sense if it actually has a much better iPad Pro right around the corner.
While 5G technology is all the buzz right now, the reality is that the actual consumer demand for it isn’t high enough that Apple can afford to bide its time — especially in the tablet market where it really has no meaningful competition. In other words, delaying the release of a 5G iPad Pro isn’t likely to cost Apple any sales in the long term; they’ll simply be deferred to next year.
According to reliable but somewhat mysterious Twitter leaker @L0vetodream, Apple’s next iPad Pro models that will be coming next year will include pretty much all of the technology that we’ve been waiting for, including not only ultra-fast mmWave 5G, but also Mini-LED screens and the enhanced A14X version of the A14 chip that’s expected to arrive in this year’s iPhone 12 models.
Some of the specs were first leaked by @choco_bit, revealing that the new models are codenamed J517 and J522 for the “small” and “big” versions, respectively, which we presume reflect the 11-inch and 12.9-inch models, unless of course Apple is planning on changing the dimensions as part of this update.
The reference to “X55 baseband” clearly refers to Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon X55 modem chip, which supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G frequencies, and while Apple would also need to include an antenna-in-package (AiP) module capable of properly handling these frequencies as well — which has reportedly been a challenge with the iPhone 12 — it seems unlikely that they’d have any problems doing so in a device the size of an iPad Pro.
The iPhone 12 is also expected to include the same Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 modem chip, which is currently the best 5G modem chip available right now in terms of both speed and lower power consumption, although Apple is still continuing its own modem chip design efforts as well since acquiring Intel last year.