Apple is holding its first event of 2022 Tuesday (here’s how you can watch it live on March 8), and rumors point to a new iPad making an appearance with a 5G iPhone SE 3 and a Mac computer (or two). It’s exciting to speculate what Apple may have in store, but if we don’t get any iPad upgrades this week, we may have to wait for Apple to unveil them in the fall.
Apple made a slew of changes to its iPads last year, from giving the iPad Mini an overhaul to outfitting the iPad Pro with 5G and an M1 chip. This year’s iPads may not be a radical change from the 2021 versions, according to reports and rumors so far. But one overlooked iPad model could finally see an update: the iPad Air, which was one of our favorite iPads from 2020 but got no update at all in 2021.
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Apple updates its tablets twice a year, or at least that’s how it’s worked over the past couple of years. The iPad Pro arrived in the spring, while the basic iPad, iPad Mini and iPad Air updates arrived in the fall. That cycle could shift again this year — it’s always hard to tell with Apple. But this should help your shopping plans a bit. In the meantime, here are some guidelines for choosing between the current iPads.
iPad Air: Like a larger iPad Mini?
Reports suggest the Air, which has always functioned like a budget version of the iPad Pro, could see updates yet again. The Air should finally get optional 5G like the Pro and Mini, although keep in mind that the Pro’s 5G bands were more extensive than the Mini’s. Could the Air get an M1 chip as well, or would it get something more like the iPhone 13’s A15 processor, which is also in the 2021 iPad Mini? The A15 seems more likely, especially if the aim for the Air is to be more affordable.
The Air should also get the one feature it now lacks compared with all other 2021 iPads: that autozooming, wider-angle front-facing Center Stage camera. But that also means the Air could basically end up being a larger version of last year’s iPad Mini, just released half a year later. If the price ends up being a lot more reasonable than the iPad Pro, it could end up being the go-to pick for a lot of people.
iPad Pro: More Mini LED, and possibly MagSafe
A new iPad Pro should arrive in the spring, if the pattern from 2020 and 2021 holds up. The previous iPad Pro before that, which added Face ID and USB-C, arrived in the fall of 2018.
Some rumors point to the Pro tablets adding MagSafe, which has popped up in Apple’s recent MacBook Pros, iMacs and iPhones. The one weird thing about MagSafe so far is that every instance has involved a different type of charger. Would Apple make the iPad Pro MagSafe another unique accessory yet again, separate from the iPhone and MacBook versions? That would be… annoying.
But it might not even happen. While a 2021 report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg pointed to a glass-backed iPad Pro for MagSafe charging, recently it’s been suggested that maybe the tech won’t arrive this year after all. Leaker @Dylandkt on Twitter also suggests the new iPad Pro may not offer MagSafe charging. Personally, I don’t care much. iPads tend to have strong battery life, and charging with USB-C isn’t a big deal. iPads can already charge up a bit through cases that use Smart Connector ports, although Smart Connector-compatible accessories remain few and far between. Maybe a return of MagSafe branding would mean an expansion of accessories to address the Smart Connector’s shortcomings, though.
The 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro was the only model to have a step-up Mini LED display, similar to the recent MacBook Pros, offering deeper blacks and more dynamic contrast. The 11-inch model this year might finally get Mini LED, too.
When it comes to screen size, a larger display for the iPad Pro may still be a few years away. A report from MacRumors suggests that two of Apple’s suppliers are preparing OLED displays in larger sizes (up to 15-inches) for future iPad models. However, these bigger Pro tablets aren’t expected to arrive until 2023 or 2024.
What about a chip upgrade? I already feel like the M1 in the iPad Pro vastly outperforms the software; I’d rather see iPadOS evolve to support external monitors better, and add a lot more multitasking flexibility. However, if a new iPad Pro debuts alongside a new MacBook Air this spring, maybe they’d both share a new M2 chip. It’s unclear, though, when a reportedly redesigned new MacBook Air will arrive.
Finally, battery life: To me, iPads are fine. But the iPad Pro’s more power-intensive nature, and its keyboard cases, could mean a useful battery upgrade is in the works. The MacBook Air now outperforms the iPad in battery performance, and maybe in 2022 the iPad Pro could catch up.
Will iPads finally fix the camera placement, though?
My biggest iPad request, besides revamping the OS much more to make it a better Mac alternative, is fixing the front camera placement. Zoom meetings on iPads in landscape mode (which is how they mostly orient themselves if you use any sort of keyboard case) have their camera off to the side. While Apple’s zoom-in Center Stage camera tech helps a bit, it doesn’t address eye contact issues: I usually look like I’m staring off into space during my iPad Zooms. I’d love a camera switch to the longer edge, but who knows if that’s in the cards this year.