What we're expecting to see from the iPad Air 3
If you're wondering what Apple has planned for the iPad Air 3, you're not alone. What follows is the very latest news and rumours relating to the iPad Air 3 release date, features, and specs.
Initially, many were expecting the iPad Air 3 to launch at Apple's March 21 event. However, what we got instead was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
Where does this leave the iPad Air 3? It could well be that Apple has retired the Air line, but it could also be that the Air brand isn't as high and dry as you might think.
The iPad Air 2 still occupies essentially the same part of Apple's roster it has since its release, having only been given a fairly modest £50 price cut. The similarly sized iPad Pro 9.7 slots in well above it at £100 more than the traditional iPad Air launch price.
In other words, there's still room for an iPad Air 3 – though precise details are virtually non-existent at this point. Here's what we're expecting to see.
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When is the iPad Air 3 coming out? October 2016 (possibly)
What’s new about the iPad Air 3? We're expecting it to be thinner, lighter, and more powerful
How much will the iPad Air 3 cost? £399 - £559 depending on the storage is our best guess
iPad Air 3 Release Date UK & US – When is the iPad Air 3 likely to come out?
The iPad Air 2 landed in October 2014. It's pretty long in the tooth in tech terms, with many expecting an update towards the end of 2015.
But here we are in 2016, and still no iPad Air 3. As we've noted already, what we got in March wasn't a new iPad Air, but a new iPad Pro.
The iPad Air 2, then, still stands as the company's mainstream full-sized tablet. It's in need of an update, so we wouldn't be surprised to see the iPad Air 3 announced alongside the iPhone 7 in September, with an October release date. That's what the latest rumours seem to point to.
It might not be the most high-profile of announcements, though, given the emergence of the iPad Pro range.
Related: WWDC 2016 – As it happened
iPad Air 3 Features – What we're expecting to see from the iPad Air 3
As with all things iPad Air 3, the precise features and specs remain a mystery. Still, there are several likely upgrades we can expect from Apple's next Air tablet.
It's a fair bet that the iPad Air 3 will be slimmer than the iPad Air 2. Apple could opt to keep the current measurements and pack in improved innards, but with less onus on pushing the spec boundary now, Apple will probably want to emphasise that Air name.
We wouldn't expect such heavyweight features as the four-speaker set-up of the iPad Pro 9.7, then.
It's likely that the iPad Air 3 will have the same 9.7-inch screen as its predecessor, though there's a chance we'd see some of the improvements made to the brightness and clarity of the iPad Pro.
Given that the iPad Pro packs a souped up A9X CPU, an iPad Air 3 could possibly carry a regular A9 chip, as found in the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. That's all speculation at this point, though.Related: Samsung Galaxy S8 release date
iPad Air 3 display:
We would expect the iPad Air 3 to retain the 9.7-inch display from the iPad Air 2. The Air 1 and 2, as well as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro all featured a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 with 264 ppi, so we don't see why the iPad Air 3 would be any different.
Considering the Air 2 retained the same screen specs as the first model, it seems unlikely Apple will make such a big jump in screen specs with the new Air tablet. The ppi measurement is also much greater than many of Apple's iPhones, or tablets. That ppi would put the high-end iPad Pro, with its 264ppi, to shame.
We should also see an anti-reflective coating which comes on the current model, as well as the iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4.
iPad Air 3 design:
If Apple did want to slim down the iPad Air 3, that could mean a smaller battery. Given that the A9 chip permitted a similar thing in the iPhone 6S without a loss of battery life, that seems like a decent bet.
The last two iPad Air models have slimmed down on previous versions, with the first-gen Air tablet reducing thickness considerably in comparison to the iPad 4, so it's reasonable to expect the upcoming model to do the same.
We doubt Apple would include additional features associated with the Pro range, such as a Smart Connector to enable connection of the the Apple Smart Keyboard accessory, or those aforementioned stereo speakers.
iPad Air 3 camera:
The new iPad Pro has a 12-megapixel camera, while the iPad Air 2 and the larger iPad Pro both have 8-megapixel units. Although the Air 2 improved the rear camera, it seems unlikely that Apple would want to outdo its top-end iPad Pro by making the Air 3 with a better camera. 8-megapixels is therefore a good guess when it comes to the rear-facing camera.
Although the megapixel count is unlikely to increase, the Air 2 did increase the camera resolution over the Air 1 from 1,936 x 2,592 to 2,448 x 3264. It also increased the pixel size. It therefore seems reasonable to expect improvements of this kind on the Air 3, even if the megapixels remain the same.
In terms of the front lens, the Air 1 and 2 both featured a 1.2-megapixel lens, although the Air 2 added a larger f/2.2 aperture. While the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a 1.2-megapixels front-facing lens which, again, seems likely to appear on the Air 3 - unless Apple wanted to outdo it's high-end tablet.
iPad Air 3 specs:
When it comes to hardware, there are several new specs which we can reasonably expect to see on the iPad Air 3.
First up is the processor, which we would expect to be an A9. The A9 is the chip which can be found in both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. The Air 2 features an A8X, but both models of the iPad Pro have the A9X, so we'd expect the Air 3 to come with A9 at least.
The Air 2's A8X processor was 1.4x faster than the iPad Air's A7, again pointing to a likely processor upgrade in the Air 3.
Using the Air 2 and iPad Pro to gauge specs for the Air 3 is also useful in terms of RAM. The Air 2 and Pro 9.7 have 2GB, while the larger Pro has 4GB. Again, Apple is unlikely to want to position the Air 3 as an iPad Pro alternative, so 2GB it would presumably stay.
Storage options on the current iPad Air model are 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB, though the higher model has been dropped from the range recently. There has been some talk of Apple phasing out the 16GB range, as it did with the 32GB Air models and the original 8GB iPad.
There's been nothing to indicate that Apple is considering such a move, but 16GB does seem slightly outdated so we may see the same storage options as the iPad Pro with 32GB and 128GB models.
iPad Air 3 software:
iOS 10 has been unveiled at WWDC, and it's coming this autumn. If history is anything to go by, it'll be turning up in September.
This means that if those September iPad Air 3 release date stories are true, it should launch with iOS 10 already installed.
iOS 10 will bring a smarter, more powerful lock screen with 'widgets' that grant additional functionality without needing to head into the apps themselves. It'll also sport third party Siri support, so your favourite apps will be included in your vocal prompts.
iPad Air 3 features:
Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint scanning technology, is almost certain to return, having appeared on the iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro. You can expect all the usual extra stuff too like Bluetooth 4.2 and Lightning ports.
With Touch ID, the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4 gained the ability to use a pared-down version of Apple Pay. The full feature allows you to pay for things in-store by scanning your device and using your fingerprint to authorise payment. The iPad version simply allows you to authorise online and in-app payments using the fingerprint scanner. There's been no word on whether full Apple Pay will be coming to the tablet range, but it wouldn't be completely absurd to expect it - especially with the prospect of online payments.
The Air 3 would almost certainly not feature Apple's tri-level pressure-sensitive 3D touch. According to a research note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, there have been 'production issues within Apple's supply chain' with relation to the technology, which might explain why it didn't appear in either Pro model.
Don't expect Pro features like Apple Pencil support or stereo sound, either.
iPad Air 3 price:
It's reasonable to assume that the iPad Air 3 will cost around the same price as the iPad Air 2's launch price. The Air 2 launched at £399 for the 16GB model, £479 for the 64GB version, and £559 for the £128GB version. If you wanted to add 3G connectivity, the price for each model increased by £100.
If Apple sticks to the previous iPad Air pricing but decides to ditch the 16GB model, which could be a possibility considering the iPad Pro starts at 32GB, then it could be that the iPad Air 3 starts slightly higher than the £399 mark.
Alternatively, Apple could stick with the 16, 64, and 128GB options as well as the iPad Air 2's current post-Pro pricing – which means that it would start from £349. Wouldn't that be sweet?
Let us know what you want to see on the iPad Air 3 when it finally launches in the comments below.