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Apple planning OLED iPad Air for next year with iPad Pro to follow – report

Apple is reportedly planning on a big change for the screen technology used in its iPads over the next two years.

Korean publication The Elec claims that Apple has three OLED panels lined up: one for 2022, and two for 2023. 

The 2022 one, set to be exclusively manufactured by Samsung, is apparently of 10.8-inch diameter, which strongly indicates it’s destined for a new iPad Air, which was last refreshed for the 2020 model. Then, in 2023, Apple reportedly has two sizes lined up: 11-inches and 12.9-inches. These match up with the current size of iPad Pros available.

So why would the cheaper iPad Air be getting new screen tech before the flagship iPad Pro line? It seems that the solution planned for 2023 models is that bit more sophisticated. 

The Elec says that the 2022 panels will use rigid OLED and thin-film encapsulation (TFE). The 2023 panels, meanwhile, will use flexible OLED – the same type found in the company’s smartphones since the iPhone X

Flexible panels are more costly but, as the site puts it, offer “more design freedom”, including scope for thinner bezels. The report also indicates that Apple may use LTPO technology, which would allow the ProMotion 120Hz refresh rate currently found on iPad Pro. This would certainly make sense, given you can’t imagine Apple reverting to a 60Hz display after giving Pro users a taste of 120Hz.

If the report is accurate, it’s intriguing that Apple is apparently looking to change the larger model’s screen technology again, having only just embraced Mini LED tech in the 2021 iPad Pro. That said, OLED does have inherent advantages, with each pixel individually lit meaning no halo effect from the backlit dimming zones. That comes at a cost to brightness and a risk of burn in, however. 

Regardless, our deputy editor Max Parker was impressed with the Apple’s implementation of Mini LED powered screen when he reviewed the latest iPad Pro. “Previous iPad Pro models have had excellent panels, however this is a step above anything I’ve experienced before,” he wrote. “I’d comfortably say this is the best screen I have ever used on a tablet, especially for watching video.”     

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