There are rumours aplenty that Apple is gearing up to unveil the 2021 edition of the iPad Pro soon, and I think it’s shaping up to be the most important tablet of the year.
While the release month of a new iPhone is predictable, things aren’t quite so easy for the iPad. Apple’s tablet can often go years without an update, or it can even he updated twice in one. Sometimes we get the update at an event, or sometimes we get it simply through a press release on Apple’s website.
As was made abundantly clear by the sudden release of the iPad Pro 2020 (which came two years after the previous version), we can get a new iPad at any time and without much fanfare.
Speaking of the iPad Pro 2020, this was a very modest update over the 2018 model. It added a LiDAR sensor on the back, an addition that would end up on the iPhone 12, and only very mild performance enhancements. So, in many ways, Apple’s top-tier tablet hasn’t seen a sizeable upgrade in a few years.
5G stands out to me here for a number of reasons. Apple, of course, introduced this on the iPhone 12 and it ensured all models supported a wide range of 5G bands. You didn’t have to choose the pricier version to get mmWave, for example. Bringing this to an iPad makes complete sense and in many ways I’d say I like the idea of 5G on a tablet more so than on a phone. At least, when the service is more widespread.
The iPad Pro is very much a capable laptop replacement and I have been using it as such for the majority of this year. The Magic Keyboard is far better than the terrible scissor-switch keyboard on my 2016 MacBook Pro, the 12.9-inch display is gloriously colourful and I have all the benefits of Apple Pencil and iOS apps. Add 5G to the mix and I would be far more connected than I would with a MacBook.
We have seen 5G on tablets before, notably from Samsung and Huawei, however Android’s app ecosystem for anything other than phones is still poor. Even though both Samsung and Huawei have made strides in their own UX, I still struggle to be as productive on Android tablets as I am on iOS.
I would assume that 5G will be an ‘added extra’ for these tablets, commanding a higher price than the base model. For me, though I would pay it, as having access to that very fast data network on a larger device feels so much more useful than on a phone.
The other heavily-speculated feature is a switch from IPS LCD to mini-LED for the tech powering the screen. Apple is touted to use this screen type a lot in 2021, with the iPad Pro getting it first. Mini-LED is said to pack many of the benefits of OLED including higher contrast and brightness along with greater efficiency. One rumour also suggested we might see an iPad Pro with an OLED display – that’s the same display type used on the recent iPhones.
The current LCD panel on the iPad Pro is great, however OLED has the potential to be so much more rich and vibrant, add support for proper HDR standards and help the battery last longer.
If we do get both of these features in an iPad Pro 2021 then it will be the best tablet to beat.