A KGI report this morning made for intriguing reading. Two aspects of the report were unsurprising: a new version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro next year, and a ‘radical’ new form factor in 2018, using OLED screen technology in a flexible display.
By next year, the largest model in the current iPad lineup will definitely be due a refresh, and with Apple expected to adopt OLED for the 2018 iPhone, possibly with some form of flexible display, you’d naturally expect the company to use the same tech in that year’s iPads.
But a third element sounded rather more surprising: a new 10.5-inch iPad next year, sitting alongside a new 9.7-inch model. As Benjamin noted this morning, that’s a size difference of just 0.8 inches between the two models, which on the face of it sounds rather odd. So what might be the explanation for this … ?
The report does give one clue: it tells us that the 9.7-inch iPad will be a ‘low-cost’ model. That suggests that if you want the latest iPad tech, you’ll need to opt for the new 10.5-inch model, while the new 9.7-incher likely palms you off with older technology.
One example of that might be to give the 10.5-inch iPad model much slimmer bezels, effectively squeezing that extra 0.8-inches of screen size into a casing the same size as the existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Having measured this, the exact same size would be very tight unless the Home button is embedded in the screen, but let’s say almost the same.
The OLED screen would be another big differentiator between the two the following year. Given that large OLED panel availability in 2018 is likely to be constrained, you’d expect to pay a significant premium for this.
So you’d be choosing between two mid-size iPads with virtually the same external dimensions – one with a bigger screen and the latest goodies, and a cheaper model with a smaller screen and fewer capabilities.
Could the ‘new’ 9.7-inch model in fact just be an updated version of the iPad Air 2? Given that Apple already sees enough difference between the Air 2 and smaller Pro to offer both models, and price them $200+ apart, it could easily take this approach next year.
But why offer a ‘budget’ 9.7-inch model at all? The iPad mini has traditionally served as the entry-level iPad, the choice not just of those who prefer the smaller form factor but also those who want to opt for an iPad over an Android tablet but whose budgets don’t stretch as far as the larger models.
Which makes me suspect Apple plans to drop the iPad mini altogether. When it was first launched, the mini made perfect sense: you had small iPhones, a larger iPad and the iPad mini filling the substantial size gap between the two. There were plenty of people for whom the mini was the ideal compromise between portability and usability.
But with a 5.5-inch iPhone already targeting those who want that mix of a screen size usable for a decent range of tasks while still getting somewhere close to pocketability, the role of the iPad mini has seemed less clear. Would it really make sense to buy a 5.5-inch phone and a 7.9-inch iPad mini?
So it seems to me that the iPad mini now has only one role: as the budget option. And given that you can already buy the base-level iPad Air 2 for the same $399 price as the basic iPad mini 4, price no longer seems reason enough for the mini to retain its place in the lineup.
It’s notable that KGI makes no mention at all of a new iPad mini, adding weight to my theory that it will be dropped from the range.
So if Ming-Chi Kuo is correct, that’s my guess as to the rationale. Next year’s iOS device lineup will look like this:
- iPhone SE 2
- iPhone 7 4.7-inch
- iPhone 7 5.5-inch
- New low-cost 9.7-inch iPad (at a price comparable to the iPad mini)
- New high-spec 10.5-inch iPad Pro 2 (with same/similar footprint as 9.7-inch model)
- New 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2
That lineup would seem to offer something for everyone, both in terms of screen sizes and pricing.
What do you guys think? Am I right that Apple plans to drop the iPad mini? And if I am, would you miss it, given the above lineup? As ever, please take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.