The entry-level iPad is the best Apple tablet in terms of price vs. features comparison, but Apple will sweeten the deal further with a refresh to the $329 device coming in Spring 2021.
According to the Chinese website cnBeta, as first spotted by iMore, the upcoming device should look similar to the current versions, with most of the changes under the hood. So, no Face ID instead of Touch ID and no near fullscreen design like on the iPad Pro series.
Industrial design is said to be thinner and lighter, however. But more importantly, the update will bring a bigger 10.5-inch LED display and Apple’s previous-generation A13 Bionic chip. And, the tablet should use four gigabytes of RAM for improved multitasking and performance.
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By comparison, the current model has a bit smaller 10.2-inch screen and uses the seven-nanometer Apple A12 chip, which debuted in the iPhone XS family more than two years ago (it also powers the fifth-generation iPad mini and the third-generation iPad Air). As mentioned, the upcoming refresh will retain a Home button with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner. The device is also said to retain the Lightning port instead of adopting USB-C like the iPad Air 4.
It would be possible to achieve a larger 10.5-inch display and thinner design by reusing the chassis and front panel of the third-generation iPad Air. This seems highly plausible because Apple tends to trickle designs down its iPad lineup. For example, the design of the first-generation iPad Air came to the fifth-generation iPad, the design of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro came to the third-generation iPad Air, and the design of the 11-inch iPad Pro came to the fourth-generation iPad Air.
The third-generation iPad Air is 0.07 pounds lighter and 1.4mm thinner than the eighth-generation iPad, has a 10.5-inch display, and retains the Lightning port and Home Button, so it clearly meets the remit of what is expected from the ninth-generation iPad. Reusing this design would also allow Apple to keep costs down for the lower price point of the iPad.
I sincerely hope that they just leave the screen size intact after this new iPad comes along because Apple can’t seem to stop making small iPad screen size changes, and it would be very nice indeed to settle for some standard screen sizes.