Apple iPad 2021: everything we know so far about Apple’s incoming iPad models

Two slates, slated for September?

UPDATE: Apple has now revealed the new iPad Mini 2021 and the iPad 2021 as part of its California Streaming event - click those links to find out more about the new tablets.

Original story continues below: 

Apple’s iPad Pro gets a lot of headlines, what with its slick design, delicious screen and punchy processor. But it’s not Apple’s best-selling slate: far and away the most popular model is the standard no-frills iPad.

And if you’re a fan of Apple’s most affordable device, there’s good news on the horizon. All evidence points towards the imminent arrival of a new, cheaper version of the vanilla iPad – alongside a refreshed iPad Mini to go with it.

What do these two new iPads have in store? And when will we see them hit shelves? We’ve filtered through the internet’s best and worst whispers to bring you the most realistic and up-to-date info about the iPad (2021) and iPad Mini 6.

Render source: Michael Ma

When will the new iPads be available?

Unless you’ve had your head under a news-proof rock, you’ll probably know that Apple is hosting its yearly big reveal on 14 September. The 2021 event is titled ‘California streaming’ and it’s widely expected to feature the new iPhone 13, the AirPods 3 and the Apple Watch Series 7.

Refreshed iPads are also believed to be in the pipeline, but it’s less clear whether we’ll see these break cover at the same event. In fact, several industry insiders have raised the prospect of Apple hosting multiple launches over the next few months, meaning we may not see the 2021 iPad updates in September.

Of course, Apple could pull a classic ‘one more thing’ and take the wraps off its updated tablets on 14 September, which would give us a bumper haul of Cupertino kit to digest. More likely, though, we’ll have to wait for a second event later in the year. A number of analysts have predicted this will take place in November. If it does, it’ll likely follow the first event as an all-virtual affair, with no in-person audience.

As for availability of the new iPad models, both industry analysts and Apple’s own execs have hinted at supply chain woes which could potentially limit global stocks of its latest slates. Capacitor and chip shortages – due to reduced staffing at its plants in Southeast Asia – are rumoured to be restricting production, which may mean that buyers face a few weeks of waiting before they get to tap their new tablets.

Render source: Michael Ma

How many iPad models will we see?

While we don’t know for sure whether they’ll arrive in September or more towards the end of the year, we do have a fairly good idea of what the 2021 iPad updates will entail.

We expect to see a revamped iPad Mini 6 hit the market. The last update to Apple’s littlest tablet came in 2019, meaning the Mini is overdue an overhaul. Rumours point towards a significant redesign of both appearance and performance (see below).

Alongside the Mini 6, there’s growing evidence to suggest we’ll also see Apple update its ‘standard’ iPad. This refreshed entry-level slate would be a sequel to the 10.2in version launched in 2020. Industry intel hints at a more affordable price tag, a tweaked screen size and updated hardware inside.

Render source: Michael Ma

How much will the new iPads cost?

Apple is pretty tight-lipped about pricing for upcoming models, but the maker doesn’t usually slash the cost of its kit between generations. If the price does change, it normally goes upwards.

Take Apple’s smallest slate: the iPad Mini 4 started at £319 when it arrived in 2015, while the cheapest iPad Mini (2019) cost from £399. But we wouldn’t expect Apple to break the £400 barrier with the iPad Mini 6. At £399, it sits quite neatly between the base iPad and the iPad Air. On that basis, it’s likely that the iPad Mini 6 will start at £399 for a 64GB Wi-Fi version and top out at around £669 for a 256GB variant with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.

Pricing for the updated entry-level iPad is less predictable. Having said that Apple doesn’t usually reduce prices, that’s exactly what some sources think will happen with the Apple iPad (2021): it’s already the most affordable iPad model you can buy (starting at £329), but some analysts believe Apple will cut the price tag quite dramatically, dropping the cost below the £300 mark. Some suggest it could even go as low as £220.

This would be a significant change in approach for Apple, making the iPad (2021) a much more affordable, accessible device. It would certainly add clarity to its tablet line-up, positioning the Mini as a clearer upgrade over the base variant. Whether these predictions reflect reality – and what impact they could have on the iPad’s hardware – remains to be seen.

What will the 2021 iPad models look like?

Retro futurism is sweeping through Apple’s line-up. The iPhone, iMac and iPad Air all now feature the flat aluminium edges first seen on Apple devices a decade ago – and this throwback trend looks set to continue with the iPad Mini 6.

With several major products already sporting the bold redesign, it makes sense that Apple would style its latest slates the same way in the name of consistency. Online leaks seem to confirm this, with renders illustrating a streamlined iPad Mini 6 featuring slimmer bezels, a flat-panel chassis and those vibrant pastel hues – predicted to include the same shades as the iPad Air (meaning Green and Sky Blue, in addition to the familiar Rose Gold, Silver and Space Grey).

Physically, the iPad Mini 6 is likely to have very similar proportions to the iPad Mini (2019). Whispers indicate it’ll be marginally wider (by 4mm) and taller (by 3mm) but still a sliver of a thing at 6.1mm thin. More significant are suggestions that those slimmer bezels around the screen will allow the panel size to grow from 7.9in to 8.4in, giving an extra 0.5in of display to play with. 

What type of technology will be used for the screen remains a matter of conjecture. Early leaks hinted that the iPad Mini 6 would use a Mini-LED display, like the Liquid Retina XDR panel seen on the iPad Pro 12.9in. But subsequent intel indicates this isn’t the case. We may instead see it ship with a version of the Liquid Retina LED display used by the iPad Air.

Less is known about the design and display revisions penned for the iPad (2021). One rumour with growing traction is that the display will size up by 0.3in to 10.5in. Whether this will also be a result of slimmer bezels isn’t clear, although we wouldn’t expect the iPad’s dimensions to change dramatically – meaning it’ll measure in at around 250x175x7.5mm. 

We don’t know whether the Apple iPad (2021) will also ape that aluminium panel styling. If Apple is genuinely planning to pitch the iPad (2021) as a more affordable tablet option, it may decide to stick with the established, neutral iPad styling (with a curved back, plus thicker top and bottom bezels), reserving the updated design for those willing to stump up for a more expensive iPad Mini 6.

Render source: Michael Ma

What performance will the new iPad models have?

Performance upgrades for the latest slates are more predictable. The iPad Mini (2019) features Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, as seen in the iPhone 11. The obvious upgrade for the iPad Mini 6 would therefore be the A14 from the iPhone 12. This would be consistent with the Mini sitting lower down Apple’s tablet pecking order: the iPad Air (2020) received the A14 chip last year, while the iPad Pro now benefits from the super speedy M1 processor.

Apple is working on a next-gen A15 chip for the iPhone 13. While some rumours optimistically suggest this will also feature in the new iPad Mini 6, we’re sceptical. Given that the Mini is not Apple’s flagship tablet, we’d be surprised to see it fitted with a faster chip than the more expensive iPad Air. Instead, the still punchy A14 is more likely, a conclusion echoed by several industry insiders.

As for the iPad (2021), its development trajectory points towards an A13 chip. This makes sense: it’s the clear step forward from the A12 processor in the iPad 10.2 (2020) and it also neatly positions the entry-level iPad as a step behind both the Mini 6 and the existing iPad Air from 2020. 

Will the 2021 iPad models have new hardware features?

Aside from a fresh shell and processor, sources also suggest that the iPad Mini 6 will ship with several hardware tweaks. One of the more obvious updates looks likely to be a revised Touch ID setup: like last year's iPad Air, the Mini 6’s fingerprint scanner will probably be integrated into the power button. It’s also predicted that the iPad Mini 6 may support the upcoming Apple Pencil 3, which could be a boon for creative doodlers.

If online murmurings prove accurate, the iPad Mini 6 will also receive a connectivity overhaul. Besides support for 5G on cellular models, sources suggest the new compact tablet will follow the iPad Air and iPad Pro by featuring a USB-C port instead of Lightning. This switch should be a welcome one, meaning fewer cables to carry and greater flexibility when it comes to hooking up accessories. Similarly, it’s rumoured that the iPad Mini 6 will feature a Smart Connector – something missing from the iPad Mini (2019) – which would provide for easier connection to peripherals, including Apple's Magic Keyboard.  

Less is known about the iPad Mini’s camera specs. The iPad Mini (2019) featured an 8MP main camera and a 7MP selfie lens. The most likely tweak would be to bring the Mini in line with the Air, which would mean a 12MP rear camera, but no change to the front-facing resolution (which is also used by the Pro).

As for the ‘standard’ iPad (2021), there’s less to share on the hardware front. It too could switch to USB-C and, similarly, could adopt a Touch ID setup which places the fingerprint sensor in the power button. Then again, if Apple does largely retain the familiar iPad design in the name of affordability, it may be that the new iPad goes light on physical revisions. One of the few firm hardware rumours points toward the base model shipping with twice as much storage, so the iPad (2021) could start with a capacity of 64GB instead of 32GB.

Render source: Michael Ma

Will the 2021 iPad models have new software features?

It’s no secret that iPadOS 15 is in the works, with the public beta already in testing. Apple has confirmed that the full release is ‘coming this fall’, which means we’re pretty much certain to see the updated software fully launched at the same time as the new iPads. It will be supported by both new models, as well as all models after the iPad Mini 4, the iPad Air 2 and iPad (5th generation).

What’s in store with iPadOS 15? Improved multi-tasking is one of the headlined enhancements, including custom layouts, more seamless side-by-side app switching and a ‘shelf’ for viewing open windows. The new software will also support keyboard shortcuts, introduce the App Library (as already on iPhones running iOS 14) and new widgets, plus Quick Note functionality for easily jotting thoughts in context. Notifications have a new look, too.

Also in store are updates to FaceTime, Memoji and Messages, including the option to watch and listen to media together through SharePlay. iPadOS 15 will also feature different mic modes to enhance speech clarity and a Portrait video effect. For a full round-up of all the features you’ll be able to enjoy on the new iPad Mini 6 and iPad (2021), check out our dedicated iPadOS 15 preview.