Apple opted not to release a successor to the iPad Air 2 last autumn, skipping the usual annual upgrade cycle to focus on the launch of the larger 12.9in iPad Pro instead. But we should see a new 9.7in model next week at Apple's spring event, alongside a 4in iPhone SE.
According to recent reports, the standard-sized iPad will also be newly rebranded as an iPad Pro, and bring along additional features from the larger model - such as the Smart Connector for a smaller Smart Keyboard model, as well as support for the Apple Pencil. Also now expected? A higher price than usual.
Apple has always sold its 9.7in iPad models for a starting price of US$499, since the iPad 2. But 9to5Mac now reports that Apple plans to sell the smaller iPad Pro for US$599 for the smallest storage capacity in the States.
At least you're getting a little more for your money, and we're not just talking about the Smart Connector and peripheral support: the report says the starting model should have 32GB of storage, as opposed to 16GB on the iPad Air 2. It should also have a brighter display, four stereo speaker openings, and a 12-megapixel back camera with 4K video recording capabilities.
In a time of dwindling tablet sales, it's surprising that Apple might bump the price of its core iPad model - but at least the smaller Pro sounds like a pretty significant bump over the iPad Air 2, and the pricing will create more differentiation between the smaller Mini line and the full-sized Pro.
Actually, the biggest surprise of 9to5Mac's report is that the iPad Air 2 might hang around at its typical US$499 price point for the 16GB model. While it's still our favourite tablet on the market today, the introduction of the 9.7in Pro could make the full-priced Air 2 a dodgy value proposition for a year-and-a-half-old tablet with fewer features. We should find out for sure come Monday.