In March it will be two years since Apple last updated the iPad mini. Before that, however, there was an even longer gap: released as part of Apple’s ‘March madness’ hardware week, the fifth-gen 2019 model was the first update to Apple’s smallest tablet since September 2015.
The iPad mini has always had a fanbase because of its compact size, but following the 2019 update it became the best-value iPad currently on the market, being (at that time) better equipped than the standard iPad and cheaper than the largely identical (albeit larger-screened) Air.
Apple fans are never satisfied, however, and if you’re wondering when the company will release the next iPad mini, and what design changes, new features and tech specs you can expect, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article we analyse all the most interesting and reliable clues pointing to Apple’s next mini launch – including the prediction that it could feature a larger screen size – and do our best to speculate about the future of this product.
Release date: When will the next iPad mini come out?
Is there going to be another iPad mini? Yes, we think so, but it’s hard to predict when it will arrive.
iPads don’t have the reassuringly regular release schedule of the iPhones, and the mini line is even harder to predict than the rest. Here’s when Apple has released iPad minis:
- iPad mini: October 2012
- iPad mini 2: October 2013
- iPad mini 3: October 2014
- iPad mini 4: September 2015
- iPad mini (2019): March 2019
The spanner in the works is that a new mini normally gets announced alongside a new version of the Air, but Apple announced a new Air back in September 2020. In fact Apple also announced a new iPad in September 2020, so the mini was the only iPad left untouched in 2020. Read: iPad Air 2020 review and iPad 2020 review.
So can we expect a new mini soon? Yes, according to a Macotakara report in January 2021. According to Macotakara, Apple has begun production of a new iPad mini model and it may launch the spring, possibly in March. Apple’s next event is expected to be scheduled for March.
Is the iPad mini being discontinued?
We doubt it! Things looked bad for the mini line before the 2019 update, but it’s now clear that Apple values its smallest tablet. Is there going to be an iPad mini 6? It hangs in the balance, but we think yes.
Things were kept broadly conservative in the 2019 update to the iPad mini, for obvious reasons: if the mini and Air had received the radical, Home-button-free design of the 2018 iPad Pro models, it would have instantly made those very expensive devices less special.
Now that the 2020 iPad Air has launched and not only gone full-screen with no Home button, but actually retained Touch ID, could the iPad mini follow in its footsteps?
There are rumours suggesting that the design of the iPad mini will change. That Macotakara report mentioned above makes a few suggestions:
- Screen size will increase from 7.9in to 8.4in, without increasing the overall size of the device.
- Screen will go almost all the way to the edge of the new model – but the home button will remain (as will Touch ID).
New features & specs
Specs-wise the iPad mini’s likely route is gentle incremental improvement, rather than a revolutionary overhaul. Here’s what we expect to change.
In general when predicting features for the next iPad mini it must be kept in mind that Apple will almost always want to roll these out to the Pros first, then trickle them down to the Airs and minis the following generation (or later still). So, for example, a mini-LED screen looks unlikely.
Face ID or Touch ID?
If the mini loses the Home button it is likely that Touch ID will be moved to the side button, as in the case of the iPad Air.
It’s certainly unlikely that the iPad mini will gain Face ID when the iPad Air didn’t. In fact there remain some doubts about Face ID on iPad, because tablets aren’t picked up as much as smartphones – on the larger iPad Pro in particular, you often have to lean forward over the desk to get your mug in the camera’s viewfinder. But that’ll be far less of an issue with the light, portable iPad mini.
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with bags of experience covering Apple and a good reputation for accuracy, predicts that the mini will jump in screen size from the current 7.9in – not just current, in fact; all five iPad mini models have had 7.9in screens – to somewhere being 8.5in and 9in. That’s comparatively whopping.
The Macotakara report we mentioned earlier suggests that the new iPad mini screen size will increase from 7.9in to 8.4in, without increasing the overall size of the device. That’s not quite as big as Kuo’s prediction, but it’s sutibly mini.
We’d also like to see True Tone and a Liquid Retina Display, as with the 2020 iPad Air.
The Pro tablets’ ProMotion screen tech didn’t reach the iPad Air range in 2020, so it is unlikely that it will be added to the iPad mini yet.
The iPad Air has an A14 processor so it would seem fitting that the iPad mini should get that too. It’s currently lumbered with an A8 processor though, so even an A13 chip would be a significant leap.
We hope to get a better camera on the back of the iPad mini – currently it’s 8MP, while the 2020 iPad Air has a 12MP camera.
Even 8MP was a vast improvement on pre-March 2019 when it jumped from 5MP to 8MP.
The front facing camera will surely get an update: right now this is a measly 1.2MP compared to 7MP on the iPad Air.
Apple Pencil and Keyboard options
We suspect that compatibility with the wonderful second-gen Apple Pencil could arrive in this generation as it arrived on the iPad Air back in September 2020.
It’s likely that the iPad mini will continue to just be compatible with Bluetooth keyboards, unless Apple designs a Smart Keyboard Folio specifically for that smaller device (unlikely we think due to a smaller size keyboard being hard to type on).
Lightning or USB-C
We may see the iPad mini move from Lightning to USB-C for charging, as was the case with the iPad Air in 2020.
Apple may also upgrade the 2019 mini’s stereo to quad speakers, something that’s been offered on the Pro range since 2015.
For in-depth analysis and testing of the current mini model, read our iPad mini (2019) review.
For more information about what Apple will launch in 2021 read: New Apple products guide to what’s coming out in 2021