When it comes to questions about new iPad models and updates to existing hardware, I get more questions and comments about the iPad Mini than any other device, hands down. Despite the lack of updates to its design, or even the internals in recent years, this form factor still has a passionate and dedicated following. There were a few rumors that the Mini might get an refresh this Fall before the release of the new iPad Pros, but that obviously didn’t happen. Still, it did offer Mini fans a little bit of hope, because before that, the lack of any news or rumors made it look like the device was headed for a slow fade from the lineup.
Mini looms large?
This week, we have fresh rumors that the iPad Mini will be getting a refresh in early 2019. The China Business Times has reported (in Chinese) that a new Mini will be coming early next year, with the supply chain supposedly ramping up before the close of December. There are no details of physical changes to the device other than the screen, which will be a less expensive display sourced from Korea. Based on Apple’s current relationships, maybe that would be LG?
The new Mini is described as a budget device, which it ironically isn’t in the current lineup despite being the smallest iPad available. The 9.7″ iPad currently comes in s bit cheaper, is more powerful, and more flexible. It also goes on sale for even less quite often. Basically, the only advantage that the current iPad Mini model offers is more memory. You have to really want that smaller form factor to pay a little more for a three year old device.
All that said, the repositioning of the Mini as the budget model iPad would be a smart move. This is especially true in light of the price increase that the iPad Pros got this year and the stagnating sales of the 9.7″ model after strong sales in its first year of existence. With the current 9.7″ iPad starting at $329, another model that comes in between $249 and $299 would be welcomed. Based on this, don’t expect Face ID, slimmer bezels, or any other cosmetic changes. It will get a much-needed bump to the internals, but that’s about it.
If this report of a new iPad Mini are true, then we should start to see more rumors regarding the device pop up pretty soon. The supply chain is never silent. The report seems reasonable to me, as the current lineup pricing really doesn’t make any sense. A new iPad Mini that comes in cheaper than the current 9.7″ model should spur sales, especially among Mini fans who have held onto current hardware and younger users. Basically, the Mini would become the equivalent of the iPod Touch.
The iPad is a 10?
The same report from the China Business Times also has some information about the iPad. At least is sounds like that is the device they are referring to. Supposedly, Apple will be releasing a new 10″ iPad in the second half of 2019. Rather than a brand new device, it is far more likely that this rumored iPad would be a revamped and redesigned version of the current 9.7″ hardware. Apple could accomplish this pretty easily by just slimming down the bezels. At two years old, it’s probably time for a modest refresh.
Again, as with the Mini, this report makes sense. A newer, more modern design should spur some iPad upgrades. The report suggest that this iPad will also be a budget conscious model, so don’t expect Face ID or radically slimmer bezels. However, if Apple could maintain the $329 price point, then this will be a solid next step for the iPad.
This also opens the door for Apple to continue to offer the current 9.7″ iPad at a slightly reduced price. There have been lots of sales and clearance specials on the older 9.7″ model without Pencil support this year, so I would expect the same in 2019 if these reports prove to be true. However, next year’s device would have Pencil support, making it an even stronger value option.
Right now, I think both of these rumors sound reasonable. Both would help clarify and organize the iPad lineup. One would add a true value option and the other may help to nudge the molasses running uphill iPad upgrade cycle forward again. Time will tell, but if the Mini rumor is true, we will know something soon. I know many of you reading this who have been impatiently waiting for Apple to take your money for a new Mini will be very happy if it is.