When will the iPad Air 3 come out? And what new features should we expect from Apple's next 9.7-inch iPad?
Apple recently announced the latest addition to the iPad line-up, but it wasn't the new iPad Air 3 we were expecting. Instead, Apple has added a 9.7-inch iPad Pro to the mix, with improved specs, design tweaks and more. Does this mean Apple has finished with the iPad Air line, sticking to Pro branding for both 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPads in future? Or will it carry on releasing 9.7-inch iPads in both Pro and Air configurations, much as it does with the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro? It could go either way.
iPad Air 3 release date rumours: When will the iPad Air 3 come out?
We originally predicted an October 2015 launch for the iPad Air 3, based on past behaviour from Apple. The iPad Air 2 was unveiled to journalists on 16 October 2014; The iPad Air 1 was announced on 22 October 2013, and released at the start of November. This is Apple's standard iPad release schedule, and the announcement of iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 on 8 June, same as every year, suggested that things were proceeding as usual.
But 2015 was a surprising year for iPad announcements. At Apple's September press briefing, where we would traditionally expect to hear about iPhones, iPhones and more iPhones, the company risked overshadowing the first sighting of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus by unveiling the iPad Pro (and then slipping out the iPad mini 4, which is actually a far more valuable and appealing update than last year's iPad mini 3). But there was no sign of the next mid-size iPad Air. Apple instead refreshed its mid-size iPad range the following March, when it unveiled the iPad Pro 9.7in.
We think it's likely that Apple will launch new iPads of some kind in autumn 2016, quite possibly alongside the iPhone 7. But whether this will include new 9.7-inch models is harder to call: Apple may choose to split its tablet refreshes into two yearly events, just as we expect it to update the 4-inch iPhone in spring and the 4.7 and 5.5-inch iPhones in autumn. September 2016 is the earliest we'd expect the iPad Air 3 to appear, but right now March 2017 seems likelier.
We thought that the appearance of the iPad Air 3 could've been possible at WWDC 2016 which took place recently, as even though WWDC is a software-led conference, it has happened in the past. Plus, if the iPad Air 3 had a strong software tie-in with iOS 10, why not show it off at the same time? Of course, the event has come and gone and Apple chose not to unveil the iPad Air 3, which leaves us with one more possible window - autumn 2016.
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