The current iPad Air was introduced in March last year, adding the M1 chip, Center Stage on the front-facing camera, a faster USB-C port, and several new color options, but it was still a fairly minor upgrade over the previous model from September 2020. As we near a year and a half since the fifth-generation iPad Air was introduced, what can users expect from the sixth-generation model and when will it launch?
As of 2023, it has been some time since the iPad Air had a major hardware refresh. Yet due to its positioning between the entry-level iPad and the iPad Pro, it is not immediately clear what a new iPad Air model could gain without cannibalizing the iPad Pro.
There have been few concrete rumors about the features the next iPad Air will offer as yet, so the overall picture of what to expect is still somewhat fluid. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has repeatedly said that an iPad Air update this year with a minor “spec bump” is not out of the question, suggesting that the upgrade will be fairly iterative, targeting several small but significant areas.
A chip upgrade is the most certain feature coming to the next iPad Air. The iPad Air currently contains the M1 chip. There have been no reports about what chip the next-generation iPad Air will feature, but the M2 chip has now been in the iPad Pro for almost a year, meaning that it should be more than suitable for the iPad Air. For comparison, the M1 chip was present in the previous-generation iPad Pro for 11 months before it came to to the iPad Air. There is even the possibility that it could skip the M2 and get the M3 chip instead, depending on the timing of its release.
A minor spec bump is also likely to include upgrades to the front and rear cameras, potentially bringing features like Photonic Engine to the iPad for the first time. ProRes video recording, Audio zoom, stereo audio recording, Portrait mode, and Portrait Lighting support are all plausible upgrades in this area.
A horizontally oriented front-facing camera and a Thunderbolt port are among the other potential features for the sixth-generation iPad Air. The latest iPad Pro models brought connectivity upgrades like Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 to the iPad for the first time. By now, these capabilities are overdue to make their way to the iPad Air. Similarly, Apple Pencil hover, another iPad Pro-exclusive feature, could finally trickle down to the iPad Air in its next incarnation.
A new iPad Air launching this year is certainly more likely than a new iPad Pro emerging, but Apple historically has only updated the device around every two years. While a refresh to add the M2 chip is certainly possible in 2023, it may be more probable that Apple will again wait two years to update the device and target 2024 for a more worthwhile upgrade.
Last month, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that new iPad models are “unlikely” to launch this year, seemingly leaning into a 2024 launch for the next-generation iPad Air. However, a reliable Weibo leaker recently said that the sixth-generation iPad Air should launch in October as the only iPad refresh of 2023, with “no mini and Pro this year.”
More strikingly, on a September episode of The MacRumors Show podcast, Mark Gurman said that there is a new iPad Air with improved specifications in the works and the device is apparently “coming soonish,” likely this month. As such, the sixth-generation iPad Air appears to now be pending release, meaning that a launch in the near future cannot yet be ruled out. If a month passes with no such occurrence, the first half of 2024 will become the most likely scenario.
This article, “iPad Air 6: Potential New Features and Launch Timing” first appeared on MacRumors.com
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