October 3, 2023

Apple’s iPad lineup still hasn’t seen any new additions in 2023, even with new iPhones and Apple Watches coming this week. And based on reports so far, there may not be any iPads at all for the rest of the year, making 2023 Apple’s first year without a new iPad since its debut in 2010.

Recent reports from Mark Gurman, a reliable Apple reporter at Bloomberg, point to a new line of iPad Pro models coming in 2024 with a wider range of updates than the high-end tablet lineup has seen in years, including OLED displays, new keyboard accessories and new M3 processors similar to what Apple is expected to unveil in its next generation of Macs. Extremely reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also recently added that new iPads of any kind are unlikely this year, pointing to delays for the rest of the lineup.

There’s always a chance Apple might announce iPads like it often does in October, but even if that happens, it still might still be best to hold off on buying any new iPads until these new models arrive…whenever that happens.

In 2022, there were four new iPads: the iPad Air in the spring, and 10th-gen model and iPad Pros at the end of October.

Sales on existing iPads could make sense for budget shoppers this year, but waiting it out through October, if you can, makes the most obvious sense.

Will we see entry-level upgrades in 2023? Wait and see

The current iPad Pro lineup is expensive, currently starting out at $800, and that’s without a single accessory. If you’re considering a high-end iPad, something that can be a fancy tablet computer, by all means, wait on splurging. 

On the other hand, most people just want a more affordable iPad, and those models could get minor upgrades this fall. The obvious candidates would be a new iPad Air, which could introduce a better M2 processor and maybe better front camera placement for video chats, much like the 10th-gen iPad did last year.

If Apple made these upgrades happen, the Air could end up being a better device than the iPad Pro for most people, especially if the price was reasonable. That’s how I felt about the M1-equipped Air when it arrived, and it’s still my favorite personal iPad model, although its price is still far from “budget.”

Entry-level iPad shoppers, well, the good news is that last year’s 10th-gen model, if it’s on sale, is a great choice for most. The aging 9th-gen model could be worth it on sale as well, but I wonder about Apple possibly making it obsolete in 2024.

A travel video playing on a tablet sitting on a table covered in desk supplies.

Samsung already moved its tablet lineup to OLED displays this summer.

Scott Stein/CNET

2024 iPad Pro: OLED, M3 chip, new keyboard and $$$ 

According to Gurman in his recent newsletter, the 13- and 11-inch iPad Pro models expected next year will finally shift to OLED displays instead of Mini LED, a move companies like Samsung have already done for their tablets. Apple’s iPhones already use OLED displays for better contrast ratios, HDR and more dynamic color. Using OLED for the next iPad Pros could deliver the same results. 

A chip upgrade to Apple’s still-unreleased but expected M3 processor should obviously give another performance boost, but the current iPad Pros are already very fast in my experience.

Finally, there’s a design change expected for Apple’s own Magic Keyboard accessory, which may connect and open more like a regular laptop (or Brydge’s previous iPad keyboard accessories) and have a larger trackpad.

None of these changes are groundbreaking, and they may not change the way pro iPad users work. But they’ll likely be welcome upgrades to wait for. They could also result in a reevaluation of the rest of the iPad lineup.

If 2024 is the design-shift moment for the iPads, then 2023 inevitably ends up feeling like the tail end of what’s already out there — especially since the iPad Air and entry-level iPads tend to receive trickle-down upgrades from the Pro line.

An iPad in keyboard case with multiple apps open

iPadOS 17 has some M1 and M2-optimized features, but could iPadOS 18 next year make more of the newer Pro processors?

Scott Stein/CNET

Will Apple evolve iPadOS further?

We already know what iPadOS 17 can do. By all means, download it on your iPad: it has some improved multitasking, a lot of subtle additions and customizable home screens, but in many ways, it’s more of the same. Apple keeps creeping MacOS and iPadOS closer together without the two actually merging, despite iPad Pro and Mac models sharing similar processors. 

There’s always the possibility Apple could move the iPad Pro lineup further into Mac-esque territory, but that will rely on software changes, not hardware. The iPad Pro is already plenty powerful. Still, if you’re hoping to get the future of Apple iPads, again, it sounds like 2024 will be the year.

There’s no perfect iPad at the moment

Currently, there’s no “absolutely perfect” iPad. The most affordable iPad has outdated features, namely a Lightning port instead of USB-C, as well as an older processor. The 10th-gen iPad comes close, but it’s more expensive and still uses the older first-gen Pencil like its entry-level linemate, which is odd. The iPad Air and Pro models don’t have the improved front camera placement of the 10th-gen model, which really helps for Zoom and other video chats when using it in landscape mode with a keyboard.

Maybe Apple will resolve its entry-to-midrange lineup later this fall and help make decisions a bit easier. But on the iPad Pro front, it’s looking likely that there won’t be anything at all, leaving shoppers to wait until 2024 to really weigh the differences between whatever Apple introduces next and the rest of the lineup.

It’s always hard to wait, but if you’re holding out for a really “new” iPad, this may not be your year. However, if you’re budget shopping, you may not care about that anyway.

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