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iPad Air 3 Rumor Review: Apple slims the iPad Pro down for the masses

Posted: , by Luis D.

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iPad Air 3 Rumor Review: Apple slims the iPad Pro down for the masses

Some of the biggest names in the Android arms race have already had their chance to amaze people at February's MWC 2016 conference in Barcelona. Now, it's Apple's turn to get the crowd going with new iOS-powered action. The rumor birdies keep chirping about an upcoming March 21 event, where Apple will be pulling a hat-trick, announcing a new 4-inch iPhone, presenting the Apple Watch 2, and showcasing the next chapter in the iPad's short, but remarkable history – the iPad Air 3.

This will be pretty huge for tablet lovers, because Android manufacturers – not unlike mobile users themselves – have lost their love for slates and turned their attention towards phablets. And let's not kid ourselves, the newest Surface tablet is awesome, but not everyone wants a Windows device. Thus, Apple is once again poised to retain the tablet crown by introducing the iPad Air 3, which is largely believed to be the iPad Pro in a hands-friendly 9.7-inch format. There's a pretty good chance of this happening just two weeks from now on, so let's have a look at all the intel we've gathered on it!

TL;DR


  • Design – the iPad Air 3 will have a 7000-series aluminum body with four speakers, a Smart Keyboard connector, Pencil support, but no 3D Touch layer. It might be as thin as 5mm, too.

  • Display – Apple might grace a version of the iPad Air 3 with a 9.7-inch, 4K-resolution IPS LCD screen. If that doesn't happen, we take it Apple hasn't forgotten about the 1536 x 2048 resolution screens it likes to put in Retina iPads.

  • Hardware – the tablet will be powered by the A9X chipset with 4GB of RAM, the same configuration as the iPad Pro's. This kind of power in a 9.7-inch tablet is the very definition of "packing a punch."

  • Camera – we believe Apple will keep the 8MP iSight camera with f/2.4 aperture, autofocus, burst mode and panorama. Likewise, the front camera will be a 1.2MP unit for FaceTime video conversations and, you know, tablet selfies.

  • Price and release date – The iPad Air 3 will probably cost the same as the iPad Air 2 at launch. This is $499/$599/$699 for the 16GB/64GB/128GB storage variants. It will be sold in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray for sure, although Apple could add another color scheme. The release will be in April.

Contents

Design

The iPad Air 3 will be styled after its bigger cousin, the iPad Pro, complete with four speakers and a Smart Connector.

The iPad Pro makes for an early peek at the iPad Air 3's look.

The iPad Pro makes for an early peek at the iPad Air 3's look.

At this point, we have no less than three leaked cases and sketches that showcase a 9.7-inch iPad with four speakers placed on its corners. There's also a cutout for a magnetic-powered Smart Connector that's used for connecting the Smart Keyboard accessory, along with an LED flash cutout next to the tablet's rear camera. With the exception of the 9.7-inch display and LED flash, these are all features to be found on the iPad Pro, which brings us to the conclusion that the iPad Air 3 will be styled after its bigger cousin.

The included dimensions in the sketch claim the new tablet will be 0.05mm thicker and 0.1mm wider than the iPad Air 2, which isn't much of a change. Mind you, though, that other rumors claim a smaller battery has let Apple shrink the iPad Air 3's thickness down to just 5mm from the iPad Air 2's 6.1mm. We are skeptical of that, considering the tablet has to carry four speakers and the latest Apple tech. Then again, Apple's thinness-obsessed engineers are probably up for the challenge, so let's not scratch this possibility completely off.

In terms of build quality, Apple will probably craft the iPad Air 3 from the 7000-series aluminium alloy it used for the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and Apple Watch. Then again, neither the iPad Pro, nor the iPad mini 4 – the latest models in the iPad line-up – are made of the special alloy. So there's a possibility that the iPad Air 3 will be made of the regular anodized aluminum used in the previous-generation iOS devices. We don't know whether Apple plans to make the tablet water and dust-proof, although we'll be surely pleased if it happens so.

Also read:


Features

The iPad Air 3 will probably support the Apple Pencil digital stylus, but 3D Touch controls are quite unlikely.

TouchID is a sure bet on the iPad Air 3.

TouchID is a sure bet on the iPad Air 3.

By virtue of the TouchID fingerprint scanner embedded in the tablet's home button, the iPad Air 3 will support biometric security and the Apple Pay service, which is available in the U.S. and headed to Britain in July (other countries are in the plans, too, but the timeframe is unclear).

Additionally, industry sources have said that Apple has been testing 9.7-inch iPad panels with the Apple Pencil digital stylus, which is a pretty good indication that the iPad Air 3 will be compatible with it. At present, the Pencil works exclusively with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

3D Touch support is unlikely. Renowned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo who has a solid track record with Apple predictions has said that production issues will prevent the iPad Air 3 from receiving the feature. Besides, if Apple planned to bring the technology to its tablets anytime soon, it ought to have started with the iPad Pro. The lack of 3D Touch in the bigger tablet is telling enough that the tech will probably come in a future iPad generation.

Specs

With the A9X chipset and 4GB of RAM, the iPad Air 3 could become the most powerful 9.7-inch tablet on the market.

Not just on the outside, the iPad Air 3 will be similar to the iPad Pro on the inside as well! If the rumors turn out to be true, the Air 3 will be the most powerful 9.7-inch tablet on the market. But even if they don't tell the entire truth, the tablet will still be a force to be reckoned with. Here's what we have!

Whatever you throw at it, the A9X chip will handle.

Whatever you throw at it, the A9X chip will handle.

Processor and memory

The rumors mongers claim Apple is bringing in its best tablet hardware for the new iPad Air. A source familiar with matters confirmed to Bloomberg that the iPad Air 3 will be powered by the A9X chipset with 4GB of RAM, which is the iPad Pro's configuration. It would be pretty exciting if Apple really manages to contain this laptop-like hardware horsepower inside a regular-sized tablet. Paired with iOS 9's enhanced multitasking and the wide selection of creative apps in the App Store, the iPad Air 3 will be a great choice for users of all backgrounds.

A little bit for the chip itself. The A9X in the iPad Pro is made by TSMC on a 16nm FinFET process, and a large amount of its die is dedicated to the 12 GPU cores featured in the custom PowerVR 12-cluster Series 7 chip. Combined with the 128-bit memory bus, the A9X is capable of pushing a memory bandwidth of 51.2GB/sec, which is very impressive for mobile hardware.

Apple might bring a 4K display to the tablet, though rumors are murky.

Apple might bring a 4K display to the tablet, though rumors are murky.

Display

One of the wildest rumors swinging its tail claims one of the iPad Air 3 models will ship with a 9.7-inch 4K-resolution IPS LCD screen. This would be equal parts curious and exciting. Apple eschewed 4K support for its flagship home entertainment product, last year's Apple TV box. It also graced the 12.1-inch iPad Pro with a 2732 x 2048 resolution, missing a pretty obvious opportunity to pioneer 4K resolution on its most high-profile tablet. In addition, an ultra high-res display will place considerable performance and battery life demands, so it would be interesting to see how Apple will ride out these challenges.

The 8MP iSight camera will be upgraded with a flash.

The 8MP iSight camera will be upgraded with a flash.

Camera

So far, all of the leaked cases and schematics have portrayed the iPad Air 3 with an LED flash below the rear-facing camera. This will be a significant addition to the tablet's photography potential, allowing higher quality night time shots. Given how much the rumored device resembles the iPad Pro in design and hardware terms, we expect Apple will keep the 8MP iSight camera with f/2.4 aperture, autofocus, burst mode and panorama. Likewise, the front camera could be a 1.2MP unit for FaceTime video conversations and, you know, tablet selfies.

Release date and price


Apple might announce the iPad Air 3 at its March 21 event in Cupertino. There's a strong possibility that the new 4-inch iPhone, and a selection of new wrist bands for the Apple Watch will be revealed as well. Apple might partially introduce the Apple Watch 2, too, before formally presenting the gadget in the fall.

To get a sense for the rumor's credibility, a little bit of history might be in order. Since the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini (both presented in October 2012,) Apple has been announcing its tablets (including the previous two iPad Air generations and the iPad Pro) in October. However, this hasn't always been the case. Up to the third generation iPad, Apple had been announcing tablets in the first quarter – the original iPad was unveiled in January, while the iPad 2 and 3 appeared in March. Thus, the door for the iPad Air 3's March announcement and eventual April release date is very much open.

ModelAnnouncementRelease
iPad (1st gen)January 27, 2010April 3, 2010
iPad 2March 2, 2011March 11, 2011
iPad 3March 7, 2012March 16, 2012
iPad 4October 23, 2012November 2, 2012
iPad AirOctober 22, 2013November 1, 2013
iPad Air 2October 16, 2014October 20, 2014
iPad Air 3March 21TBA

Where prices are concerned, the iPad Air 3 will probably cost the same as the iPad Air 2 at launch. This is $499/$599/$699 for the 16GB/64GB/128GB storage variants. It will be sold in Silver, Gold, and Space Gray for sure, although Apple could add another color scheme – anyone up for a pink iPad?

iPad Air 3 Rumor Review: Apple slims the iPad Pro down for the masses

10 Comments
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posted on 11 Mar 2016, 05:19 4

1. Phonehex (Posts: 58; Member since: 16 Feb 2016)


Wow , Leaked schematics show a rectangle !!! Now thats what I call a true revelation !!

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 05:33 3

2. rantao333 (Posts: 322; Member since: 21 May 2013)


seriously? its start to get so boring and lame.

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 05:45 2

3. SIGPRO (Posts: 1432; Member since: 03 Oct 2012)


Apple is boring......nothing new!

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 06:08 6

4. aesthetics (Posts: 128; Member since: 02 Oct 2014)


Comments like this are more boring...

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 09:07

10. SIGPRO (Posts: 1432; Member since: 03 Oct 2012)


Yes and the people who reply to it are fanboys!

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 10:20 2

11. Brewski (Posts: 350; Member since: 05 Jun 2012)


@SIGPRO, does that mean you are a fanboy?

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 06:14

5. artificialintelligence (Posts: 154; Member since: 05 Dec 2015)


Bought a ipad pro from bestbuy can confirm A9X with 4GB or RAM is a beast but not worth $799 love mines it's like a flat screen TV in your hands

posted on 11 Mar 2016, 10:32

12. Evan_C (Posts: 149; Member since: 15 Dec 2014)


Looking forward to picking up one of these. iPad Pro didn't get my attention.

posted on 12 Mar 2016, 00:18

13. TrevorB1 (Posts: 64; Member since: 30 Dec 2015)


I honestly could care less if they design looks the same. I use Apply only for their Ipads. As long as they keep beefing up the hardware, I will always be interested in their Ipads.

posted on 13 Mar 2016, 15:14

14. oozz009 (Posts: 520; Member since: 22 Jun 2015)


4K resolution on the iPad 3. PA you must be dreaming ailright, their current flagship is the iPad Pro and it does not have 4K, it's closer to 3K and you writers are dreaming about 4K on the iPad Air 3, Hahahhaha, that's hilarious. Won't HAPPEN!! Apple will obviously keep this feauture for the iPad Pro 2 and Air 4 towards the end of 2016 and early 2017.

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