Apple could release its first 5G iPad Pro in late 2020, followed by a 'full refresh' in 2021
But the main reason why the Cupertino-based tech giant could be planning an additional refresh of its high-end tablet lineup in 2020 is reportedly 5G connectivity rather than an Apple A14X SoC. Of course, the next-gen chip would be required to handle the power-consuming needs of the enhanced cellular technology expected to become standard in both the smartphone and tablet arenas... eventually, so Apple probably can't have one without the other.
Don't think of this as a full refresh
the 2018 generation, Jon Prosser over on Twitter claims the 5G upgrade will not be a "full refresh."While it may sound surprising (or even sketchy) that Apple is planning to release two different iPad Pro editions within nine months (tops) after waiting a full year and a half to replace
In other words, it's obviously unlikely that Apple will replace the just-unveiled A12Z-powered iPad Pro family with a full A14X lineup. So, no, you probably won't be able to buy a Wi-Fi-only iPad Pro packing an Apple A14X SoC anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter.
Instead, Apple is most likely considering keeping the Wi-Fi-only and 4G LTE-enabled iPad Pro 11 and 12.9 (2020) around while expanding the family "towards the end of this year" with 5G-capable models powered by the aforementioned A14X processor. By the way, we don't know a lot about that next-gen chipset, but if the name sounds familiar, it might be because other insiders and publications have mentioned it before in relation to the first 5G iPad.
This pioneer was initially rumored to see daylight no earlier than 2021, but then the late 2020 timeline started gaining steam to coincide with the release of the first 5G-enabled iPhone roster. Of course, nothing's etched in stone just yet, and while Prosser has repeatedly proven reliable in the recent past, his own tweet highlights "further delays" are always a possibility, especially in today's uncertain political and economic climate.
A 2021 iPad Pro is also in the cards
Because the late 2020 iPad Pros are expected to look pretty much identical to the early 2020 variants, sharing everything in common (both inside and out) apart from the aforementioned A14X SoC and an unknown 5G modem, it shouldn't come as a huge shock that Apple is purportedly planning to roll out another "full refresh" sometime next year.
That kind of crowded release schedule is definitely a little unusual, but the company may have at least one big reason to rush the next iPad Pro generation out the door. We're talking about a substantial display technology upgrade that many expected to happen this year.
While the latest 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pros come with stunning "Liquid Retina" displays rocking "industry-leading color accuracy", 120Hz ProMotion, and True Tone capabilities, these haven't yet made the jump from LCD to an OLED technology widely considered superior in many ways.
But the 2021 edition could adopt something called Mini LED (not be confused with MicroLED), which is a groundbreaking technology that promises vastly improved contrast ratios and deeper blacks compared to regular LCD panels while keeping productions costs relatively low compared to OLED screens. Interestingly, Digitimes (via MacRumors) contradicts this part of Jon Prosser's rumored timeline, predicting a Q4 2020 iPad Pro release with "Mini LED backlighting."
Whether or not that will end up being the case, Apple is expected to favor Mini LED over OLED technology for its "medium-size devices" (aka iPads) in the long run.