Whether or not Apple plans to unveil any new hardware products at its first-ever virtual WWDC event later today, one thing the Cupertino-based tech giant is definitely not preparing to release anytime soon is yet another iPad Pro generation.
That's because the latest 11 and 12.9-inch models are only a few months old, which however hasn't stopped multiple industry analysts and prolific leakers from repeatedly predicting a refresh of sorts would go official by the end of the year.
It might not make a lot of sense for the company to rush out a new edition of its high-end tablets just six or nine months after the previous one, but you have to remember the early 2020-released iPad Pro 11 and 12.9 didn't actually bring many meaningful upgrades to the table.
We're talking a third rear-facing camera (also known as a LiDAR scanner) that can do a number of cool things... with a fledgling technology that still needs a lot of work, a "new" A12Z Bionic processor that strongly resembles the old A12X model in terms of raw power, and little else of substance.
The next generation, meanwhile, could make use of a vastly improved Apple A14X chipset, support optional 5G connectivity, and leave LCD screen technology behind in favor of something called Mini-LED. As the name suggests, that latter feature would basically employ tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to enable a higher overall contrast ratio, deeper blacks, and other noticeable improvements compared to conventional LCDs (liquid-crystal displays) while saving costs over the potential use of OLED technology.
In theory, that sounds like the best of both the LCD and OLED worlds, but in reality, the panel design was reportedly described as too complex a few months ago for Apple and its suppliers to pull off the initial late 2020 release goal.
Still, it seems as though LG has managed to quickly overcome this "complexity", gearing up to supply the necessary Mini-LED displays for a 12.9-inch iPad Pro launch in the "fourth quarter at the earliest." The next-gen giant is purportedly in "trial production" already, with long-time Apple partner Foxconn set as the assembler of all the parts manufactured by companies as diverse as TSMT, Epistar, and the aforementioned LG Display.
Even if everything goes smoothly from now on for Apple's fifth-gen iPad Pro 12.9, Q1 2021 feels like the most plausible release timeline. After all, this is not a company known for rushing out new and groundbreaking technologies before performing exhaustive testing and quality control.
Besides, we're still in the middle of a pandemic that threatens to disturb the regular iPhone launch schedule this fall, so Apple may have more pressing supply chain issues to deal with than yet another addition to the world's most popular tablet family.
Interestingly, today's report mentions nothing about a prospective 11-inch iPad Pro variant with Mini-LED display technology. That means we might have to wait a little longer for that, a theory directly or indirectly corroborated by a number of previous rumors.
We also shouldn't disregard the possibility of a fall 2020 release for an Apple A14X-powered iPad Pro variant with 5G support ahead of a spring 2021 debut for this "full refresh" with Mini-LED. That would be a pretty scattered strategy, but it's definitely something to take into consideration at this point.