iPad mini Leaks — Tiny Air Incoming?

Redesigned A14 iPad mini with… maybe no Home button? Updated M2 iPad Pro with a glass back for MagSafe charging! Thinner iPad 9 and, yeah, oh yeah, AirPower. Take 3. Again.

Let’s do this!

Mark Gurman and Debbie Wu writing for Bloomberg. Apple is planning to release the new iPad pro in 2022 and the iPad mini later this year. And that makes the kind of sense that mostly does. Apple was updating the iPad pro every 18 months but then this last time they updated it in the spring of 2020, and now the spring of 2021. So whether they go to spring 2022 and keep that 12 month cadence, or they wait until fall of 2022 and go back to the 18 month cadence either way that would be just well within the next year window. The iPad mini though, hasn't been upgraded as aggressively as the other iPads in quite a while. So either way anyway getting a new iPad mini even if it's later this year, it's just about time. The updated iPad mini is planned to have narrower screen borders.

And yeah because the iPad mini is currently the only premium iPad, the only modern iPad that is no longer very modern that hasn't gotten its redesign. So whether it's Thanos snapping those bezels in half like the iPad pro or just in quarter, like the iPad air which is my guess as to what's gonna happen it just needs that redesign. While the removal of the home button has also been tested testing the removal of the home button sounds weird though. Apple knows how to remove home buttons. They've removed them from everything. From the smallest iPhone to the biggest iPad. Removing home buttons over the last few years is what Apple does. Whether it's face ID or maybe more likely touch ID in the power button. Like we just saw on the new iPad air. Technologically that's just a done deal, but whether or not Apple's testing keeping the iPad mini as a premium iPad or maybe dropping it down to be sort of an entry-level, low cost iPad like the iPad nothing that retains its home button to keep those costs down maybe that's something they're testing.

But if my opinion counts for everything just keep the iPad mini premium all the way and yoke that home button completely away. The main design change and testing for the iPad pro is a switch to a glass back from the current aluminum enclosure in part to enable wireless charging for the first time. This is interesting because you don't need an entirely glass back for inductive charging. You may not even want an entirely glass back just for inductive charging. What you want is a sweet spot just centered on the Apple logo so you have an easy target and then the magnets, just make it big enough for the magnets to latch on around the edges and then reinforce it so that the cut-out doesn't suddenly become a point of structural weakness, like a folding point. So if Apple is going to glass that is an industrial design decision continuing to just move that retro future chic design language forward.

And it does fill me with a little bit of anxiety. But material sciences in general, physics in general is a jerk. And just like metal bends and plastic cracks and ceramics shatter, glass breaks. So you've just got to pick your substance and then mitigate against it as best you can. And maybe Apple thinks some application of ceramic shield or similar technologies will end up making a better product. Wireless charging will likely be slower than directly plugging in a charger to the iPad's Thunderbolt port. And I'm curious about the use of the term likely here. I don't know if it's just more hedging or it's implying that there'll be some kind of technological leap at least attempted here because we have seen some companies go with multiple cells, specifically two cells and charge them in parallel. And you do lose slightly some capacity there but you gain the ability to charge at basically twice the speed. And then theoretically, you could do it at four times the speed with four cells. And some companies just have zero F's to give about this at all. And they'll let you charge at ridiculous speeds that will burn down the battery health and longevity of your device, but look really, really great on boxes and tweets.

But Apple has historically been really conservative about battery life and wants to maintain the battery health of their devices for years and years and years. But it's also great that there's just nothing here about them deleting any more ports on the iPad pro at least anytime soon. Apple is also trying out technology called reverse wireless charging that would allow users to charge their iPhone or other gadgets by laying them on the back of the tablet. We've seen that from other companies already as well. You can drop earbuds or a watch on the back of your Samsung phone and it'll just charge them up at the expense of your phone's battery life and not optimized really in any way. So you lose more power than you gain. But in a pinch it's a really helpful feature especially with a battery as big as you get in an iPad pro.

In addition to the next generation iPad pro and iPad mini Apple is also working on a thinner version of its entry-level iPad planned to be released as early as the end of the year. And that too just makes all the kind of sense that does because we've seen Apple updating the iPad every year on the year for the last few years. Apple keeps taking the technologies that they've been introducing and paying down in the higher end iPads and then pushing those down into the entry level iPads. Everything from the Apple pencil to the smart keyboard, to the larger displays. So the only real question remaining is when Apple will do that major transition to the more modern design with the smaller bezels and the Apple pencil too.

And a version of the magic keyboard because all this says is thinner. So could be a thinner version of the previous iPad air which should be around a 10.5 inch screen but still include a home button. And then maybe it doesn't go to the iPad pro 2018 style design until the iPad pro 2022 takes that to the next level. Apple is still exploring a future wireless charger that works similarly to its failed Airpower.

And yet that is also complicated by the Apple watch where everything else is Qi standard charging. And even third-party vendors have made mats now that charge multiple versions of Qi standard devices that Apple watch which draws more power than Qi but also has that more distinctive magnetic locking mechanism for it's much smaller puck. That increases the complexity quite a lot, especially if you can arbitrarily place the Apple watch down everywhere and Apple doesn't make a specific divot or extension expressly for the Apple watch. It is also internally investigating alternative wireless charging methods that can work over greater distances than an inductive connection. Which is something, we've seen other companies more openly, more publicly experiment with and work on as well. And it's pretty much still science fiction at this point and has an incredible amount of challenges to overcome because of what I said at the beginning because of physics being kind of a jerk.