With Apple’s tablet sales in decline, all eyes are now on an expected iPad refresh coming in March, the so-called iPad Air 3.
Officially, Apple hasn’t said a word about the next 9.7-inch consumer iPad, but several hints from its supply chain have pointed to a hefty upgrade for the device, with many features that could be borrowed from the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, released in November 2015. Here’s what to look for in Apple’s upcoming tablet:
Apple’s next 9.7-inch tablet could take a page out of the iPad Pro’s playbook by including a smart connector, a physical connector located on the side of the iPad. This would enable the tablet to use smart keyboard covers developed by Apple or third-party accessory makers, such as Logitech, according to leaked renderings obtained by Engadget.
The smart connector was introduced with the iPad Pro in 2015. Prior to its launch, customers had to rely on connecting a keyboard to their iPad via a Lightning connector or Bluetooth. With the latter option, the keyboards also required their own battery pack, whereas the iPad Pro’s smart connector provides both a data connection and power between the accessory and the tablet. While the general size of the iPad Air 3 is expected to remain the same, there could be some slight size differences, with 0.05 mm added to its thickness and a 0.1 mm to its width.
Rear LED Flash
Since the iPad 2’s release in 2011, Apple has included a built-in camera in all of its tablet lines. But one feature that's been missing is a way to light the shots taken with the tablet in dimly lit situations. With the iPad Air 3, this could change with the addition of a dedicated LED flash built into the tablet’s rear case, according to schematics obtained by French Apple blog Nowhereelse.fr.
— NWE (@NowhereElseFr) January 25, 2016
Another feature that Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet may borrow from the iPad Pro is four speakers, one at each corner of the device, to produce louder stereo sound. The feature, which debuted in the iPad Pro, was built directly into the 12.9-inch tablet and automatically adjusts how it outputs sound based on the orientation of the device.
Apple Pencil Support
In addition to many features that mirror the iPad Pro, Apple’s upcoming tablet may also take on support for the $99 Apple Pencil, according to 9to5Mac. The pencil is a specially designed iPad stylus that is pressure-sensitive and enables users to shade drawings based on the tilt of the instrument. While some styluses are charged using an external USB cable, the pencil can be recharged with the iPad’s built-in Lightning port.
Display, RAM and Processor Upgrades
Apple may bump up the screen resolution of the iPad Air 2 from 2048x1536 pixels to 4K resolution — about four times as many pixels as a 1080p display, according to Taiwan’s Digitimes. To help power the higher-resolution screen and apps, Apple could also include up to 4GB in memory. A chip based on the iPhone 6S A9 is also expected for the tablet.
Apple is expected to unveil the iPad Air 3 during a March 15 media event, which may also include a 4-inch “iPhone 5se” and new Apple Watch bands. The 4-inch smartphone is expected to replace the iPhone 5S and come with features such as the Apple Pay mobile payment system, faster processor and upgraded camera. Both devices are expected to go on sale March 18, three days after the event, according to 9to5Mac.