Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Apple’s new iPad Air could be in trouble

iPad Air 5 seen from the back and held in hand.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If everything goes according to plan, Apple is set to unveil new iPads on Tuesday, May 7. It’s been a while since the last iPad release in October 2022, so expectations are incredibly high for those eagerly waiting to buy a new Apple tablet.

I typically purchase the iPad Pro and own the current 11-inch model, and I am curious about Apple’s plans for this product line. However, most people are probably more interested in the upcoming iPad Air lineup in 2024. Both lineups are getting a refresh next week. In recent years, the iPad Air has been positioned between the budget-priced iPad and the top-of-the-line iPad Pro, making it a popular choice for many.

However, the biggest drawback of the iPad Air has always been its size. Unlike the iPad Pro lineup, which has long included two sizes, 11 inches and 12.9 inches, the iPad Air has been restricted to just one — a tablet measuring 10.9 inches diagonally. This has been a disadvantage for many creatives who need a larger-sized iPad, but cannot afford the iPad Pro.

Things on this front are about to change, however. Apple is expected to reveal two new iPad Air models for the first time. In addition to a 2024 10.9-inch model, the company is poised to announce a 12.9-inch model. This move is undoubtedly a direct response to the needs of creatives who require a bigger screen, but are on a budget, and it will open up new possibilities and opportunities. It’s an exciting move on paper, but I’m also a bit nervous about it.

Will Apple stick the landing?

Using the Apple iPad Air 5.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Display quality and the chipset will likely be the critical differences between this year’s iPad Pro and iPad Air lineups.

The new iPad Pro models are expected to debut OLED technology for the first time. In contrast, the new iPad Air models will either include less expensive LCD, or we could see the larger model offer mini-LED. It’s worth noting that the current iPad Pro lineup features an LCD on the 11-inch model and a mini LED on the 12.9-inch version.

Looking beyond the display quality, the 2024 iPad Pro and iPad Air lineups are likely to be distinguished by their chips, a factor that could significantly impact the user experience. The iPad Air lineup might feature the M3, currently found on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac models. At the same time, the iPad Pros could introduce an all-new M4 chip that promises even more power and efficiency.

What does the future hold for the iPad Air?

Introducing superior displays and chips on the new iPad Pro models will likely justify Apple charging even higher prices for this lineup. This move will likely create a significant price gap between the new iPad Pro and iPad Air models. However, the extent of this price difference will largely depend on how much higher the prices of this year’s iPad Pro models will be compared to the current generation.

The 11-inch iPad Pro currently starts at $799, while the 12.9-inch model begins at $1,099. This compares to $599 for the least expensive iPad Air.

The backs of Apple's iPad Air and iPad Pro, with the tablets place on a table.
Digital Trends

There were earlier rumors that suggested the starting price of the 11-inch iPad Pro model would be $1,500, and the 12.9-inch model would start at $1,800. However, these prices never made sense, even during high inflation. More recent rumors suggest that the price hikes for the iPad Pro would not exceed $160. Assuming Apple charges an additional $200 per device, the least expensive 11-inch iPad Pro would cost $999, with the least costly 12.9-inch iPad Pro making the jump to $1,299.

What does the future hold for the iPad Air? If Apple keeps the prices unchanged, the 10.9-inch model would remain $599. And considering there is a $300 difference between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, the larger iPad Air could then start at $899.

Apple could also decide to add around $200 to the price of every new iPad Pro and iPad Air model. In that case, the next 10.9-inch iPad Air would start at $799, while the 12.9-inch model would be $1,099. In this case, the new lineup would be:

  • 10.9-inch iPad Air, $799
  • 11-inch iPad Pro, $999
  • 12.9-inch iPad Air, $1,099
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro, $1,299

I am concerned about how Apple might further differentiate the iPad Air from the iPad Pro to increase its profits. At present, both models differ in terms of camera quality, authentication methods, and other factors. I hope those differences don’t remain, especially if Apple intends to charge $799 for an iPad Air. Differences that extend beyond chipset and display quality would be less of a factor if Apple keeps iPad Air prices at 2022 levels.

We will know soon enough. Apple’s May 7 event kicks off at 7 a.m. PT. You can stream the event live or later in the day via Apple’s website, on X (formerly Twitter), and through the company’s YouTube account.

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