Generally, the iPad Air isn’t the subject of a lot of speculation and rumors. But this year, there are some excited whisperings about Apple’s upcoming mid-range tablet, from a new design to a new connector. If you’re wondering what might be in store for the iPad Air 2020, here’s what we might have to look forward to this year.

The short list

  • Release date: The week of September 14 (unconfirmed)
  • Price: $599 and up (rumor)
  • New features: 10.8-inch Edge-to-edge display, Apple Pencil 2 support, Touch ID in the sleep/wake button, USB-C (rumor)
  • Colors: Space Gray, Silver, Gold, Green, Blue (rumor)

iPad Pro-style design

Perhaps the most substantial rumor surrounding the iPad Air 4 concerns its design, and, consequently, its display. The current iPad Air 3 features a 10.5-inch display. The iPad Air 2020 is rumored to bump that up to 10.8 inches, though this primarily seems to be a consequence of its new design.

The upcoming iPad Air is said to take its design cues from the current iPad Pro, and if this leaked manual is anything to go by, that’s precisely what will happen. The manual shows a device with the same flat sides and screen with rounded corners.

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There are still some unknowns when it comes to this design, assuming the manual leak is accurate. For instance: how big is the tablet itself, not just the screen. The iPad Air 3 essentially uses the chassis of the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro, minus two sets of speaker grills, but it has a 10.5-inch display. The current smaller iPad Pro has an 11-inch display, just 0.2 inches wider than the rumored iPad Air display. Will the iPad Air be the same physical size as the iPad Pro, with slightly thicker bezels leading to a slightly smaller display?

And going back to the speaker grills, will the iPad Air 4 have two or four speakers. I’m guessing that it will have two. For one thing, if this manual leak is correct, then the sleep/wake button is notably longer than that of the iPad Pro, to the degree that it would run into the speaker grill if it were that large on the iPad Pro. Additionally, Apple really seems to want to keep the quad-speaker setup exclusive to the iPad Pro line.

Touch ID is on the move

There’s another design element in the iPad Air 4 that needs to be discussed: the Home button. Or rather, the lack of one.

In adopting the iPad Pro design language, the iPad Air would be ditching the Home button in favor of a thin-bezel, edge-to-edge screen. But according to, again, the leak of a supposed iPad Air manual, Touch ID will still be present on the new iPad Air 4.

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But if not on the front of the iPad Air, then where will Touch ID go? Well, the manual shows us an elongated sleep/wake button, which is supposedly going to house Touch ID, too. While this would be a brand new Touch ID sensor for Apple, one much thinner than the previous, Home button-bound sensor, but hopefully, Apple has done the work to make it just as reliable. I would guess that a lot of emphases will be placed on reorienting your finger during the setup process to give Touch ID the best look at your finger that it can get.

The continued inclusion of Touch ID would also seem to indicate that Face ID won’t be found on the iPad Air 4. While some (including myself) may be disappointed to hear that, it could be a measure to keep the overall cost of the device down.

Apple Pencil 2 support

Another aspect of adopting the iPad Pro design language in the iPad Air 2020 is that it would finally let support for the Apple Pencil 2 expand down to lower-cost iPads. Long an iPad Pro-exclusive, the Apple Pencil 2 currently requires the flat-edge design of the iPad Pro to charge and attach to the tablet.

This is actually a bit of speculation on my part. One thing currently leaks leave unclear is whether or not the iPad Air 2020 will have the same magnetic inductive charging area on one side that the iPad Pro does. This area is where the Apple Pencil magnetically attaches to the iPad for storage and charging.

It would make sense for the iPad Air 4 to support the Apple Pencil 2, as it is also rumored to be losing its Lightning port, which the first-generation Apple Pencil uses to charge. Instead, the iPad Air 2020 is said to utilize USB-C.

USB-C comes down the line

Since 2018, the iPad Pro line has come equipped with a single USB-C port in place of the Lightning connector it used to have. Now, USB-C is reportedly making its way down the line to the iPad Air 2020.

It would be great to see USB-C come to the iPad Air. A lower-cost alternative to the iPad Pro that still has USB-C would be desirable to businesses, students, and more. USB-C allows for faster file transfers and enables you to use a broader range of accessories, including some that haven’t been approved by Apple.

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Whether you’re connecting a hard drive, a USB microphone, or just want to perform iPad backups on your Mac more quickly, USB-C would be a most welcome addition to the iPad Air 2020.

Processor

There’s very little in the rumor mill right now as to what system-on-a-chip the iPad Air 2020 is expected to have. The current iPad Air uses an Apple A12 Bionic, the same chip found in the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max in 2018.

If I had to guess, I’d say the iPad Air 4 will be powered by the A13 system-on-a-chip. I don’t think Apple’s going to debut the as-yet-unannounced A14 before it launches its new iPhones, and all indications are the iPhones will be unveiled after the iPad Air. I also think Apple will go with the A13 to keep costs down on the iPad Air.

Some speculate that Apple wouldn’t put an A13 in the iPad Air 4 while the current iPad Pro is still using an A12 variant because it’ll make the iPad Pro look underpowered. I would submit to you that Apple doesn’t care what it looks like, the iPad Air 2020 is going to sell in greater numbers than the iPad Pro anyway and always was, and it’s only a matter of time before the iPad Pro is refreshed with a powerful variant on the A14 (current rumors put that at early-mid 2021).

And of course, at the 11th hour, a new rumor (from Kang on Weibo, via AppleTrack) claims that the iPad Air will, in fact, pack the A14. It should be noted that according to AppleTrack, Kang has a 95% track record, though they only started posting leaks earlier this year, and most of them have to do with software, rather than hardware.

Well, this wouldn’t exactly be unprecidented. While for the last eight years Apple has elected to introduce its new systems-on-chips with the new iPhone, the first two such chips, the A4 and A5, debuted with the iPad and iPad 2, respectively. While it would certainly be unusual given the modern way Apple does things, where in most years the A14 would be announced alongside the new iPhone, 2020 is certainly a year to do things differently.

Pricing

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that iPad Air pricing is likely to remain reasonably static. Currently, the iPad Air 3 starts at $499 for a 64GB Wi-Fi-only model, and that’s where I expect it to stay, despite the new design and Touch ID sensor.

At most, I could imagine Apple raising the starting price of the iPad Air to $599, but any higher, and you’re getting into iPad Pro territory. I think it’s more likely that some of the choices that Apple has reportedly made (Touch ID, reusing the 11-inch iPad Pro chassis, and probably starting at 64GB of storage) are designed to keep the iPad Air 2020 at the standard price of $499.

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And wouldn’t you know it, Kang’s recent Weibo leak points to the iPad Air 4 starting at $599, which I guess would make sense if Apple’s doing both this redesign and using the brand new A14 chip inside. Maybe the iPad Air will even start with 128GB of storage? Well, a man can dream, can’t he?

Release date

A new Apple event is coming! Apple is holding a virtual event on September 15 at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT). While, of course, we won’t know the subjects of this event until Apple announces them, rumors are pointing to this being an Apple Watch/iPad Air-only event, with nary an iPhone in sight.

With this in mind, that gives us, I think, two possible order dates, and one in-store (as much as possible) release date.

First, I think it’s highly possible that Apple puts the iPad Air 4 on sale directly after the event. That would mean that orders open on September 15. The company has done that sort of thing in the past, especially with devices like the iPad Air and the Apple Watch. If orders start right after the event, there is a possibility that the iPad Air 4 arrives in stores on Friday, September 18, but I suspect that it would actually arrive a little later than that.

Another highly likely scenario is that orders up later in the week. I would guess that would happen on Friday, September 18. Should orders open on September 18, I would peg Friday, September 25, as the day that the new iPad Air actually arrives on doorsteps and on store shelves. In fact, I think September 25 is the likely date for that anyway, even if orders start right after the event.

Stand by for an Apple announcement

The supposed iPad Air/Apple Watch event is just a week away. Remember that while all of this is based on several trustworthy rumors, leaks, and informed speculation, nothing is confirmed until Apple announces it.

If you have any questions about the iPad Air 2020, let us know in the comments.

Updated September 14, 2020: Added info from the latest rumors from Kang on Weibo.

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