What Apple's next iPad could bring

You've probably already made your back-to-school purchases, but Apple might be delivering a new iPad anyway.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read

The iPad, iPad Air and iPad Pro lineup last year. Smaller bezels and USB-C could be on tap next.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The scramble for getting the perfect computer and tablet for your remote learning or work-from-home setup started almost six months ago. You probably already have a system that works for you, but Apple's upcoming Sept. 15 event could still deliver a new iPad (or iPads) to the mix. If you're shopping for an iPad, wait at least until later today.

Apple's event is coming up later today. and you can get the details for how to watch it live right here.  We're expecting new iPads and Apple Watches, among other things.  

The newest iPad before this was the expensive iPad Pro update in March, which added depth-sensing lidar sensors to the back and an optional new keyboard and trackpad case. Will Apple make an improved entry-level iPad? Will iPads shift to USB-C ? Will better keyboard cases come with them? Well, maybe. 

Here's what we expect (and I want). And, I wish these had arrived, like, a month ago.

A new iPad Air could look a lot like the iPad Pro

The most likely iPad seems to be a redesigned Air that adds the Pro's look and feel. Mark Gurman's most recent Bloomberg report points to a new iPad Air debuting alongside new Apple Watches . Expect a larger, less bezel-filled display with more screen real estate. Also, a processor upgrade (probably an A13, or maybe something else). The newer Air could shift to USB-C for charging instead of Lightning, which would be a huge help for buying standard chargers and other accessories. The Air is expected to still have Touch ID instead of Face ID, however, which could be located in a side button -- and it probably won't have the Pro's depth-sensing lidar sensors.

Could there be an entry level iPad with a spec bump?

The $300-ish basic 10.2-inch iPad currently has an A10 processor, which is pretty old. The 10.2 model could just get a new processor (A12 or better) and instantly be a better device. Hopefully, for app compatibility and performance, this will happen.

Sanho HyperDrive USB-C Hub for iPad Pro

The Sanho HyperDrive USB-C Hub on an iPad Pro. Imagine doing this to all your iPads.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

USB-C across the board would be nice

Lightning is a weird format now for iPads, especially with all the MacBooks using USB-C and Thunderbolt 3. The entire line should shift over, like the iPad Pro, although that would still leave iPhones in the Lightning camp (for now). 


iPad Air (2019), sitting in the Logitech Combo Touch. Will Apple make its own unique case for the new Air?

Scott Stein/CNET

A new keyboard case would help, too

Apple's expensive Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro is pretty fantastic, with a keyboard and trackpad that feel like a laptop. Maybe Apple could create some more affordable options for the new Air, especially since iPadOS makes full use of trackpads.

AR and iPad: Possible evolution?

Apple's augmented reality aspirations have always been driven by apps and services, and education has been an AR goal on the iPad for years. The Sept. 15 event invite has a hidden AR easter egg, suggesting that some AR news could be coming. An upgraded processor on an iPad Air could help enable Apple's latest ARKit features, and a larger screen could take advantage of some of the bigger-canvas ideas that exist now on the iPad Pro. It's unlikely that a new Air would have the Pro's fancy depth-sensing Lidar sensor, but Apple could make this a moment to introduce more AR software to a larger audience.


iPad and Zoom are a mixed bag because of camera placement.

Scott Stein/CNET

Unlikely: A more centered camera for video chat

Zooming and video chats are annoying on iPads. Even though they sport great cameras, the front-facing cameras are only centered on portrait-mode shots. Tilt it to landscape (where all everyday work is usually done) and it makes faces look like they're staring off into the distance. I'd love it if iPads shifted its cameras, although iOS 14 does some eye correction in FaceTime. Odds on this are slim.

We'll know soon enough. Apple's event is scheduled for Sept. 15, streaming at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). For now, stick with the iPad you have, especially if you've been thinking about a midrange Air.