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iPad Air 3 release date, price & specs rumours – coming MARCH 15

Everything you need to know about the upcoming iPad Air 3

iPad Air 2 best tablet image

The iPad continues to be the most popular tablet around. The current iteration is the excellent iPad Air 2, and we were just a little surprised to see no iPad Air 3 announced at Apple’s most last event, where both an iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4 were announced instead.

While the iPad Air 3 was a surprising miss from that launch. More information about the tablet has continued to leak out, making us more and more confident that we will see a new tablet. And now, we may even have a date for it: March 15.

According to 9to5mac, Apple will kick off the year with its own private event, launching the 4in iPhone 5se alongside the eagerly awaited iPad Air 3.

Apple Will Reveal New 4-inch iPhone and Highly Anticipated iPad Air 3

Rather than this model simply being a minor update of the old iPad, Apple is set to include some iPad Pro style features in it. According to a leaked image from a case maker, these will include a Smart Connector, which would mean that a Smart Keyboard cover would be a possibility. In addition, the case image shows a cut-out for an LED flash, which would turn the tablet into a much more capable camera.

Apple is said to be upgrading the iPad Air 3’s speakers, too, to match those in the iPad Pro – they’re top speakers and impressed us in our full review. Finally, the new tablet will also be compatible with the Pencil, letting you draw or write directly onto the screen. More details coming as I have them.

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What you need to know, quickly

What is it?

The next model in Apple’s line of market-dominating 9.7in tablets

When is it out?

Sometime this year but when is now a complete mystery

What’s new?

A screen resolution bump and perhaps some physical tweaks as well as the usual performance enhancements

In detail

RELEASE DATE

We’ll admit it, we said we’d eat our respective hats if Apple didn’t announce a new 9.7in iPad at their event in September. As certain as death and taxes, Apple always refreshes the iPad every year. And yet in 2015, the company did not budge.

In a way it’s not surprising. iPad sales, while strong, have been trending downwards in recent years as the market gets saturated and people don’t replace their current tablets. It makes sense, then, not to spend huge amounts of money on developing a brand-new device for a stagnant market. We’re still surprised, though.

Now we’re into 2016 and we’re still as clueless as we were last year. Now that Apple has broken with its usual yearly cycle of releases we’re in unexplored territory. Our best guess is that the company is moving to a bi-annual schedule, with a new tablet coming every second Christmas, and possibly price drops to drive sales in the intervening years. Of course it may just start to release new devices as new hardware becomes available to significantly improve on the last mode.

PRICE

New iPads cost £399. We’ve been expecting Apple to slip that initial price downwards for years now, but its domination of the tablet marketplace means there’s no reason for it to compete on price, and so every iPad has launched at this price.

However, with the iPad Air 2, Apple did make one concession, reducing the fairly silly price of upgrading the internal storage to 64GB. With the iPad Air 3 we’re really hoping that Apple gets rid of the basic 16GB model and goes with a far more practical 32GB of storage at the standard £399 price. Although with Apple’s relentless focus on profit margins, don’t expect miracles unless the firm has managed to get a decent deal on buying 32GB storage units.

If you’re thinking of getting an iPad Air 2 then it’s worth noting that the older iPad Air dropped in price by £80 upon the Air 2’s launch, and we’d be hoping for a similar price drop for the Air 2 later in the year. However, it’s possible that Apple will simply keep the original Air as the budget model and phase out the Air 2 in preference of the Air 3, in order to keep a clear difference between its high-end and more reasonably-priced models.

SPECS

The iPad Air 2 used a three-core A8X processor, a modified version of the A8 seen in theiPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The latest iPhone 6S and 6S plus took a step up, getting an A9 chip apiece. The logical step for the iPad Air 3, then, would be to take that chip up to a full quad-core design for even greater parallel processing power. This could easily be achieved within the same space and power requirements by a reduction in the manufacturing process. The A8X uses a 20nm process, but the latest Samsung handsets (and Samsung has made a lot of Apple’s chips in the past), such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, use a far more compact and power efficient 14nm process. Samsung has manufactured chips for Apple in the past, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn the company was doing so again for a new iPad, this time on a 14nm process, but nothing has been confirmed so far.

Apple has only recently updated its hardware to 64-bit, and now that iOS takes full advantage of 64-bit computing Apple is unlikely to take a step backwards in this regard. The iPad Air doubled RAM to 2GB for the first time, but it’s possible Apple will go one further for the sequel; iOS 9 has been built to include multi-tasking with Slide Over, meaning you can run several apps at the same time, or watch video in a window while you do other things, so a move up to 3GB or even 4GB of memory might be of benefit to keep everything running smoothly. It’s worth noting that the most recent iPhone 6s, despite various technical improvements, still only ships with 2GB of RAM.

With that in mind, some have been suggesting that an increase in screen resolution might be in order. Knowyourmobile reports that the iPad Air 3 could have a resolution of 2334×2112, with a pixel density of 401ppi. However we doubt that Apple will increase the tablet’s resolution, it’s easily sufficient given the screen size, and developers would once again have to adjust their apps to handle the higher resolution. It would also have a negative effect on frame rates in games and battery life.

DESIGN AND BATTERY

We’ve said it before, but we really, really can’t see Apple making the new iPad Air significantly slimmer than the current model. If it does manage to reduce the size of anything internally we’d much rather see that space put to use with a larger capacity battery. The iPad Air 2’s super-skinny design meant a reduction in battery capacity from 8,600mAh to 7,340mAh compared to its predecessor, and although the more power efficient processor meant battery life actually stayed the same, we would prefer a few extra hours between charges to an extra millimetre off the thickness.

Apple has a fancy new battery technology too, as seen in the recent new MacBook. This allows for slices of battery to be layered on top of each other in a staggered manner in order to make the most of the curved edges of the chassis. Apple might put that technology to use in the new iPad Air 3

NEW FEATURES

There’s a lot we’d like to see, but it’s a bit of a wish list for now. Better speakers are a regular complaint from our team but Apple hasn’t ever seemed too bothered about rectifying that issue by adding forward firing speakers or even properly positioned stereo ones on either side of the in landscape orientation.

We initially thought we might see the USB Type-C connector from the MacBook, but since the iPad Mini 4 is shipping with the Lighting connector we can see no reason why Apple would change direction with the iPad Air 3.

We were expecting to see a new iPad Air with Force Touch, although for iOS devices this technology has now been rebranded 3D Touch. The iPad Mini 4 did not get this feature, and if Apple’s leading iPad isn’t getting this new tech, we see no reason why the iPad Air 3 should get it too.

iOS 9 FEATURES

The new iPad, whenever it arrives, will come with the new iOS 9 operating system, for all the details read our iOS 9 beta hands on – release date, new features, multi-tasking and more. This will of course be available on older devices as well, but the new the latest iPad should be able to make fullest use of some of the more demanding features. We’re most excited about Slide Over and Split View, which are both takes on splitscreen multitasking. The latter is only available on the iPad Air 2 at present, and though we’re not sure if that’s due to hadware limitations on older iPads or just an attempt to differentiate the top end model, we can be sure it will be available on iPad Air 3 too. In addition to that, Picture in Picture mode allows you to have a video playing in the corner of the screen while you get on with something else.

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