9to5Mac are reporting that Apple are no longer set to launch and iPad Air 3, but instead a smaller version of the iPad Pro next month. This raises a few questions over what will become of the iPad line. If the new iPad does become the ‘iPad Pro 9.7-inch’, then the iPad lineup will be: iPad Pro 12.9-inch, iPad Pro 9.7-inch, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3. Not exactly catchy names.
Regardless of this, I’d be happy to see the 9.7-inch version become part of the Pro line. With the release of the iPad Pro last year there was a sense that the 9.7-inch iPad was becoming forgotten, and seen more as a ‘lite’ version of the Pro. Hopefully there is a revival with this model. I plan on upgrading from my iPad 3 to this new 9.7-inch iPad this year so the more pro hardware that they can cram into it the better. If I can get four years of good work out of it like my previous iPad I’ll be happy.
Another interesting point is storage space. If this is going to be a ‘Pro’ model it’s highly unlikely that there will be a 16Gb model (surely?). Benjamin Mayo had a good post about this, where he predicts that the new iPad will come with 32Gb of storage in the base model. While this would be a welcome change, it would possibly make this new model more expensive than the previous 9.7-inch models, each of which have generally stayed at the same price as before. This can only be justified if this new 9.7-inch version is substantially better than the previous models in terms of hardware, which I expect it will be as it should inherit the upgraded speakers and Apple Pencil support along with ‘Pro’ standard internals.
I imagine that the iPad Air 2 might continue to fill the old price point of the 9.7-inch line, with a drop in price. That makes it a tempting option as it still has very strong internals and a 64Gb model could be picked up for cheaper than a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro with 32Gb of storage. It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store in the March event.