Apple is doing a better job of updating its products on a regular schedule, but there is one gadget in particular that has trailed behind its counterparts. That is, the iPad mini. Last updated in 2019, the iPad mini is long overdue for a refresh, if not a complete overhaul. The previous iPad mini was released alongside its larger and pricier sibling but didn't receive a 2020 upgrade like the most recent iPad Air.
We haven't heard too much about an upcoming iPad mini — Apple actually seems to be doing a good job of keeping things under wraps — however, the miniature tablet could arrive as soon as March 2021 at the rumored spring event. If not, we would still put our chips down on a Q1 2021 reveal.
At the very least, we expect the iPad mini to rock a new processor for a significant boost in performance. We're also keeping our fingers crossed for a new design, 5G connectivity, supports for new accessories and a Mini LED display.
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If you're interested in Apple's smallest tablet or want to upgrade from the aging 2019 model, here is everything we know about the upcoming iPad mini.
iPad mini 2021 release date
The previous iPad mini (5th generation) was released on March 18, 2019, so assuming Apple is adhering to a two-year cycle, the iPad mini 6 should have launched in March 2021. It didn't.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo originally predicted Apple would release the iPad mini 6 in the first half of 2021 but later changed his projection to the second half of 2021.
As the March date grew increasingly unlikely, Prosser posted a YouTube video explaining the event would take place in April instead, and that Apple purposely misled leakers into thinking it would be in March. We thought the April 20 event would be a surefire venue for Apple to launch the new iPad mini. But again, the company had its own plans, launching only the iPad Pro.
So, when will the iPad mini arrive? Well, most likely in the second half of 2021, so sometime in the next three to four months most likely. It is possible Apple does a silent release by announcing a refreshed version in a blog post rather than staging yet another event.
iPad mini 2021 price
The iPad mini has historically been Apple's second-most affordable tablet behind only the iPad. As it stands, the iPad mini starts at $399 for the base 64GB model, slotting above the $329 iPad and below the $599 iPad Air.
If some of the changes mentioned below come to fruition, then the iPad mini could get a price increase. We also need to consider any adjustments to storage capacity. If Apple sticks with 64GB to start, we might see the same $399 MSRP. If it goes up to 128GB to start, we're almost certain to see a $50 price hike.
This is all speculation, of course. Prices aren't usually included in rumors or leaks, so we probably won't know about pricing until Apple unwraps the iPad mini later this year.
iPad mini display
We've heard enough about Apple adopting Mini LED display technology for the iPad Pro 2021 to believe it. But what about the iPad mini? It's possible the pint-size slate also gets upgraded from a standard LED display to Mini LED, although we can't say for sure.
There are several benefits of moving to Mini LED. While we've seen only a few Mini LED panels in person, they are touted for having more vivid colors, a brighter image and deeper black levels than your standard LED displays. Best of all, there is a lower chance of burn-in, a decay issue found on OLED displays.
If Apple shifts to Mini LED in the mini, it could mean a price hike. Those panels are being mass-produced for the first time, meaning the per-unit cost is likely pretty high. This is why the iPad Pro (and upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro) is a better candidate than the modestly priced iPad mini.
While Mini LED remains only a possibility, we are hearing the iPad mini won't be as mini this time around. According to the Japanese site Mac Otakara, Apple will increase the screen size from 7.9 inches to 8.4 inches. The mini will, of course, continue to be the smallest tablet in Apple's arsenal, but that extra screen size will be appreciated.
iPad mini design
It's time for a redesign. I think we can all agree that chunky bezels shouldn't exist in 2021, so Apple would do good to trim them down as the company did on the iPad Air. Removing the bezels would also mean replacing or relocating the Touch ID sensor.
The iPad Pro and iPad Air are the two Apple tablets with thin bezels; the former uses Face ID via an IR camera whereas the latter uses Touch ID with a fingerprint sensor embedded on the side power button. If we had to guess, the iPad mini will mock the iPad Air and favor Touch ID over Face ID, ensuring the iPad Pro keeps one major advantage over the cheaper models.
Still, in the back of our heads, we can't help but see a future in which only minor updates are made to the iPad mini design, and those damned bezels stick around. Apple was content last year swapping in a new engine, but keeping the same body style on the iPad. We could see a similar update made to the iPad mini.
Rumors regarding the design are few and far between but a leaked render that surfaced in June shows a redesigned iPad mini with Apple Pencil Gen 2 and Smart Keyboard support. The render, released by Prosser, shows thinner display bezels and a Touch ID sensor relocated to the power button. A webcam resides on the slim top bezel. Prosser says the 206.3 x 137.8 x 6.1 mm tablet will come with 5G support, a USB Type-C port and the A14 Bionic chip.
iPad mini performance and specs
What we can say with complete certainty is that if Apple does indeed release a new iPad mini, it will be powered by a more capable processor than the current one. If you buy an iPad mini today, it'll run on the A12 Bionic chip, the same one used in the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR.
We expect a new iPad mini to be running on at least an A13 chip, as was predicted by the Chinese site MyDrivers.com. The A13 seems like a good candidate considering the 2020 iPad has an A12 SoC and the iPad Air has an A14. Being priced between those two models, it would make sense for Apple to opt for the A13.
The same source also says the iPad mini will rely on a Lightning connector instead of a USB-C port, which is a bummer for anyone who owns, well... just about any new gadget but an iPhone. It will be interesting to see if Apple adds supports for the Apple Pencil Gen 2 or creates a Magic Keyboard for the iPad mini. These accessories seem exclusive to the productivity-focused iPad Air and iPad Pro, but we can't rule it out.
What we want to see from the iPad mini 2021
Slim bezels: It's one of those toss-up features at the moment, but Apple needs to make this update or risk widespread criticism for releasing a $400 tablet with an outdated design. We hope, after 2 years, that the iPad mini gets a modern remake, but we won't hold our breath.
Apple Pencil 2 support: The charging method for the original Apple Pencil is laughable. It's time to abandon the poorly designed stylus and give supports for the Apple Pencil 2 to all iPad models. The newer version, along with having more features, magnetically attaches to supported tablets and charges wirelessly.
3.5mm headphone jack: Um, Apple, please keep the headphone jack on the iPad mini. I know a good portion of iPad users probably own a pair of AirPods (or other truly wireless earbuds) by now, but as someone whose daily driver is a pair of open-ear Sennheisers, I need a 3.5mm jack. It won't be the end of the world if Apple ditches the headphone jack, but come on, is it really necessary?
Competitive price: I'd take a competitive price over a Mini LED display if upgrading the screen meant pushing the iPad mini into iPad Air territory. The only problem is the iPad, which, today, is a better option than the mini for anybody but those who need the absolute smallest tablet. Only Apple's deliberately infuriating storage options make the iPad mini a potentially better buy.