After Tuesday, iPads will give laptops more competition than ever before

Magic Keyboard Folio for iPad with 10th generation iPad over watercolor-style image of a computer motherboard
(Image credit: Future)

Apple is hosting a highly anticipated virtual event on Tuesday that's expected to kick off a new wave of iPads and accessories. Could Apple finally make the iPad a serious rival for laptops? Thanks to a redesigned Magic Keyboard, a new Apple Pencil, and the arrival of the M4 chip, that's a strong possibility. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook spurred excitement for the event last week in a press release about Apple's Q2 2024 earnings report, commenting: "We’re also looking forward to an exciting product announcement next week and an incredible Worldwide Developers Conference next month." 

The event, "Let Loose," will kick off on an official Apple livestream at 10 a.m. Eastern/7 a.m. Pacific. 

The event marks a turning point for the iPad line-up. It arrives after the first year without a new iPad since the first model was launched 14 years ago. 

Here's a look at how Tuesday's announcements could reshape the iPad into the laptop's biggest rival. 

New Magic Keyboard will give the iPad a Mac makeover

iPad Pro

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

When Apple launched the Magic Keyboard in 2020, it was clear it wanted to position the iPad as a laptop alternative. This accessory was a far cry from conventional tablet keyboards, which, at the time, were often F.C.A. (flimsy, cramped, and awkward). In contrast, the Magic Keyboard featured laptop-like ergonomics and the same scissor-switch keys found on Macbooks. In our review back in 2020, we put it like this: "Ultimately, the Magic Keyboard is the best option for turning your Apple tablet into a laptop."

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple will launch a redesigned version of the Magic Keyboard on Tuesday, making the iPad look more like a Macbook than ever before. 

The new model is expected to feature an aluminum chassis, so the keyboard deck could look like it was pulled straight from a Macbook Air. The similarities will be even more apparent if Apple redesigns the hinge and magnetic attachment system to allow the iPad to move more like a laptop display when attached to the keyboard. 

A larger trackpad is one feature of the new design that could win customers. While the keyboard on the current Magic Keyboard is great, the tiny trackpad makes navigation awkward, especially for those used to a conventional laptop or Macbook touchpad. 

If the new Magic Keyboard has a larger trackpad, it will likely also have a redesigned hinge mechanism. Apple is expected to launch the next generation of iPad Pro models in 11-inch and 13-inch sizes, which limits how big they can make the Magic Keyboard. 

However, the current models have a wide area of unused space along the top edge of the keyboard deck due to the way the iPad hovers over it. If Apple found a way to rework the hinge mechanism, it could potentially utilize that space to make room for a larger touchpad. 

Long-awaited Apple Pencil refresh 

Apple Pencil drawing on iPad

(Image credit: Apple)

There are currently three Apple Pencil models available on Apple's website: the 1st-generation Apple Pencil, the USB-C Apple Pencil, and the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil. The latter two can attach magnetically to modern iPads, while the 1st-generation model is long overdue for retirement. 

Apple is expected to launch a new premium Apple Pencil on Tuesday loaded with new features. It will likely replace the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil, kicking the 1st-generation Apple Pencil out of the line-up, simplifying it to just the premium 3rd-generation model and the more budget-friendly USB-C model. 

The 3rd-generation Apple Pencil will also help launch the new line-up of iPads as fully-fledged laptop rivals. There are plenty of great 2-in-1 laptops out there that include a pencil accessory, like the HP Spectre x360. While these devices can deliver fantastic performance and stellar build quality, they're always a bit better at being a laptop than a tablet. Their pencil accessories are often only useful in niche cases rather than seamlessly integrated into navigation. 

With a more powerful chip and a more laptop-like keyboard accessory, the iPad can position itself as the superior alternative to 2-in-1s, particularly for fans of tablet mode. 

Apple Pencil functionality is baked into the iPad already, with native apps that utilize it and streamlined support for navigation using the Pencil. The new model could take things up a notch with squeeze-activated controls, redesigned interchangeable tips, and haptic feedback. 

Those features could potentially make navigation so intuitive that the Pen could effortlessly replace a mouse for precise navigation in tablet mode. Plus, the iPad's modularity makes it much more comfortable to use in tablet mode compared to many 2-in-1 laptops since you can fully detach the Magic Keyboard. 

iPad Pro is getting the M4 chip before the Macbook Pro

Apple M4 chip illustration

(Image credit: Future)

The current iPad Pro models, launched in 2022, include the M2 chip. With no new iPads in 2023, there's a strong chance that Apple will skip the M3 chip altogether and give the new iPad Pros the M4 chip — before the Mac gets it. As if that wasn't enough of an upgrade, we expect Apple to unveil the long-awaited OLED iPad Pro finally. 

The iPad Pro has been marketed as a laptop replacement for years, but both upgrades could take that rivalry to a new level. Apple may be giving the iPad the M4 chip before the MacBook Pro, which tells us what the company hopes to accomplish with the next generation of iPads. For the first time, the iPad Pro may be equally, if not more, powerful than the MacBook. 

The big question will then be how Apple will utilize all that power in the new iPad Pro. This is where the timing of Tuesday's event gets a bit awkward. Apple typically reveals software updates at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will kick off on June 10. So, Apple could end up showing off powerful new iPads tomorrow without major software updates to accompany them. 

While we won't know for sure until we get an official announcement from Apple, there are a few key ways the new iPad Pro models could use the power of the M4 chip to compete with laptops. 

iPad Pro M2

(Image credit: Apple)

First, the M4 chip is expected to build off the success of the M3 with more AI capabilities. Apple's growing focus on AI was one of the biggest takeaways from last week's earnings report. It would make sense for Apple to use the M4 chip to debut a suite of AI tools and features for iPadOS. Those could include an overhauled Siri AI, generative AI capabilities, AI-powered browser features, and more.

AI and the M4 chip will be useful for resource-intensive apps that have struggled with the iPad. Final Cut Pro is a prime example. Even after a big update in 2023, the iPad version of Final Cut Pro lacks the same features and flexibility as the original Mac app. That could finally change with the additional power of the M4 chip, iPadOS 18, and new AI features like automated editing tools.

When popular, resource-intensive apps like Final Cut Pro run just as well on an iPad as on a Mac or laptop, more customers may consider making the switch, particularly with redesigned accessories. 

While the Macbook Pro isn't going anywhere, the next generation of iPads could overshadow the 2-in-1 laptop market. The iPad's destiny might not be a laptop replacement but a modular alternative to laptops, offering the same performance in a distinctive, flexible form factor. 

We'll have to wait until Tuesday to see exactly what Apple does with its iPad redesign, but there's plenty to be excited about. We will be covering all the announcements and news from the "Let Loose" event, so stay tuned all week for more details and insights about this new era for the iPad — and the laptop. 

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Stevie Bonifield
Freelance Writer

Stevie Bonifield is a freelance tech journalist specializing in keyboards, peripherals, gaming gear, and mobile tech. Outside of writing, Stevie loves indie games, photography, and building way too many custom keyboards