Apple didn’t release an iPad this year, so what does that mean for the iPad in 2024?

At the start of 2010 Steve Jobs introduced us to the first iPad, and ever since the company hasn’t really skipped a beat, expanding the line to include two premium tiers in the shape of the iPad Air and iPad Pro families, along with the iPad Mini, and all the while defining and dominating the wider tablet market.

With many of the best iPads also serving as some of the best tablets outright, Apple appears to be resting on its laurels this year – a notion reinforced by the total absence of any new iPads in 2023, with this year being part of the second-longest dry spell in the famed tablet’s history.

The silver lining for fans, however, is that a lack of new tablet hardware right now sets the stage for a refreshed iPad lineup in 2024 – a refresh that feels long overdue. Here’s why…

While – going by the company’s most recent financial results – there’s no questioning Apple’s ability to attract and maintain a loyal base of iPad users, it’s clear that the numbers aren’t where they’re meant to be, with iPad revenue more than 10% lower compared to the same quarter last year, based on Apple’s own reporting.

The obvious reason for this comparative slump is the absence of new hardware, with the release of iPadOS 17 and a new Apple Pencil with integrated USB-C charging doing little to attract newcomers and upgraders alike. At the same time, navigating the current assortment of Apple slates and suitable accessories is an undeniably convoluted and confusing experience, especially when trying to discern which blend of features, design, and power might best suit your needs.

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Firstly, there’s the standard iPad. Apple still sells the ninth-generation iPad that it introduced in late 2021, which runs on the oldest chipset of the entire iPad lineup – the same A13 SoC found in the iPhone 11 series that launched two years prior. The design is also dated, with a front-facing circular home button with Touch ID, and thick bezels surrounding a 10.2-inch display, it relies on Apple’s aging Lightning port (the only iPad still to do so), and it’s only compatible with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

Then there’s the 10th-gen iPad, which was introduced in late 2022, and is the only model out of the entire series with a landscape-first orientation (which could be a sign of things to come). It sports a larger 10.9-inch display with a straight-sided design and thinner bezels, plus more up-to-date USB-C connectivity in place of Lightning, and a top button with Touch ID. It has a generation-newer Apple A14 chip at its heart, and also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, but also the new Apple Pencil with USB-C (although, while we’re here, this latest stylus actually lacks the pressure sensitivity of its older siblings).

Before getting to the Air, there’s also the sixth-generation iPad mini to consider too, which came out the same year as the ninth-generation iPad, but boasts an aesthetic closer to that of the 10th-gen iPad, and runs on a newer-still A15 SoC. Packed into a body with an 8.3-inch display you’ll also find USB-C, second-gen Apple Pencil support, and a top button with Touch ID.

Now we’re onto the Air. Take the 10th-gen iPad – complete with USB-C and a top button with Touch ID – bump up the color accuracy of the display, offer Apple Pencil 2 support, and make the jump to an M1 chipset that you’ll also find in some of the company’s Macs and you’ve got the 5th-gen iPad Air. It’s otherwise the same size as the 10th-gen iPad, with similar aesthetics and a similarly-sized screen; you’re getting more power, and it’s better for creativity, but it’s not quite as good as…

…the iPad Pro! There are two sizes of Pro (11-inch and 12.9-inch), both running on the same, more-powerful Apple M2 SoC, with the same USB-C connectivity, Apple Pencil 2 and Apple Pencil USB-C support (like the Air), Face ID instead of Touch ID, four speakers (rather than two), but with two different screen technologies: LED on the 11-inch model and mini-LED on the 12.9 slate.

While the broader tiers within the range are discernible, the nuance of whether you need to swing for an iPad with Apple Pencil 2 support, A-series or M-series performance, and which keyboard cover you need (Magic or Smart, Folio or no?) makes choosing between slates that vary by several hundred dollars or pounds a fraught endeavor, especially if you’re not well versed in Apple vernacular.

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