Longtime Apple watcher Jordan Golson on what features need to be in the new iPads to please enterprise and business users.
Apple is expected to release updated versions of its two cheapest iPad models at a special event next week, the iPad and the iPad Mini. Though many business pros may opt for the iPad Pro—a tablet that competes with a full-fledged laptop thanks to a huge screen, wickedly fast M1 chip (the same Apple Silicon that's used in a bunch of Macs these days) and useful accessories—the Pro also comes with a professional-level price tag. It starts at $799 and runs up to more than $2,000 if you max out the storage.
On the other hand, the iPad is Apple's larger, mainstream tablet, offering a $329 price tag for the base 32GB model with a 10.2-inch display, Touch ID, and support for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Educational institutions can get into the iPad for even less, with access to special $309 tablet entry-level pricing.
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Then there's the iPad Mini, a 7.9-inch that hasn't changed too much in the past eight years since it was introduced. That's about to change, if the rumors are to be believed. It's kind of funny to think that the current largest iPhone has a 6.7-inch screen, which isn't much smaller than the Mini.
Both the iPad and iPad Mini are expected to see updates next week, though Apple can always surprise us. Here's what I think business pros need Apple to deliver in these two budget-focused iPads.
Apple's M1 chip was its first piece of "Apple Silicon," and it's currently being used in laptops, the iMac, the Mac Mini headless desktop computer, and the iPad Pro. It's fast and power-efficient and enables the iPad Pro to run CPU- and GPU-intensive tasks in an ultra-portable package.
It would be really impressive for Apple to roll out the M1 in these smaller iPads. It could open all kinds of possibilities for connecting to an external monitor, using photo- and video-editing software, and allowing pros a big downsizing from a full-fledged laptop to a smaller, thinner tablet.
Thinner, lighter and faster
The iPad Mini 6 is expected to lose the Home button it has had for almost a decade, moving to an edge-to-edge display like almost all the other iPads and iPhones on the market. Only the current base iPad (which is about to be upgraded alongside the Mini) and the iPhone SE use them now.
Making the new iPads thinner and lighter will be key, especially if Apple can fit a larger screen in the same size body thanks to the edge-to-edge display. And making them faster will be a necessity too, as both iPads have grown quite long in the tooth. M1 would be ideal, but even the latest-generation A-series mobile chip would be a great improvement over what the devices currently have.
For the iPad at least, the days of the Lightning port are numbered. Apple has moved most of them over to USB C, allowing for a wider variety of accessories (like external storage, SD cards, monitors and the like) and, crucially, faster charging.
Though I'd love to see the iPhone swap to the USB C to standardize Apple's cables a bit better (carrying USB C and Lightning cables to charge my iPad and iPhone is annoying), that's not going to happen any time soon for a number of reasons--mostly because Apple gets to control the Lightning cable ecosystem and the Lightning port is more waterproof than the USB C port.
But waterproofing isn't as important for the iPad, which is not likely to get dropped into a hot tub or the ocean or a toilet (yikes), as an iPhone is. Instead, maximizing charging speed and accessory options is what I'm looking for out of the new iPads.
It seems likely that the new iPad Mini will get the bulk of the upgrades if rumors are to be believed, but Apple can still surprise us once in a while. Perhaps the new iPad will get a larger upgrade than we think.
Apple's event will take place next Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 1 pm ET, and will be streamed live on YouTube.
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