iPad Air 2024 New Design Upgrade Coming Soon

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When Apple reveals its next iPads (read here for exactly when that is likely to be), it looks like there will be two new iPad Pro tablets and two iPad Air models. And a new report claims something very unexpected: the iPad Air will use the miniLED backlighting technology of the current iPad Pro. That’s brilliant news—literally.

April 21 update below. This post was first published on May 18, 2024.

While the next iPad Pro’s promise of an OLED screen seems to have just leaked, there’s been little to no news on the upcoming iPad Air apart from the suggestion that it’ll come in two sizes for the first time.

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But now a report from Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants, whose deep knowledge specialty is displays, says that a surprise is coming.

He posted on X, and this was picked up by Zac Hall at 9to5Mac. Yong commented, “Surprise! The upcoming 12.9″ iPad Air has a MiniLED display. This will consume left over panels from the 12.9″ MiniLED iPad Pro and offer lower power than an edge lit LCD…”

This is very exciting news. The display on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is sensational, with the many miniLED backlights giving a brightness, deep contrast and vividness that regular LCD can’t manage. It’s easily the best display on any iPad.

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One caveat: Ross is only predicting this change for the bigger iPad Air, with a 12.9-inch display, not the smaller model with a display of 10.9 inches approximately. Well, if Ross is right that Apple has inventory of miniLED 12.9-inch screens, then it makes sense that it’s the larger screen only that’s going to benefit.

That’s a clever way to drive sales of the larger Air, while not including the tech on the smaller model will likely mean there are savings to Apple which can keep the price competitive. That’s especially important if, as predicted, Apple is releasing iPad Pro and iPad Air models on the same day—the company will need clear demarcations between the models.

Display is one of those. It’s thought that the iPad Pro will see price rises, not least because of the OLED screens that are expected.

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April 20 update. The miniLED display technology that has been reported was genuinely surprising—nobody had predicted this until Ross Young—but it makes sense and there are more reasons why it’s a good thing which are just emerging.

As Macworld points out, “Implementing a Mini LED display would provide a power consumption savings over the current LED displays. Mini LEDs also produce better blacks, so the image quality on the iPad Air could see an improvement.”

There’s also a logic beyond using up leftover iPad Pro 12.9-inch panels. By the way, given Apple is run by someone known to have superpowers when it comes to production line economics, my suspicion is it’s not so much leftovers as buying at numbers that achieved economies of scale because Apple knew it would use them for the new Air all along.

And as Macworld adds, “This creates a non-pro pairing that’s an alternative to the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.”

The only downside to this arrangement is that it again creates an imbalance between the two sizes of tablet, with only the larger Air having miniLED—an imbalance that is now being removed from the Pro models if, as seems overwhelmingly likely, they both have OLED displays.


April 21 update. Further evidence, if any were needed, that a new iPad Air is almost upon us comes from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in his latest Power On newsletter. In it, he explains that a telltale sign of a new product being imminent has been spotted.

Gurman says, “When Apple is getting ready to launch new models, it typically pares back shipments of the current lineup—and that’s exactly what we’re seeing happen. Sources at multiple retail stores say that inventory of several iPad Air models has started to dwindle.”

This is a clever trick and well spotted by Gurman and his contacts. And it makes sense: if you have inventory of the last model still in stock, you probably have to reduce the price to shift them, not to mention downgrade the coverage onsite because you want all the attention on the new model.

There’s an interesting addendum here. Gurman goes on, “We haven’t yet seen that happen with the iPad Pro, which is still well-stocked. That could mean Apple just has a lot of inventory to work through (a likely scenario) or the company plans to keep the current model around even after it debuts the new one.”

That would be a surprise, as Apple has never kept an older-gen Pro around when the new one launches, has it? But it has kept the ninth-generation iPad on sale when it introduced the tenth-gen version. Why? Well, the newer iPad was a big upgrade that led to a noticeably higher price point. Gurman rightly points out that there is talk of a big price increase coming to the iPad Pro as it shifts to an OLED display.

He says, “That second scenario could be a challenge from a marketing standpoint: Who wants the older, lower-end version of what’s supposed to be a high-end iPad? But it could make sense if the new model has a big price increase.”

I’d agree with that logic. But on balance I think it’s unlikely. My guess is that even if the OLED price bump is there, that Apple will minimize it as much as possible, and will retire the current model quietly at the same time.


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