Updated: iPad Air 3 release date, news and rumors

iPad Air 3 release date, news and rumors

Update: The iPad Air 3 is MIA and didn’t arrive in 2015, when we expected. Apple giving it extra time to brew should allow the iPad Air 3 to be even more impressive. It may even have a similar speaker set up to the iPad Pro.

With the iPad Air 2, we said that Apple had taken the perfect tablet and somehow made it even better. So where does it go from there? Well, hopefully it does the same thing again.

We’d expected to see the iPad Air 3 in 2015, but instead we were treated to the iPad Pro. So by the time the iPad Air 3 does arrive the iPad Air 2 is likely to be getting pretty old, as such we’re hopeful that we could see a big jump in tech and features.

iPad Air 2

The processor will obviously get a boost for one, and for better or worse it’s entirely possible that it will get even slimmer and lighter than the iPad Air 2 – although is there anywhere for Apple to go in making this tablet even thinner?

Then there are things we’d like to see, but are less likely, such as 32GB becoming the smallest size. For now we don’t have much to go on, but with it possibly not arriving until late 2016 there should be plenty more time for leaks and rumors to roll in.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The next super-thin tablet from Apple.
  • When is it out? We’re expecting a release this year, when exactly isn’t clear though.
  • What will it cost? Top end with an expensive price tag – not as much as the iPad Pro though.

iPad Air 3 release date

Initially we expected the iPad Air 3 to launch in 2015 but instead Apple gave us the iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4. And to be honest, that kept us satisfied. The iPad Pro feels like an innovative, new product while the iPad Mini 4 is a big improvement upon the iPad Mini 3.

Rumor is that Apple wanted to hold off releasing the third iteration of the iPad Air as it didn’t want to overload consumers with too many different choices.

The latest rumor comes from Chinese technology site MyDrivers that claims to have sources pointing toward a March 2016 release date. There are also rumours of an Apple Watch 2 event scheduled for the same month, so it may make sense for Apple to announce both products at the same time.

But at the moment there’s no hard evidence suggesting the iPad Air 3 will be launching in the first half of 2016. If it doesn’t it’ll be a shame as we’d like to see it before the launch of the iPhone 7, which is rumored for September.

iPad Air 3 design

iPad Air 2

Rumors of the iPad Air 3 haven’t really mentioned design all that much yet. We expect that’s something Apple wants to keep close to its chest, but we also don’t expect any major changes in the design department.

It’s likely Apple will keep the same size tablet and may trim it down a little bit more to make it thinner. But the iPad Air 2 is already thin enough, so maybe it’s not worth Apple trying to cut more fat when it could offer us an improved battery or higher spec under the hood.

One leak suggested the iPad Air 3 will come with a similar speaker set up to the iPad Pro. It would mean four speakers surrounding the tablet to make for a better movie watching experience than the two speakers on the iPad Air 2 provided.

There will likely be a 9.7-inch screen again but we’d expect to see some improvements in that area as well. 3D Touch technology like we’ve seen on the Apple Watch and iPhone 6S may come on the iPad Air 3.

Rumored specs from site MyDrivers suggested it may come with a 4K screen resolution of 2334 x 3112. That sounds a bit far from the iPad Air 2 and its 1536 x 2048 screen resolution but we’ll have to wait and see.

Then there’s the shooter – not many people focus on the camera possibilities of the iPad Air, but the new version is rumored to stick with an 8MP sensor and add in an LED flash to make it easier taking night shots.

iPad Air 3 rivals

iPad Pro

Apple is its own worst enemy here – all the big competitors to the iPad Air 3 are other tablets made by Apple. You’re covered by the iPad range whether you want something a little smaller or even a little bigger as well.

There’s the iPad Mini 4 from Apple that comes with an upgraded processor and a gorgeous 7.9-inch screen. It’s one of the most portable and light tablets on the market right now.

If you’re looking for bigger; it’s the iPad Pro. This comes with a huge 12.9-inch display and a very powerful A9X processor under the hood. It will cost you a little bit extra though as this tablet doesn’t come cheap.

Then there’s a lot of Android competition out there as well with the likes of the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and the Google Pixel C looking for your attention.

iPad Air 3 power and OS

There are some things about the iPad Air 3 which we can be fairly confident about. For one thing it’s likely to run iOS 10, though iOS 9 is always possible if it arrives sooner rather than later.

iOS 9 brings improvements to Siri and Apple Maps, true multitasking for iPads, a new keyboard and more. So look forward to all that on the iPad Air 3 at a minimum. If it has iOS 10 that’s sure to bring even more new features, but what form they’ll take remains to be seen.

iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 3 is also sure to get a newer, faster processor. The iPad Air 2 has an A8X chip, but we’re already up to the A9X on the iPad Pro, so we’d expect that at a minimum and quite possibly an A10 chip.

There’s a good chance we’ll get more RAM too. The iPad Air 2 has 2GB of RAM, but Apple has since launched the iPad Pro with 4GB. As the name suggests though the Pro is aimed at more serious productivity, so the Air 3 might not have that much, but 3GB wouldn’t seem unreasonable.

iPad Air 2

Expect Touch ID to make a return as well. Some early rumors also suggest an improved 13MP rear camera with an LED flash, while others claim the iSight camera could be between 5 and 8 megapixels.

Carry on over to the next page to discover what we’d like to see from the iPad Air 3.

What we want to see

iPad Air 2

1. Ditch the 16GB size

With the iPad Air 2 Apple got rid of the 32GB option and offered 64GB for the same price. That was much appreciated but oddly a 16GB model was still in play.

Given how big many apps are now getting and the fact that no iPad is ever going to offer expandable storage that just doesn’t really cut it, especially if you want to store videos, games and music on your slate too, which is half the fun of having one. So we’d like to see Apple finally abandon the 16GB size and make 32GB the smallest.

iPad Air 2

2. Better slow motion video

Any regular readers will know we’re not the biggest fans of cameras on tablets, but if you’re going to include a feature at least do it right, which Apple hasn’t really done with slow motion video on the iPad Air 2.

It’s an option, but it’s capped at 120fps, which just doesn’t cut it when the less powerful iPhone 6 can reach 240fps. So we want twice the frames and twice the smoothness on the iPad Air 3, which can actually use the feature better as it’s got that larger viewfinder.

iPad Air 2

3. Bring back the silencer

While the iPad Air 2 is a better device in most ways than the iPad Air, one thing changed for the worse. We’re talking of course about the removal of the silencing switch.

Technically it’s not needed any more, as silencing the tablet is easily achievable through Control Center, but having a switch was much, much easier so we’d like to see it come back for the iPad Air 3.

iPad Air 2

4. Don’t make it any thinner

There’s a worrying trend among smartphone and tablet makers to create ever slimmer devices. There’s no denying that slimmer slates can look better and be more portable, but the most extreme examples are slightly ludicrous, not to mention impractical, as they force batteries to be shrunk and hamper the device’s durability.

At 6.1mm thick the iPad Air 2 is right on the edge of what we’d consider to be an acceptable thickness, so we really don’t want the iPad Air 3 to get any thinner.

iPad Air 2

5. Better battery life

The iPad Air 2’s battery life is more than reasonable, with the slate happily chugging along for up to 10 hours of web browsing or video viewing, but it could still always be better and if you’re an avid gamer you’ll find its life is cut significantly short.

We hope then that the iPad Air 3 will get a battery boost, so we can be confident that a transatlantic flight or epic train journey won’t leave us dying of boredom.

iPad Air 2

6. Up the resolution

The iPad Air 2 already has one of the best tablet screens around, but if Apple keeps a 1536 x 2048 resolution for the iPad Air 3 it risks feeling a bit dated.

The likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S and Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet already have it beaten. In fact when it comes to pixel density both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus have the edge and let’s not even get started on all the QHD phones we’re seeing now.

Sure, tablets aren’t phones, but with all the media we enjoy on them they’re every bit as deserving of a super sharp screen.

iPad Air 2

7. Improved daylight visibility

As well as being sharper we hope the iPad Air 3’s screen is easier to see outdoors, especially in bright sunlight.

You can just about use the iPad Air 2 without a roof over your head but there’s plenty of room for improvement here. A big selling point of tablets is mobile entertainment and one that you can’t really use outside is significantly limited in that sense.

iPad Air 2

8. Front-facing speakers

Given that the iPad Air 2 just has a single speaker it manages to kick out some fairly impressive sounds, but stereo speakers would be a definite improvement.

While we’re on the subject, it would be great if they were moved from the base of the slate to the front, so that they’re actually oriented towards you when you’re watching videos and playing games.

Chriss Stephens
Editor in Chief at 3tech.org. Chriss is a Blogger with focus on latest hardware and all operating systems, but especially on Windows