What will the new iPad mini 5 - or 'iPad Pro mini' - look like, and when will it launch in the UK? We explore the clues about the next iPad mini's release date, new features, design changes and more
The iPad mini 5 is overdue. It's been almost two years since the iPad mini 4 was unveiled in September 2015 and is still one of the best 8in tablets around. But we can't help but wonder what's next for the range. Will 2017's iPad mini 5 see another major overhaul, or will it be a damp squib like the mini 3? Could it even be an iPad Pro mini?
With this in mind, we've gathered all of the iPad mini 5 rumours, hints, clues and other evidence in one place. Read on to explore the evidence to suggest that a new iPad mini is coming soon, and new features and specs to expect when (and if) it arrives.
When is the iPad mini 5 release date?
We expect the new iPad mini 5 (or iPad Pro mini) no sooner than the autumn of 2017 - if at all. We felt it was possible, if unlikely, that it would launch at the iPhone 8/X launch event, but it didn't merit a mention.
Reports from DigiTimes earlier this year pointed to a June 2017 launch for the new iPad mini, but that's been and gone and although Apple has done two separate iPad launches so far in 2017 - the iPad 9.7in (2017) in March, and the iPad Pro 10.5in (2017) and iPad Pro 12.9in (2017) in June - there has been no mention of a new small iPad.
Some analysts believe Apple may be phasing the mini out of its lineup.
Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a report in January 2017 suggesting that Apple would announce three new iPads this year (a statement that has proven to be true so far), but no new mini - and that there would be a rise in the average selling price of iPads thanks to "decreasing exposure to iPad mini".
Kuo's theory is also backed up by a May 2017 report from BGR. The site's source claims the company is phasing out the iPad mini line completely - but couldn't confirm when this would happen. And after the lack of a new iPad mini at WWDC, TechCrunch said the fourth model "is probably going to be the last iPad mini ever".
About the only piece of evidence we've seen for an iPad mini was sent into 9to5Mac back in June, and claimed to show prices for an iPad mini 5 from a UK retailer's inventory system ahead of WWDC. But given that no such product was mentioned at the event, and that a retailer could easily have prepared for a possible launch without knowing whether it was happening or not, this now looks like it may have been fake or misconstrued.
Design: What will the iPad Pro mini look like?
The iPad mini 4 has plenty to recommend it, but in broad design terms it's actually pretty close to the very first iPad mini; it's been slimmed down and had various features added, but the two devices look largely the same. Can we expect a more radical redesign this time around - something like the jump from rounded-corner iPhone 3GS to sharper-edged iPhone 4?
It's possible, but we haven't yet heard anything to back up the theory that Apple is tearing up its old design manuals and starting from scratch. Early hints suggest that, as before, we could be looking at a conservative redesign and gentle improvements.
So far, speculation suggests that the iPad mini 5 will be even thinner than its predecessor (which is already an incredible 6.1mm), at just 5mm. It's certainly possible - the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablets are already 5.6mm thick, but we're not sure it's entirely necessary.
7000-series aluminium chassis
The iPad mini 5 could also have a different chassis, this time made with 7000-series aluminium like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 handsets to make it more durable, particularly if it is indeed thinner to help prevent the tablet from bending.
While we're a little sceptical about the iPad mini 5 having a flexible or possibly even foldable display, recent patents suggest that Apple has been working on the technology for the iPhone for a number of years. The technology would arguably be more important on an iPad, allowing users to 'fold up' the large screen of the iPad and put it in their pocket when not in use.
We assume that Apple is still experimenting with the technology, and is therefore still a number of years away from release.
The iPad Pro models (both 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch) feature a Smart Connector: a set of data and power ports on their lefthand edge, when held in portrait orientation, which connect to a keyboard case.
For what it's worth we think the Smart Keyboard available for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a lot better than its smaller cousin, but even that is a better option for long-term typing than the software keyboard on the iPad's screen. If the iPad mini 5 gets a Smart Connector it could have a (probably limited but still handy) Smart Keyboard of its own, as well as opening up possibilities for other powered accessories.
It's believed that the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen tech which Apple deploys in its iPhone 6s and later isn't ready to make the move to the iPad line - the technology didn't make it into the 2017 iPad Pro models - but we think this is only a matter of time. It's possible this would be something Apple can roll out in the mini 5 in the autumn, but we may have to wait until a future update.
Cult of Mac is among the sites to predict that the next generation of iPads could be waterproof and dust-resistant.
It's believed that the iPad mini 5's thinner design would be made possible by a new, smaller battery, says Cult of Mac: while the mini 5's battery unit may have a lower capacity than the 5,124mAh component in the mini 4, superior battery technology mean it will be able to match its predecessor's real-world battery performance.
Apple isn't expected to up the camera quality in the iPad mini 5, so expect 8Mp on the rear and 1.2Mp on the front. (A better front-facing camera would be nice, though, particularly for FaceTime.)
The processor should be improved to an A9 processor over the A8, so we'll see a speed bump and improved graphics for the iPad mini 5, and we could also see an improvement when it comes to the display's resolution. Having launched new iPad Pro models with the super-fast A10X Fusion chips, Apple may even manage to include this, or the slightly less powerful A10 Fusion from the iPhone 7.
As for storage, we're certain that Apple will at the very least scrap the 16GB model and offer 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models of the iPad mini 5. (We base these assumption on the recent dropping of the 16GB model on the iPhone 7 line, and we're sure to see it continue through Apple's product line.) The company could go further, however; the 2017 iPad Pro models are offered in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB flavours.
How much will the iPad Pro mini/iPad mini 5 cost in the UK?
The iPad mini 4 was released on 9 September 2015 at $399 USD / £319 GBP / $569 AUD / $439 CAD for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model. The 64GB and 128GB models were £399 and £479 respectively with cellular connectivity adding another £100 on top of the listed price.
(These days the mini 4 is available in the top-end 128GB variant only, with the Wi-Fi model costing £419 and the cellular variant £549.)
We expect the mini 5 to come in at £379 for the base model.
New features wishlist
We've looked above at the new features we think are likely to appear in the iPad mini 5. But what are the features we'd like to see? Here's our iPad mini 5 wishlist.
An obvious one to start with, but we are highly enamoured of the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screens on our 6s-generation iPhones and would love to see the feature ported to the iPad mini line-up. We'll take Live Photos too, if you're offering.
Given the better integration of iOS 10 and 3D Touch, we see the feature being included on the iPad mini 5. (iOS 11 adds further 3D Touch features to Control Centre, although unlike most such features these can be duplicated with long presses.)
No headphone port
We're going out on a limb here, and we know this isn't a fashionable point of view: but after the release of the iPhone 7, there might be a removal of the headphone jack on iPads too.
While the iPad mini 4 is already wonderfully slim and light, removing a port streamlines the design on the outside and makes space on the inside: the mini 5 could be even slimmer, or perhaps squeeze in a little more battery capacity.
When it comes to implementing new features and entering new market segments, Apple is widely felt to be the slow-turning ocean liner of mobile tech, but it's a fast and usually prescient mover when it comes to ditching soon-to-be-outdated technologies.
As a general rule, the more portable a computing device is, the more dependent it is on battery power - yet conversely, it'll be relying on a smaller battery unit. The iPad Pro 12.9in is the least likely iPad to see prolonged usage on the go (most of our use has been desk- or sofa-bound, within easy reach of a power supply), but it has easily the best battery performance of any iPad we've tested.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that battery performance is a massive priority for the iPad mini 5, and efficient and convenient charging is an important element of that. We'd like Apple to implement its own version of Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology, so that you can give the mini 5 a quick blast of power in the coffee shop before proceeding on your merry way.
We've grown used to the ultra-fast charging offered by the Apple Pencil's little battery, and would like to see something of the same experience (although based on new technology) brought to the iPads themselves.
microSD card slot
Aside from being an extraordinarily long shot (Apple has never produced an iPhone, iPad or iPod with removable storage, and realistically never will), it might sound odd to ask Apple to streamline the external design by removing a widely used port, and then in the next section ask Apple to clog up the design with an additional card slot. But let's put it this way: if we're obliged to have one non-essential external port, we'd take this over the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Apple's storage policies have long been frustrating. The substantial step up in price when you select a higher storage allocation, when we know that storage is incredibly cheap; the removal of the 'sweet spot' 32GB option, so that many buyers fall between the stools of not enough (16GB) and more than you need (64GB); and the refusal to countenance either upgrades or removal storage, so that whatever you buy is what you're stuck with for the lifetime of that product.
The iPad mini is a terrific e-reader, and you know what that means: poolside use. We think the mini line-up needs waterproofing just as much as the iPhones.
Apple has a peculiar attitude to waterproofing. As people are increasingly noticing, the Apple Watch and two most recent iPhone generations are actually reasonably resistant to water immersion, but you wouldn't know it from the technical specs for these products; unlike pretty much all other tech firms, Apple doesn't send its devices off to get IP-rated.
(An IP - or Ingress Protection - rating consists of two digits. The first rates its ability to withstand solid intrusions on a scale of 0 to 6; the second rates fluid resistance on a scale of 0 to 6. So the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone, which is rated as IP68, is top of the class.)
Waterproofing for most companies is a way of bragging about products' capabilities, but Apple seemingly prefers it to be a nice surprise when your iPhone 6s takes a dip and then doesn't die a watery death. But we'd like to be on rather firmer ground when we take an iPad mini 5 to the beach.
That's self-explanatory, isn't it? I like the pink iPhone colour option. Don't judge me.
That's it for now. Check back regularly for the latest iPad mini 5 feature rumours, as we'll be updating this very article as new evidence and speculation emerges, and when the first leaked photos appear.