For some time now, the ever-churning Apple rumor mill has been telling us to expect some kind of hardware event in the spring. And as the spring draws nearer, reports about both the timing and the content of that spring event are going to get more accurate. The latest news to that end comes from the Japanese site Mac Otakara (via MacRumors), one of the more reliable sources for early news about this sort of thing.
Mac Otakara reports that Apple will be having a hardware event in March with the iPad acting as the star of the show. The tablet lineup is said to be getting a top-to-bottom refresh—there will reportedly be new tablets at the current 7.9, 9.7, and 12.9-inch screen sizes, as well as a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro that combines the approximate size of the 9.7-inch version with the screen resolution of the 12.9-inch version.
The new “mini” version of the iPad Pro will reportedly have a Smart Connector, four speakers, a True Tone display, and a 12MP rear camera with an LED flash just like the current 9.7-inch version; it’s also safe to assume Apple Pencil support, though the report doesn’t mention it specifically. The improved camera and True Tone display feature will presumably also make their way to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which shipped without those features (and without the DCI-P3 “wide color” display panel that the 9.7-inch Pro uses). The 10.5-inch model, which could ship later than the rest of them, is said to use a much thinner display bezel to make more room for the screen without increasing the tablet’s overall size.
The Mac Otakara report also mentions a new red finish for the iPhone 7, not unlike the one that Apple already offers for the iPod Touch, and a 128GB model of the iPhone SE.
Most of the iPad lineup has gone untouched since September of 2015, when Apple introduced the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the iPad Mini 4 and dropped the price of the year-old iPad Air 2 and the two-year-old iPad Mini 2. The only iPad released since then is the 9.7-inch Pro model, introduced in March of 2016. When the new models arrive, at least some of these old models will presumably stick around at lower prices. Low stock of the iPad Air 2 in Apple’s stores and at third-party retailers suggests that it could be near the end of the line.
Despite a mostly steady stream of hardware and software updates, iPad sales have been falling since early 2014. The numbers showed some signs of recovery in late 2016, but the lack of upgrades last September led to a 20-ish percent drop in unit sales and revenue in the first quarter of 2017. Over the same period of time, Apple’s iPhone business has been boosted in a big way by large-screened iPhones and the Chinese market, and the Mac business has been largely stable despite an inconsistent release schedule and mostly nonexistent desktop refreshes. New hardware should help, but at this point, it’s far from guaranteed that they’ll be able to return the iPad to reliable, consistent growth.