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Apple iPad event: What to expect

New iPad Pros, iPad Airs, Apple Pencil and perhaps the M4 chip


Image Credits: Apple

So far, the biggest surprise about May 7’s “Let Loose” event is that it’s happening at all. We’re just over a month out from Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, and yet the company determined there was enough news to warrant a stand-alone event. iPads (including the iPad Pro and iPad Air) will be the focus, while the long-neglected Apple Pencil is finally getting some love. It was, after all, the focal point of the event’s invite.

Rumors have also begun swirling around a potential M4 announcement. If true, it would represent a key change to Apple’s silicon release cadence, though that hasn’t exactly been consistent over the year. The likeliest reason for the change is Microsoft’s expected release of first-party, ARM-based silicon at its Build conference at the end of the month. Speculation has it that Microsoft’s AI-focused silicon will smoke Apple’s M3 chips.

It’s only been roughly seven months since Apple announced a trio of M3 chips. That’s a quick turnaround for a replacement chip, but keep in mind, the company is believed to have been working toward a more staggered release schedule last year, only to have those plans gunked up by some ongoing supply chain issues. Perhaps this schedule readjustment could see additional M4 SKUs announced during WWDC in a month.

In the meantime, it’s possible that, for the first time, the latest chip could appear on an iPad first — specifically the iPad Pro. At the very least, the high-end iPad is due for a refresh. The latest model, which sports the M2 chip, was released toward the end of 2022. Apple has spent the past several years blurring the line between the iPad and Mac, so why not let the tablet get its hands on new silicon first for a change?

The other big change to the Pro is said to be the long-awaited upgrade to an OLED display. Bloomberg suggests that this can’t come soon enough, as the tablet category is “in a deep funk right now.” Certainly the days of the iPad, one of Apple’s superstar devices, seem mostly behind us.

Image Credits: Matthew Panzarino
Image Credits: Matthew Panzarino

The company continues to dominate the category, but the tablet had a rough 2023, giving Apple a big slice of an increasingly shrinking pie. Canalys says the overall market decreased by 10% last year. Given the Vision Pro’s slow start, Apple could really use a shot in the arm right now — though a redesigned iPad doesn’t really fit the bill.

A pair of new iPad Airs is said to be arriving in 11- and 12.9-inch versions. The current rumor still has the more accessible models receiving an M2 chip — if the M4 does arrive next week, however, perhaps they’ll get an additional bump as well.

For what remains a relatively niche device, the Apple Pencil is apparently ready for its close-up. The stylus is said to be getting a new squeeze detection feature (which was alluded to earlier in an iPad) update. Haptic feedback could be on the docket as well, along with interchangeable magnet tips. Find My support could arrive too — a welcome addition for an eternally misplaced peripheral. Talking of blurring the lines between the iPad and Mac, Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard makes the tablet look even more like a laptop than before.

Image Credits: Apple
Image Credits: Apple

As for Macs themselves, with the arrival of the M4, I wouldn’t be wholly surprised to see the company sneak a computer refresh or two in. It seems just as — or even more — likely that Apple is saving major additions to the Mac line for WWDC in June.

The event is an early one for you West Coasters. It kicks off at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET. You can watch it live here and follow TechCrunch for the news as it breaks.

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