Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that new iPad Pro models are on the way as early as April, with some interesting new features:
The company is planning a refresh to its iPad Pro line, adding a better processor and improved cameras, the people said. The new models will look similar to the current iPad Pros and come in the same 11-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes.
The devices will have an updated processor that is on par with the faster M1 chip in the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini… Apple is also looking to include a Mini-LED screen with at least the larger model, which would be brighter and have improved contrast ratios.
In testing, the new iPad Pros have used a Thunderbolt connector, the same port on the latest Macs with custom Apple processors. The port doesn’t require new chargers, but it would enable connectivity with additional external monitors, hard drives and other peripherals. It’s also faster at syncing data than the USB-C technology used in the current models.
I don’t think an iPad Pro with an M1-generation chip (probably called A14X) is particularly surprising, and reports have suggested for a while that Apple has been experimenting with Mini-LED backlights for improved screen quality.
The really interesting tidbit here is the suggestion that these iPads might support Thunderbolt rather than USB-C, as current models do. Gurman’s got a very precise caveat here—he can’t say that Thunderbolt will be included on the shipping models, only that they were used in testing. But still, an iPad Pro that can do Thunderbolt (as the M1 Macs do) would potentially enable all sorts of high-speed connectivity.
Ever since Apple introduced proper support for trackpads and mice about a year ago, it’s seemed like the logical next step would be proper support for external monitors, not just mirroring of what’s on the iPad’s built-in display. If these iPad Pros do indeed have Thunderbolt ports, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple also updated iPadOS to offer more powerful external display options. And just like last year, for them to do it simultaneously with a hardware announcement, rather than waiting for a new version of iPadOS in the fall.
(I also found it curious that the headline and lead of Gurman’s story mention the fact that the iPad has sold well during the pandemic. Did the editor of the story feel they had to justify reporting on iPad news by referencing recent sales growth? The ways of Bloomberg are truly mysterious.)