We're just days away from the first big Apple launch of 2018, and word on the web is that it's going to be another new iPad.
But this one is going to be different to the iPads from before, in that it's going to be even cheaper and – if you read into the most recent Apple invite – it's not going to be aimed at consumers.
That's right, there's an outside chance you won't even be able to buy this iPad, although it's probably going to be available for sale in certain locations and could just be the new budget way to get into Apple's tablet ecosystem.
But before we go too far into that – and give away one of the most surprising features of this new device – let's break it down bit-by-bit so you can get a proper taste of what we expect from Apple on March 27.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new, low-cost iPad for schools and business
- When is it out? Likely April 2018
- What will it cost? Probably at least $259 / £249 / AU$350
New iPad 2018 release date and price
The invite above, for an event in Chicago on March 27, drops a lot of hints about when we can expect from the event.
The main thing is the actual location: a fancy high school in Chicago, and a note saying that we're going to see new creative ideas for teachers and students.
There's not mention of new hardware – come on, this is an Apple invite, after all – but the invitation has clearly been written in the style of Apple's Pencil swipes and swooshes, so it's pretty clear there's a new iPad approaching.
That date means we'll be getting the new iPad somewhen in April if the usual 10-day-to-two-weeks model is followed, with pre-orders beginning somewhen in between that… if indeed you can buy this from retail stores, as the new iPad 2018 might be for education only.
In terms of price, we're hearing rumors that it could be pretty cheap, with the cost all the way down to US$259 (converted to £190 or AU$340, but more likely £249 / AU350 based on the way Apple's been pricing things).
The current model starts at US$329, so that's a drop of more than 20 percent.
The Apple Pencil
Here's the interesting thing – we've been hearing that Apple is gearing up to increase the volume of its Apple Pencil production, almost doubling it up to 10 million units… so it's going to need to put them somewhere.
Where better than alongside a new iPad that's going to be used by more and more schools (if Apple actually makes this move a success)?
That theory looks more robust as it seems the new iPad 2018 will indeed support the Apple Pencil, giving it more scope to be used beyond the iPad Pro range.
There are rumors that the Apple Pencil support will even extend to future iPhones, but that's not on the cards for now (and we're not sure it's part of the vision Steve Jobs had for the iPhone…)
New iPad 2018 screen
Details are starting to get a little thinner here, but given the new iPad 2018 is supposed to be a little cheaper, we can extrapolate some ideas.
Firstly, there's going to have to be a digitiser layer underneath the glass that can read the Apple Pencil – that's not going to make a difference to the look of the iPad, but it's another layer and does add to the cost.
That means we probably won't see any of the True Tone display technology that's been coming to the iPad Pro range, where the sensors match the white balance of the screen with the surrounding light.
Resolution on the likely LCD screen will probably match that of the entry level iPad from last year at 1536×2048, and we'd anticipate it won't be the highest-quality color reproduction Apple has ever offered in an iPad as the focus will be slightly more on function.
But the screen will still be in the standard 4:3 ratio and offer Apple's staple 9.7-inch display size, with larger bezels all around if everything appears as expected.
Again, we've had no leaks about the design of the new iPad, but given the way Apple is adept at repurposing older designs for cheaper models (think the iPhone SE and iPhone 5C) it's fairly easy to see that the model we are likely to see on March 27 is going to be something quite familiar.
In fact, we're willing to bet that the event will be more about what you can do with the device than the specs on board, so expect something that looks almost identical to the iPad 2017, so a metal back and rounded corners.
The thickness of the iPad from 2017 was something we weren't super impressed by, but we expect that to continue – and don't expect there to be masses of storage in there, as the cloud is more likely to be a destination for all the content on these devices.
We'd expect Apple to unveil more iCloud storage for students – so if this does also get sold as a retail unit, it'll be a pretty basic one, in the same way we see Chromebooks these days.
New iPad 2018 power and OS
The operating system is the easy one here – it'll be iOS 11.3, as Apple always uses an event to debut some new feature of what its devices can do.
There's word that the new software contains something called ClassKit, which doesn't need a lot of analysis given we're expecting these iPads to be used for students and they'll need new software.
The question is which processor Apple will chuck in the new – it could well still with the A9 chipset that powered the iPad last year.
That would leave it quite underpowered (although would help with the cost reduction) and we can see Apple making a huge deal about the new things you can do to learn with these iPads – including 3D rendering of items for more interactive education.
We're going to guess at the A10 chip from last year being used, but don't be surprised if the teardown reveals a poorer engine and less RAM than we're used to.
What else should I know?
Well, the first thing you should know is that TechRadar is going to be liveblogging this event for you as there's no stream to watch it from… so you're going to want to check back on the site on Tuesday March 27, when the event will be covered in depth from when it kicks off at 8AM PT, 11AM ET and 4PM GMT.
Beyond that, the main difference on this iPad is its use in the classroom, so there could well be an appearance from the Smart Connector for low-power accessories, turning the tablet into a word processor with a snap on keyboard.
There could also be new options on show, which would please iPad Pro users, but again this would add cost to a device Apple will be looking to lower the price of.
So, make sure you keep it locked to TechRadar to get all you need about the new iPad 2018 – we'll be doing our utmost to be among the very first on the web to bring you information on the new tablet, so you can decide whether it's your next purchase (if you can, that is).
- 2017's iPad is likely to be even cheaper when this device lands… is that a better choice for you? Check out our review to find out.