Apple is expected to announce its third generation iPad Air tablet in the third month of 2016, which means we’ll likely see the iPad Air 3 and iPhone 5se announced at a media event next month. The iPad Air is the only tablet model in Apple’s iPad range that didn’t get refreshed this past fall—Apple updated its iPad mini slate when it announced the large format iPad Pro tablet—so we should expect to see some notable hardware updates.
For users who like the iPad Pro’s features, but don’t want to tote around a 12.9-inch tablet, the good news is that the iPad Air 3 is rumored to take inspiration from the Pro, but retain its smaller 9.7-inch form factor.
Here are three big rumors about the iPad Air 3, which will hopefully satisfy gamers, content creators and those who like to consume videos on their slates:
A leaked image obtained by Engadget suggests that the iPad Air 3 will essentially be a shrunken iPad Pro. Like the iPad Pro, the tablet will be perfect the perfect device to consume content. For video watching, the iPad Air 3 will come with a quad-speaker array, which will provide stereo audio output in both landscape and portrait orientation.
The cost for good sound? You’ll have to deal with a marginal increase to the iPad Air 2’s dimensions going to the third generation model. The iPad Air 3 is expected to be 0.05mm thicker and 0.1mm wider than the model it replaces, according to a leaked schematic.
If you’re planning on upgrading from an iPad Air 2, the slightly larger dimensions could mean that some accessories, like fitted hard cases, may not properly accommodate the iPad Air 3. Even if your existing cases fit, you may still want to buy new accessories to accommodate the quad-speakers, new connectors and features of Apple’s latest and greatest tablet.
Enhanced audio through the quad-speaker design isn’t the only Pro feature that’s making its way to the iPad Air 3. The iPad Air 3 will have a smart connector, likely to accommodate its own Smart Keyboard case, and a touchscreen that supports the Apple Pencil.
Designing the Smart Keyboard around Apple’s 9.7-inch tablet makes sense at a time when tablet sales are shrinking and sales of convertible notebooks are on the rise. Given the device’s size, the iPad Air 3, along with its Smart Keyboard case, will likely compete in the same space as Microsoft’s entry-level Windows 10-powered 10.8-inch Surface 3 tablet.
Additionally, if you have a penchant for capturing handwritten notes, the iPad Air 3 is also rumored to support the Apple Pencil active stylus. This brings support for inking, drawing, handwriting and note-taking to a more travel-friendly form factor as Apple migrates the most coveted features from its iPad Pro line to the Air.
If drawing isn’t your forte, then you can still enjoy some of the enhanced creative aspects of Apple’s iPad Air 3. 9to5 Mac reported that the tablet will come with a “possibility of a rear-LED flash,” which will extend the usefulness of the tablet’s camera.
Balk as you may about people who take photos or videos using a tablet or a smartphone, the larger screen of the iPad may help people with hearing or physical disabilities more easily capture photos or record videos than a smaller iPhone display. With an LED flash, the iPad Air’s camera can be used in lower light environments.
Right now, it’s unclear what chipset will be powering the iPad Air 3, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it came with a more powerful A series processor. For comparison, the iPad Pro debuted Apple’s custom A9X processor.
If you’re prepared to whip your wallet out for these rumored iPad Air 3 features, you won’t have to wait much longer. The tablet is expected to be announced on Tuesday, March 15. You’ll likely be able to purchase the iPad Air 3 soon after Apple’s announcement, probably towards the end of the month.
We don’t know much about cost at this point, but if the iPad Air 3 is slotted to replace the iPad Air 2, the device may be comparably priced. The 16GB model of the iPad Air 2 starts at $499, with capacity going up to 128GB.
However, if you need a keyboard and want the Apple Pencil, be prepared to spend extra. The Apple Pencil retails for $99, while the Smart Keyboard cover for the iPad Pro is $169. We expect the iPad Air 3’s Smart Keyboard to be comparably priced. Unlike with Windows 10 devices, keep in mind that the keyboard cover doesn’t come with a trackpad, so you’ll need to reach for the touchscreen to make your selections on the Air 3.