Apple may launch iPad Air 3 this year after all

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iPad Air 2 Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The iPad Air 3 is still M.I.A.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The lack of an iPad Air 3 at last week’s Apple event was a surprise to some people, despite what we had heard along the way.

According to a new set of rumors, however, Apple hasn’t forgotten about its third-generation iPad Air for the 2015/2016 product cycle and will, in fact, be launching just such a device soon — either later this year or early next.

And if the M.I.A. tablet’s specs are anything like they’re rumored to be, it’ll be an upgrade worth waiting for!

In terms of specifications, the iPad Air 3 is said to be powered by an A9 or A9X processor, boast either 2GB or 4GB of RAM, and feature a 9.7-inch Retina display with 4K resolution, 401 ppi and a 4:3 aspect ratio. It would reportedly run iOS 9 (of course!), come in 16GB, 64GB or 128GB memory configurations, and sport an 8-megapixel iSight camera and 2.1-megapixel FaceTime camera.

As such, it would be similar to the iPad Pro, with the exception of the smaller screen size.

Additional rumors claim the iPad Air 3 will be thinner than the iPad Air 2, thanks to a smaller battery allowing it to shrink down to just 5mm thick (compared to the 6.1mm thickness of the iPad Air 2), as well as possibly including waterproofing or dust-resistant features.

There’s a bit of confusion as to when the iPad Air 3 will actually arrive, though. While most of us figured Apple was skipping out on a yearly update for the iPad Air to focus instead on the iPad Pro (which would make sense, since people tend to hold on to their iPads for longer before upgrading, anyway), some sources suggest the iPad Air 3 could be introduced as early as next month (almost certainly untrue) or else early in 2016.

Personally, I’ll wait until we have slightly more reputable sources before believing an iPad Air 3 is imminent. Right now it’s filed in the same M.I.A. category as the 4-inch iPhone 6c.

Were you disappointed by the lack of an iPad Air 3 at last week’s Apple keynote? Leave your comments below.

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  • Rafterman00

    Either. . .or. . .might. Sounds like just a bunch of random guesses.

    • Luke Dormehl

      It does have a hint of Magic 8-Ball to it, definitely.

      • Starman_Andromeda

        It’s coming soon…

        Definitely … maybe!

  • William D

    A load of random guessing rubbish I believe. They’ve left it sit as it be as the sales are going down, and they’re letting the margins increase. At same time it helps them upsell to the Pro. Perhaps next year – and I don’t mean january – they will launch a newer version, with Pencil capability but i wouldn’t count on it.

  • As disappointed as I was, this sounds sketchy as hell. Why would they spec bump the Air 3 so that it supersedes the Pro?

    If they do update the Air 3 anytime soon – I’d expect a better CPU, _perhaps_ more RAM and maybe a camera increase (but the Pro is the same as the Air 2). I’d like to see Pencil support but can’t imagine it happening for another year at least. If I had to peg a date, I’d say March 2016.

  • FMC

    the new iPad Air will be either gold or space grey…

    • Rafterman00

      The new iPad will have a color of some sort. And will definitely weigh more than a feather, Real out on a limb stuff here.

    • Starman_Andromeda

      Or silver!

      • Maybe Rose Gold too, just so people buy the Pro *and* the Air 3.

  • cleesmith

    I’d expect to see it when the iPhone 7 is announced

  • harjot

    I really wait for air 3 because iPad Pro is not comfortable

  • digitaldumdum

    “Personally, I’ll wait until we have slightly more reputable sources before believing an iPad Air 3 is imminent. Right now it’s filed in the same M.I.A. category as the 4-inch iPhone 6c.”

    Then why write the article at all? Oh, I remember: the usual click-bait BS.

    • Luke Dormehl

      Ah, my old friend Digitaldumdum — we’ve had this debate before! ;)

      I’ll try and answer as best I can. The dullest answer I can give you is that it’s my job. I think we do a reasonable job here of balancing good original content and stories you don’t get on other Apple blogs with the need to cover the stories that get picked up elsewhere and therefore make CoM your one-stop-shop for Apple news rather than one of many.

      It’s an ever-tweaking process, but part of the way the media has gone in recent years (and this isn’t only a CoM thing by any means) is publishing stories and rumors as they break. I don’t know how old you are, but I remember going out to buy magazines at the newsagents to keep up with tech and other subjects. Given the one-month lead time and longer reflection period, most of the time all but the most gossipy of magazines wouldn’t feature unsubstantiated rumors, because enough time had played out that it was clear what was true and what wasn’t. Today, news stories get covered quickly which is good in one way, but bad in another. I saw that this was – in all likelihood – a false story, and called out my reasoning in the piece. With that said, if an iPad Air 3 does come out, it’s good to be able to say we covered it back when it was an unsubstantiated rumor.

      As an Apple fan, for me part of the enjoyment of these stories is the speculation that accompanies the lead-up to any Apple launch. Certainly there’s some off-base stuff along the way, but I’m often surprised when I look through the archives how on-the-money a lot of these initially “unfounded” rumors turn out to be.

      The click bait thing is, I think, somewhat unfair, although I appreciate the perspective. I definitely dislike stories with the “You won’t believe this weird trick that made Jony Ive’s jaw hit the floor” or similar, but for the most part (again, I publish six or so stories each day, so it’s never going to be a perfect record) I don’t think I mislead people with headlines. Or I certainly don’t set out to. And I take on board when people suggest otherwise.

      Anyway, this is all slightly unfocused on my part, but I enjoy your comments, so just wanted to respond to what it is valid-enough criticism.

      Either that, or I just wanted to get you to click the page again to claim my extra $0.0000000004 micropayment. (I’m just kidding. I don’t get anything per click.)

      • digitaldumdum

        Luke, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Believe that I completely understand it’s your job to keep the news flowing. Readers want their “fix”, and they turn to CofM and other places to get it… including me! It’s not the general nature of tech predictions, but rather usually-baseless Apple predictions that drive me, and obviously many readers, to distraction and comment.

        As we both know, predictions of Apple’s future products and changes more often prove to be false. Except of late, Apple has always held their secrets and plans under the tightest wraps, and more than once we are completely surprised by something we thought was being released, when something else appears instead. Just the other day, a local Apple Store manager expressed his frustration with me about leaks coming out of the company. He said it’s been very hard to stop the bits of news because there are so many employees now, some looking to leak information or blurry photos for personal reasons.

        Unfortunately, my love/hate/love affair with reading tech news on blogs sometimes spills onto whoever wrote the piece. It’s nothing personal, as I enjoy your pieces, especially those with a more Euro-centric appeal. (I am in the US.) Keep the stuff coming, and I promise I’ll put a lid on my frustration. At least I’ll try. :) After all, we •are• dealing in the ephemeral, n’est–ce pas?

      • Luke Dormehl

        I have a feeling we probably agree on more than we disagree about here. Keep pointing it out, though. As I say, always enjoy your comments.

      • digitaldumdum

        Agreed, and thanks for being a real pro.

  • c_hack

    I had hoped to upgrade from my Air 1 to and Air 3 this year. I guess I’ll just keep waiting. Upgrading to the Air 2 is not worth it.

    • Richard Ludwig

      At this point, I would also continue to wait.

      As for upgrade from Air-to-Air 2, for me it was very worth it. I won’t get into why, but I purchased an Air 2 after parting with my Air. I instantly noticed the difference. I noticed a physical difference (I think, for me, it crossed both a weight and thinness threshold that made a significant difference between Air and Air 2) and a performance difference (everything is much smoother and snappier). The Air was a wonderful machine – a very worthy upgrade from the iPad 3, but the Air 2 didn’t FEEL like a step improvement. Maybe the best way to put it is that it felt like the Air 2 was a refined and polished revision of the Air.

      But you’re right – with Air 3 (and the Pro) just on the horizon, it’s not the time to upgrade to Air 2.

  • JohnB

    Apple will release the Air3 once they have crippled it sufficiently to keep it from hurting sales of the pro. The only reason the 3 and the Pro are different products is profit. Apple could simply sell the 3 and a keyboard upgrade but that would really hurt profits once third parties made keyboards. Typical Apple strategy, don’t allow battery or memory upgrades and try to make products so well sealed that there are no user serviceable parts inside. Then make even more selling us “new and improved” products.

  • Scott Landis

    Honestly, for my wallet’s sake, I hope the Air 3 is delayed until next year. I also hope that we see 3D touch included. My guess is that it gets rolled into WWDC, the base model is 32 or 64GB with no RAM upgrade.

  • David Kaplan 

    I was excited they didn’t launch an iPad Air 3, it gives me hopefully another year of having a current iPad

  • Syncc

    Yes i was really disapointed i was going to buy one if it came out

    • Robert Spokane

      I d not expect them to them to distract from their new baby the iPad pro. Let them bring it out next June with the 3D technology and faster processor, and then they can update the pro next Sept with the same but punch up the speed and give it a 256 gig memory and 3D tech and you have your next year upgrade plus IOS 10.

  • NeilParkerTX

    I’m rocking the iPad 3 and continue to notice a significant performance drop-off depending on what I’m doing. I’m sure it’s time for me to upgrade and I was thinking that an Air 3 would be announced with the Pro.

    Based on this, I will continue to wait vs. shelling out cash for an Air 2.

  • 4GB of ram would be the dream, but considering they just Finally bumped up the air 2 to 2GB of ram so I doubt we’d get another ram bump that soon. Apple is stingy with ram in their mobile devices.

  • Luc van Dooren

    I can’t wait to buy an ipad air 3. The sooner the better, to replace my ipad 2. And I’m not the onlyone.

  • Wikus Barkhuizen

    I’d be surprised if Apple foregoes the chance of selling a new iPad ready for the holiday season. The pro looks great for professionals, but fact is the iPad Air is ultimately something most people use to surf the web etc on a couch at home. The pro is too unweildy for this IMO.

    Only reason why I am less confident about an end of year launch is the fact that Apple launced the mini (and every other possible Apple fan dream device) during the iPhone event.

    • Starman_Andromeda

      IPad Air and iPad Air 2 at discounted prices will be the iPads for Christmas! Everyone will think they’re getting a deal (because they are); Apple will clear out its inventory; and then, sometime in the spring, the iPad Air 3 will debut.

      Alas, it won’t be thicker; it won’t be made of polycarbonate; and it won’t come in Fisher-Price pastel colors. That will be a disappointment to many of us, but will make no difference whatsoever to millions.

      Oh, and it won’t fix the basic flaws or lack of customization scattered about the iOS and Apple’s apps (e.g., the need for a non-full screen option and tab list menu in Safari; universal cookie blocking except from favorite sites; need for different home screen arrangement options; restoration of 12+ apps in folders; etc.)

  • Dave Zapata

    I want to buy a iPad but am waiting for the Air 3. I’ll probably drop the idea all together if I have to wait to 2016.

  • Slimpiks

    Our two iPad 2nd gen are out of date and will buy replacements as soon as a size-friendly unit release. Hope it’s sooner than later!