2024 will be a busy year for Apple and for iPad users, at least according to noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a report posted on Medium (free account required), Kuo served up his forecast for the iPad market next year, eyeing new and improved versions of the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini, and regular iPad.
The hottest forecast centers on the iPad Pro. The displays of the 2024 11-inch and 12.9-inch Pro models will jump from LED and mini-LED, respectively, to OLED, a move that promises more accurate colors, higher contrast, better sharpness, higher refresh rates, and lower power consumption, the analyst said.
The new iPad Pros will sport Apple's M3 processor, an upgrade from the current M2 chip. Kuo also said that the tablets will feature an improved form factor, though he didn't specify what exact changes are in store.
The OLED display for the new Pro versions will adopt the Tandem design with LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide ) backplanes, the same backplanes used on the iPhone 15 Pro phones. That means the new OLED tablets will outshine the existing LED and mini-LED models in both display performance and power consumption.
The new iPad Pros were initially scheduled to hit the market in the first quarter of 2024. But Kuo said that production issues with the OLED panel modules have delayed the rollout to late in the first quarter or even the second quarter of the year.
Pricing is still up in the air, according to Kuo. If the price of the new 10.9-inch iPad Air remains the same and the new 12.9-inch Air is naturally more expensive than its smaller cousin, then Apple will need to maintain a price gap between the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. In that event, the Pro models could be in store for a price increase.
Shipments of the new iPad Pros will range from 6 to 8 million units in 2024, Kuo forecasts. The shipments will be slightly less than those of the existing Pro models, due to their higher prices and to possible cannibalization from the 12.9-inch iPad Air.
Speaking of the iPad Air, two new versions of this model are slated for mass production in the first quarter of 2024, according to Kuo. The 12.9-inch Air is a brand-new model. Though it will stick with LED rather than move to mini-LED, it will use an Oxide backplane (the same as the current mini-LED iPad Pro). The 10.9-inch iPad Air will use an a-Si (amorphous silicon) backplane. Oxide backplanes provide better display performance than a-Si backplanes.
Kuo didn't provide any concrete details on the 2024 iPad mini. His only forecast is that mass production of next year's iPad mini model will be delayed to the second quarter, a change from the previous estimate of the first quarter.
The new 11th-generation iPad will also hit mass production in next year's second quarter, while the 9th generation, released in 2021, will reach its end of life before 2024 is over.
Kuo estimates that overall iPad shipments next year will be 52 to 54 million, up from 50 million this year but down from the 63 million shipments in 2022. Shipments have dropped from their peak in 2022 due to declining demand from remote workers and changes in the user experience for entertainment and productivity.
Though Kuo's report is naturally based on his own predictions rather than any news announced by Apple, the analyst does have a reputation for accuracy. Getting his scoops from contacts in Apple's supply chain, Kuo has a proven track record of reliable information on upcoming Apple products.
Otherwise, the introduction of new iPads is a safe bet for 2024. Apple hasn't unveiled a new tablet since 2022, making 2023 the first year without new iPads since 2010. The iPad and iPad Pro were last updated in October 2022, the iPad Air in March 2022, and the iPad mini in September 2021.
One hiccup is that the global tablet market has seen better days, with third-quarter shipments down by 14.2% compared with the same quarter last year, according to IDC. Waiting until next year to release new iPad versions may work in Apple's favor, assuming the market improves.
"Tablets have unfortunately always found themselves in an awkward middle ground between PCs and smartphones, and this continues to put downward pressure on the market," said Jitesh Ubrani, research manager with IDC's Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers. "However, the most successful tablet makers have realized that the tablet works best when paired with rather than against a PC or smartphone, and as such we expect other tablet makers to follow suit by offering a more unified software and services experience, though this will take some time to coalesce."