It's been well over a year since we've been treated to a new iPad Air. Sure, we've had the iPad Pro last year, and the smaller iPad Pro 9.7 last month. But the wait for a general use friendly new slate – one that won't decimate the bank balance – continues. Hopefully not for much longer, though.
The iPad Air 3 release date might have long eluded us, but it could finally be on the horizon - fingers crossed. A possible product set for a WWDC 2016 in mid-June, it has been suggested the iPad Air 3 could land alongside the eagerly awaited Apple Watch 2. With a reworked design and beefed up innards, expect it to fight off growing tablet competition from the likes of theGoogle Pixel C and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro S.
Ahead of Apple's big unveiling, here's everything you need to know about the iPad Air 3, from features to pricing.
Apple notoriously holds its release cards close to its chest. But when the invites drop, so do does mass excitement and more than the odd leak and tease. With Apple having recently pencilled in plans for its annual developer conference, WWDC 2016, the iPad Air 3 release date could be with us sooner than some expected.
Having been a major omission from last month's spring unveiling - replaced by the high-end iPad Pro 9.7, the upcoming WWDC gathering has hinted that the iPad Air 3 will be on retailers' shelves before the year's midway point.
It's not a given though, contrasting reports have suggested that with the smaller iPad Pro having dropped, the iPad Air 3 will be held off until September when, landing alongside the iPhone 7, it could drop in time for the lucrative Christmas market. With much speculation and confusion seemingly surrounding the iPad Air 3 release date, we'd suggest not getting your hopes up anytime soon.
From the iPhone to the iPod – via the odd laptop and set-top box – Apple makes a lot of good-looking gadgets. Expect the iPad Air 3 to follow in a similar, slimline, metal-bodied fashion then - but with a number of small changes.
Leading this minor design revolution is a reworking of the slate's edges. Learning a thing or two from its big brother, the iPad Air 3 has been tipped to move to a new Pro-inspired quad speaker array. This two-up, two-down set-up will not only boost the tablet's inbuilt audio skills, it will give the tab a new look edging. That's not where the design differences will end. Further reports have pegged the third-gen Air to cut down on its predecessor's sizeable bezels - finally, right?
Colour wise, the current silver, space grey and gold hues are all set to be retained. Sadly, it's not clear whether or not the iPhone-introduced Rose Gold (pink) will be transformed to the company's more affordable tablet line.
If you're holding out for a radical upheaval of the iPad's innards, you might want to temper your expectations - this thing isn't going to reinvent the tablet space. Just bring it up to date.
When it comes to power, again the new Air is expected to copy the iPad Pro and run Apple's A9X chipset alongside 4GB of RAM. That's a combination that will give you more grunt than your tab-based usage is ever likely to need.
Imaging options are set to improve too - although if you take photos in public with a tablet you deserve to be shunned. Here, early reports have pegged a 13-megapixel iSight snapper to line up on the rear, with a secondary selfie shooter up front for serious FaceTime fun. Image storage could be on the up too. They've been claims that the current 16GB, 64GB and 128GB will be bolstered by a larger 256GB model.
The software side of things won't see any major updates either. With the iPad Air 3 set to touch down in March – ahead of June's WWDC conference – expect to see iOS 9.3 rather than the eagerly awaited iOS 10 software running the show. This is no drawback though, with splitscreen multitasking and a mass of innovative features made possible.
Apple's never been one to chase the specs numbers game. That could be about to change though, with certain reports suggesting the iPad Air 3 will jump to a 2334 x 3112 pixel, 4K resolution stretched across the familiar 9.7-inch form.
These claims should probably be taken with a slight pinch of salt for now though. Given the iPad Air 2 currently sports a 1536 x 2048 pixel panel – one that's effortlessly easy on the eye – this would mark a considerable jump in screen quality. While we wouldn't be disappointed if the old display remained, the teased panel would be a welcome addition.
What appears more likely, is that Apple's flagship tab will echo its smartphone sibling and adopt the same the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch skills as the iPhone 6S. This lets different features be attributed to how hard users press the screen.
Yes, Apple's computers and smartphones are expensive. Its tablets, however, are pretty damn reasonable. Sure, there are now a number of half-decent budget slates out there, but whenever anyone tries to launch a true 'iPad rival', it only highlights how well positioned the iPad's price tag really is.
Expect then to see the iPad Air 3 follow a similar premium, but not extortionate, pricing structure. Things are likely to kick off at £399 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only model, rising to well over £650 for the 128GB Wi-Fi plus 4G option. If a 256GB model makes it to reality, expect that pricing to edge towards the £750 marker - ouch.