AirPods 3 and iPad with Mini LED are coming sooner than you think

AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Brian Coule/Tom's Guide)

Hot on the heels of his iPhone 13 battery bombshell, TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has some more news of upcoming Apple products. And, unlike the still distant iPhone 13, these ones are due to arrive in the first half of 2021.

According to a research note to investors and seen by MacRumors, Apple will be releasing a new set of AirPods and an iPad with a mini-LED display at some point in the next eight months. 

Starting with the AirPods, the main headline is that they’ll look closer to the chunkier AirPods Pro than the originals, with a shorter stem and replaceable ear tips. But despite these design improvements, this is still going to be an entry-level product, and won’t have Active Noise Cancellation like the more expensive Pro model. Battery life is likely to be improved, though. Expect older models to appear heavily in the AirPod Black Friday deals this year.

Then there’s the iPad. It looks like we’re going to get an update to the entry-level 10.2-inch iPad, where the main improvement will be to the screen, which is set to feature mini-LED technology. Mini-LED displays, as you might imagine, use LEDs of smaller proportions than traditional LED screens, and individual controls result in better local dimming, contrast and overall brightness. It should make the regular iPad far easier on the eyes.

This isn’t the first time Kuo has predicted that mini-LED technology is on the way to Apple products. Back in March, the analyst cited no fewer than six products with mini-LED screens as launching in 2020 and 2021, including a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a 27-inch iMac Pro, a 14.1-inch MacBook Pro, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 7.9-inch iPad and the 10.2-inch iPad covered here. 

Given we’re just a month and a half away from 2021 and there are still no mini-LED Apple products, it seems likely that the original 2020-2021 timeframe has slipped a little, which perhaps isn’t surprising, given the continued disruption to work patterns and global supply chains brought about by coronavirus. 

Despite that, Apple has had a busy end of year, managing three events introducing the world to the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, HomePod mini, and Apple Silicon Macs. Plus, rumor has it that the AirPods Studio and AirTags are just waiting in the wings ready to launch at any minute.

Obviously the first half of 2021 is a fairly broad window for the AirPods 3 and new iPad to launch in, but Apple has a history of releasing products at special events in March and as part of the WWDC developer’s conference, so the clever money would be on those windows. Watch this space. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.