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iPad Air 5 with OLED display tipped for next year ahead of next iPad Pro

iPad Air 4 review
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey/Tom's Guide)

While the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021 may have come packing a new mini-LED display, other iPad models have been rocking basically the same LCD panels since their inception. Thankfully, that might be about to change.

That's according to a new report from The Elec, which claimed that Apple is gearing up to sell OLED iPads as early as next year. While the publication didn't cite its sources, this is something we’ve heard about before, but never got any official word on. 

The Korean news site reported that Apple could launch an OLED iPad with a 10.68-inch screen sometime next year, with 11-inch and 12.9-inch OLED panels said to be coming in 2023.

It’s not clear which iPads could get an OLED display, but the screen sizes suggest that the iPad Air and both iPad Pro models may be in the running. For the iPad Air and 11-inch iPad Pro, that makes sense, though it’s not entirely clear why Apple would offer an OLED 12.9-inch iPad Pro when a mini-LED model is already on sale; the latter panel technology is arguably better than OLED in a lot of cases. 

Interestingly, the report also noted that the 10.68-inch model will rely on a rigid OLED display, while future models could utilize flexible glass displays instead. It’s a little odd to go rigid for a single model, particularly since the iPhone has been using flexible OLED panels since the launch of the iPhone X.

Apple seems to have been quite wary about upgrading its devices from LCD to OLED. While OLED panels have been used on Apple Watches and flagship iPhones for several generations, Apple hasn’t released a single OLED iPad or MacBook.

Opting for mini-LED in the latest iPad Pro was seen as a sign that Apple might avoid OLED iPads altogether. But seeing as how mini-LED is still a very new technology, and thus more expensive to manufacture, it’s not exactly ideal for more affordably priced products such as the iPad Air.

OLED has the advantage that each individual pixel is lit, whereas mini-LED relies on small clusters of light. That said, OLED can be prone to burn in if you’re not careful, and doesn’t have the best off-angle performance. Meanwhile, mini-LED can offer higher maximum brightness, as well as better colors and contrast.

It could be that Apple is intending to offer multiple display variants for the iPad Pro in the future. That way, people could enjoy the upgrades afforded by an OLED display, while those willing to pay for the pricier performance of mini-LED can still do so.

It's not clear, either, how such a decision would affect future MacBook Pros, which are rumored to be getting mini-LED displays later this year.

Obviously this isn’t confirmation that OLED iPads are on the way. However the fact this is (at least) the third time we’ve heard about this from various reports and rumors means it’s looking more likely.

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.