Apple reportedly has OLED iPads on the way — but should you wait?

A concept render of the iPad Pro 2022
(Image credit: MyDrivers)

If the OLED iPad rumors we've been hearing are correct, then a big upgrade to Apple's tablet line may not be too far off. But maybe you're better off buying one of the best iPads right now instead.

We've heard again recently that Apple's likely going all-in on OLED iPads in 2024, based on its components partner Samsung Display ramping up its production facilities (via The Elec (opens in new tab)), and other recent claims from analysts like Ross Young and Ming-Chi Kuo. A newer report suggests Apple will utilize hybrid OLED tech for iPads coming in 2024.

Apple already offers OLED displays on the iPhone 13 series and the Apple Watch 7, but it's yet to offer them on a tablet. The first OLED iPads will likely be a future iPad Pro, building on the current mini LED display in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, with the above report mentioning second-gen OLED iPads coming in the same year, it seems likely that this technology would eventually appear on the iPad Air, and possibly trickle down to the iPad mini and regular iPad eventually.

iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)

With the iPads already occupying several spots on our best tablets guide, how would the addition of OLED screens make them better? We explore that below, as well as consider why it may be better to go for a new iPad now instead.

The best iPad to buy right now

iPad Air (2022, 64GB): $559 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)

iPad Air (2022, 64GB): $559 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
Apple's best tablet for most users, the latest iPad Air takes the 10.9-inch body and adds in Apple's M1 chip, making it as powerful as the iPad Pro and even some MacBooks. With its great display, battery life and cameras, we didn't hesitate to award it an Editor's Choice badge.

The best iPad bargain right now

8.3" iPad mini (64GB/2021): was $499 now $459 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)

8.3" iPad mini (64GB/2021): was $499 now $459 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
The 2021 iPad mini (Wi-Fi) features an all new thin-bezel design, a larger 8.3.inch Liquid Retina display, A15 Bionic CPU, 12MP wide camera and USB-C connectivity. It also works with the Apple Pencil 2. In our iPad mini 6 review, we gave Apple's bite-sized tablet an Editor's Choice recommendation. It's now on sale, but keep in mind it's been $100 off in the past. If you can wait, we recommend holding out for a lower price.

The OLED advantage

To break down our overall what is OLED guide, OLED displays are an improvement on regular LCD displays because they're more power-efficient for their size, and offer better contrast and increased responsiveness. These are both because OLED panels can turn off pixels individually to display "true black,” which backlit LCD screens can't manage. This is also handy for always-on displays, making sure they can be used efficiently without turning on the whole screen. 

Those are the general benefits of using OLED. However, Apple's OLED panels may also offer increased brightness, according to a report from last year about plans for "double-stacked" OLEDs

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There aren't many OLED tablets around, but currently you can find OLED displays on the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra and Galaxy Tab S8 Plus. These both show off all the benefits we mentioned above, showing off your content with vibrant colors, and offering always-on displays to show the time or other widgets if you wish.

So put simply, an OLED iPad would be an overall boost to the current range. But there are still reasons to avoid it.

Why OLED iPads may not be worth the wait

First off, there's a year and change wait from now until 2024. We could see some new iPads arrive at Apple's usual spring product event that year, or at WWDC in the summer. But it's also possible that we don't hear about new iPads until the fall of that year, meaning a wait of over two years.

This might not be a problem for you, since you may not be looking to upgrade ASAP. But if you do feel like your iPad's getting old and slow, committing to another two years with it might cause more irritation than it's worth.

Also, there are some limitations to using OLED displays over LCD. For example, while OLED has an advantage in efficiency when displaying blacks, it's less efficient when displaying brighter images, especially all-white ones like you may find on web browsers or word processors. They can also be dimmer than LCD panels, as we saw when comparing the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra to the iPad Pro. This would make the Tab S8 Ultra harder to view in bright light, annoying if you want to use it under harsh office lighting or outdoors on a sunny day.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra vs iPad Pro 2021 in a compositional image that makes it look like they're facing off

(Image credit: Future)

We'll have to wait and see in our eventual review testing if Apple can manage to keep these problems to a minimum, if it is indeed working on OLED iPads. But it's possible that the iPads using this technology could take a dive in battery life compared to previous generations, which could prove a nuisance to the most demanding users. 

Be aware also that adding an OLED display could merit a price hike, since OLED screens cost more to make and buy than LCD screens. Hopefully, we're no longer experiencing major inflation and a cost of living crisis in 2024, which would make spending money on premium goods like new iPads an easier outlay to justify. That cost could end up being quite a bit higher than buying an equivalent model today though, and we don't know if there would be any other benefits to help justify the additional cost.

Final thoughts

iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Adding OLED displays would seem like a great way to move the iPad family forward and maintain their lead over the best Android tablets. It would help Apple's tablets match up to the best from brands like Samsung, by boosting their color and contrast, and possibly enable always-on displays for additional utility.

But there's a price attached to new technology, both figuratively and literally. You'll likely have to pay extra to offset the higher component cost of OLED display panels, plus OLED isn't guaranteed to be brighter or more efficient than LCD under all circumstances. What's more, that two-year wait may be too long for you to want to stick with your current tablet, and a more immediate upgrade would suit your needs better.

While we're looking forward to these rumored OLED iPads, we don't think it's a reason for most buyers to ignore the current and upcoming range of iPads, which already do their job excellently working off of LCD (or mini LED) displays. If you're adamant about getting an OLED device to watch your content right now, then look at the Galaxy Tab S8 Plus or Tab S8 Ultra, or forget about tablets altogether and look for the best laptops or best monitors that use the technology.

If you've decided an immediate iPad upgrade is the best decision for you, take a look at the best iPads currently available. If you're prepared to wait a bit, read our iPad Pro 2022, and iPad 2022 rumor hubs to see what's likely in store for the next generation of these iPads.

Richard Priday
Senior Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.