What killer feature would make you buy the next iPad? Tom’s Guide weighs in ahead of Apple’s ‘Let Loose’ event

iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Apple’s ‘Let Loose’ event is coming up on May 7, and it’s all but confirmed that we will finally be seeing new iPads. I’ll emphasize “finally,” as we haven’t seen a new tablet from the Cupertino crew since 2022.

Namely, we’re expecting to see two drastically upgraded tablets from the Cupertino crew — an iPad Pro (potentially with an M4 chip) and an iPad Air (coming in a larger 12.9-inch option to boot). And while the excitement levels are high, now is the best time to figure out what killer feature would make you pull the trigger and buy one.

To help with this, the Tom’s Guide team has got involved, and it’s fair to say we have a lot of thoughts! Let’s dive in, and we’d love to hear what features you’re most looking forward to hearing about in the comments.

Give me a proper OS, and you can have my cash

Jeff Parsons
Jeff Parsons

Apple’s iPads are, from a hardware perspective, almost perfect. The same can’t be said for the software. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to see iPadOS become a thing and it’s going in the right direction — split-screen multitasking, customizable toolbars and resizable windows with Stage Manager — but it’s still too much iOS and not enough macOS for my liking.

iPadOS 17

(Image credit: Apple)

I don’t expect it to ever happen, but a truly open OS for at least the iPad Pro is on my wishlist. Having the power of the M4 SoC hamstrung by iPadOS seems crazy in a world where Apple wants this device to replace your computer. Anyone wanting a decent file system or full-scale apps for software development or video production will still choose a MacBook over an iPad. What’s more, the ability to install programs from outside Apple’s tightly-guarded App Store could be a big plus for some.

Although the standard iPad and the mini still serve their best purpose as content consumption devices, the Air and Pro lines are increasingly becoming work tools in their own right. It’s time they deserved a proper OS upgrade to reflect that.

Make it the smart home hub I've always wanted

Mike Prospero
Mike Prospero

Google and Amazon are on the right track with the Pixel Tablet and the Echo Hub, and I'd like to see Apple follow suit with an iPad that turns into a smart home hub when it's docked. 

Yes, there's the Home app, but a full interface that lets me control all my smart home devices, view my home security cameras, and listen to music through my HomePod or other smart speaker would make it much more invaluable. 

Amazon Echo Show 15

(Image credit: Amazon)

Even better would be a way to mount it to a wall, so I could hang it up in my kitchen, much the way I use the Amazon Echo Show 15. Then, it would be so much easier to use Siri to set timers, look up recipes, and use the assistant for many more hands-free activities. 

Among the big three smart home platforms, Apple is the only one without a smart display, and adding this functionality to the next iPad would make HomeKit that much more compelling for those who want to automate their home. 

Give it some real fitness credentials

Headshot of James Frew
James Frew

The magic of Apple's devices is that everything works together seamlessly, and that's the key to Apple Fitness Plus, the brand's virtual workout platform. If you're an Apple Watch wearer, the data from your watch syncs to Fitness Plus so you can keep tabs on your performance in real-time. As good as it is, Apple hasn't really optimized the experience for the iPad's larger display. Instead, you get pretty much the same app as you do on your iPhone, only bigger. But there's so much more they could do. 

Image of Apple Fitness Plus on an iPhone

(Image credit: Apple)

In this year's upgrade, I'd love to see them finally add motion tracking to Fitness Plus on the iPad. It's not impossible — BowFlex, which makes some of our favorite adjustable dumbbells, has motion tracking built into its workout app, JRNY. The app uses the front-facing cameras to analyze your movements and give guidance on your form so that you can get the most from your training. Plus, it'll also automatically count reps of any muscle-building exercise you do. 

The iPad is the ideal device for a feature like this within Apple Fitness Plus, as the larger display means that you can more easily see the nuances and detail in any exercise feedback, so that you know exactly which part of the move you need to adjust and where in your body. And, with BowFlex's future currently uncertain due to its recent bankruptcy, this would add a competitive edge to Fitness Plus, especially if you could use any weights you already have at home. 

I want an OLED iPad so much, I could tear my hair out

Dave Meikleham
Dave Meikleham

While part of me desperately wants Apple to fully “Let Loose” at its keynote next week, the long-rumored tablet-centric fruit that Crew Cupertino’s event could bear is probably going to put a great big dent in my bank balance. One of the worst kept tech secrets is that an OLED iPad Pro is almost here. A prospect that both delights and terrifies me. 

iPad Pro 2022

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thirsting for an OLED iPad more than someone who’s been forced to trek through the Sahara Desert for three weeks straight with only salted crackers. The much talked-about new iPad Pro (specifically the 12.9-inch version), is a device I’ve been dreaming about for years.

As much as I love my iPad Pro (2021), I’ve been ready to upgrade it for 18 months. While it’s a wonderful tablet and its mini-LED Liquid Retina Display is fantastic, it ain’t “OLED good.” As someone cursed with almost owl-like night vision, I can tell my tablet and its hundreds of dimming zones are faking true black when I watch the best Netflix movies at night. I need an OLED display that can turn off every pixel to give me perfect blacks, and it looks like Apple is going to grant my wish/crush my credit card next week.

MagSafe is well past due

tom pritchard author photo
Tom Pritchard

OLED iPads are long overdue, but there’s also another feature the iPad is sorely lacking right now — MagSafe. We’ve heard rumors that Apple’s magnetic charging system could come to iPad Pro this year, and that is something I am all for. It’s crazy that Apple never added regular wireless charging to the iPad, but the lack of MagSafe is absolutely mind boggling. Especially given the potential benefits.

iPhone and Apple Watch charging on the Aukey 3-in-1 MagSafe charger.

(Image credit: Future)

The main benefit here is the whole charging aspect. I know from experience that iOPad charging cables can get in the way, since they stick out so much. Wireless charging means a way to charge an iPad without using plug-in cable, keeping it out of sight and out of the way. And that magnetic ring ensures that the power source is always connected in the optimal spot.

Since Apple has been pushing the iPad Pro as an alternative to a MacBook, there are countless ways magnetic charging can enhance the design and experience. The Magic Keyboard is already magnetic, so why not add some charging capabilities in there as well? Magnets open a huge range of opportunities for different kinds of stands and displays — especially paired with an iPad-version of StandBy mode. It makes sense to throw charging into the mix as well.

Stay the course

Tony Polanco author photo
Tony Polanco

I know we’re talking about what big feature would get us excited about the new iPads Apple is reportedly announcing during its “Let Loose” event. However, my answer is somewhat strange because I think iPads — whether they be the iPad mini, iPad Air or iPad Pro are good enough as they are, at least for my purposes. To that end, I’m happy with Apple staying the course.

iPad Air 5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I only use iPads for two main reasons: watching YouTube videos and reading comics/manga. If I want to browse the web, I’d rather do that on a laptop or phone. When I need to snap a photo, I’ll use my phone — because I absolutely refuse to do so with a tablet. I’m also not an artist, nor do I like taking notes by hand — so those iPad features aren’t useful to me either. And while the Magic Keyboard does a decent enough job of giving iPads (particularly the iPad Air and iPad Pro) laptop-like functionality, I’d rather just use a real laptop instead.

With that said, I am looking forward to a potential OLED iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Air being announced on May 7. An OLED display is arguably the last major feature the company’s flagship tablet needs, and a bigger iPad Air just sounds super intriguing. And if the iPad Pro does indeed pack an M4 chip as rumors now claim, that should be a huge deal (no pun intended).

It’s unclear how Apple plans to update its iPads. The company could either introduce major upgrades or simply offer minor refreshes. It’s hard to tell at this time, but if Apple decides not to radically alter its tablets, I won’t complain very much. I welcome any potential updates but I’m also fine with iPads effectively remaining the same.

Just use the chip to its full potential

Ryan Morrison
Ryan Morrison

If Apple puts the AI-centric M4 chip in its iPad range then that is a game changing moment for portable technology. This chip is rumored to be capable of running artificial intelligence applications at speed and with greater efficiency — assuming they don't skimp on the RAM. The Pro models usually have 16GB RAM and that is the absolute minimum for capitalizing on the power of generative AI.

iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Yes, Apple make more efficient use of RAM than other devices, but that won't matter as much if you're trying to run Stable Diffusion 3 or Llama 3 80B on-device and hoping to get a response in under an hour. Being able to integrate and run these models on a tablet, on the move and using the output in a project is a significant moment and one only Apple can really deliver.

Assuming Apple can utilize the full power of the M4 chip and provide enough RAM to be useful then the next-generation iPad Pro could well be the ultimate AI device and that is before we get to the potential iPadOS upgrades made possible by the more powerful chip. This includes deeper system customization, a more immersive — and useful — Spotlight and generative features in Photos.

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Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.