Apple's rumoured 2024 iPads need to have these three AV upgrades for me to get properly excited about them

Tablet: Apple iPad (2022)
(Image credit: Future)

It's been quite some time since Apple released a new iPad, which is an uncharacteristic move from the company that usually renews its product like clockwork. We might have taken the yearly iPad refreshes for granted in previous years, but Apple's ageing lineup is now starting to gather dust – so an update to the range is certainly due.

As of right now, Apple's lineup consists of five models with some released all the way back in 2021. Here's what Apple is currently offering to prospective tablet customers:

As you can see, some of those models are practically geriatric by tablet standards, but thankfully an end to this iPad drought is in sight. Apple has announced an event titled "Let Loose" which will be live-streamed on the 7th of May and is expected to feature updates to some of the above models. How do we know that Apple will unveil new iPads? The Apple Pencil featuring prominently in the promotional graphics for this event is a dead giveaway, alongside a raft of rumours that have surfaced before this announcement. 

A custom Apple logo with colourful paint splashes and a hand gripping an Apple pencil in the centre

(Image credit: Apple)

We've already covered these rumours extensively, with everything from new display technology and sizes to upgraded processors and accessories, but what we're really interested in is what AV upgrades Apple has to offer. Early speculations are promising, but these are the features I want to see on the next iPads, to make them the ultimate movie and music companion devices.

Truthfully, Apple's current range is full of five-star picture and sound performers, making picking out a handful of AV upgrades a tricky task; so consider this a wishlist more than a realistic expectation of what will be revealed in two weeks. 

 OLED Pros and Mini LED Airs

Tablet: Apple iPad Pro 12.9 6th Generation

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi? / Netflix, David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet)

Rumours of Apple launching its first OLED display-equipped iPad have been rife, and I'll be very surprised if we don't see such a device announced in the coming weeks. Apple has already plastered OLED screens across practically all of its iPhone lineup (aside from the iPhone SE), so it feels like high time that the iPad gets the same treatment.

The obvious choice is outfitting the Pro with an OLED screen, which is reportedly what Apple will do according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Saving the premium screen tech for the flagship iPad is an appropriately Apple move, as is the case with Mini LED and 120Hz ProMotion tech on the existing Pro models. 

The current iPad Pro is already an Award-winner thanks to its stellar picture performance and support for Dolby Vision, so my imagination is already running wild with the prospect of the improved black levels and contrast that OLED screen tech traditionally delivers. 

A caveat to this is that, currently speaking, only the bigger 12.9-inch iPad Pro features the more advanced Liquid Retina XDR display powered by Mini LED screen technology. If Apple is committing to OLED on the new iPad Pro, I hope that both sizes are treated equally, with the smaller version also being granted the self-emissive screen tech.

However, I also hope that the iPad Air gets some love in the screen department with the upcoming rumoured refresh. That appears to be the case, thankfully, as rumours suggest that it will come in the usual 11-inch screen size and a new 12.9-inch size, the same as the iPad Pro. To me, this seems like the perfect opportunity to repurpose the Mini LED display currently used on the larger iPad Pro and trickle that feature down to the cheaper Air model. 

We already praised this display on the Pro, highlighting its "solid blacks" and "luscious colours", so I'd prefer to see that screen be put to good use rather than discarded. ProMotion would also be a welcome addition to the Airs, as the 120Hz refresh rate on the Pro is something you truly appreciate when you don't have it. 

If I were to truly indulge my iPad pipe dreams, I'd also request a 21:9 display on the iPad Pro and Air. The only other handheld devices to use this aspect ratio are Sony's Xperia range of smartphones, and while usability takes an undeniable hit, the all-screen effect when watching movies in their intended aspect ratio is glorious. 

If Apple delivers on these display upgrades, then I believe we could see the ultimate iPads for AV use, but remember it's not all about the picture...

Move the speakers to accommodate landscape orientation 

Tablet: Apple iPad Pro 12.9 6th Generation

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Let's face it, if you're doing anything on your iPad that requires using the onboard speakers, you're probably holding it in landscape orientation. Most of the decent games found on the iPad are made for this orientation and, unless you like having two-thirds of your screen obstructed with black letterbox bars, you're probably holding your iPad in landscape mode for watching movies and TV shows. 

The issue with Apple's current design is that it has placed the stereo speakers on the top and bottom edges of the majority of its models, making them very easy to obstruct with your hands. This is where Apple could take inspiration from its smallest iPad to solve this issue. 

The iPad Mini 6th Generation moves the volume buttons to the top edge, leaving the sides clear. Those edges are prime real estate for the speakers to be moved to, solving the issue of having to awkwardly hold the iPad without blocking them. 

Admittedly Apple is working with a tightly packed slab of tech with the iPad, so this might be wishful thinking. I'd prefer Apple to keep up its stellar sonic track record and Dolby Atmos certification with the iPad's built-in speakers, but this upgrade would take them to the next level.

Bring back the headphone jack!

Tablets and smartphones: Apple iPad 9th Generation

(Image credit: Apple)

Am I in denial? Most definitely – but hear me out. I've gotten over Apple removing the headphone jack on the iPhones, as painful as it may be, but taking it off the iPad still breaks my heart. The entry-level iPad 9th Generation is the only model to retain this feature, which makes it the best option if you prefer wired audio over Bluetooth headphones

Let's not lie to ourselves, there is plenty of space within the chassis of practically all available iPads to squeeze in a headphone jack, and the benefits of wired audio will always be worth it. While adaptors are available, they take up the precious single USB-C socket on your iPad, meaning charging or connecting wired accessories is a no-go. 

Apple hasn't culled the 3.5mm connector on its Mac laptops and desktop computers (yet), but considering it's billed iPads as alternatives to these machines for years now, it still feels like a contradictory move to remove it. We know it took courage to remove the headphone jack, but there's no shame in reversing that move if you want to win back audio enthusiasts, Apple.


Read our full iPad Pro 12.9 6th Generation review

Check out our picks for the best iPads

As well as the best tablets overall

Lewis Empson
Staff Writer

Lewis Empson is a Staff Writer on What Hi-Fi?. He was previously Gaming and Digital editor for Cardiff University's 'Quench Magazine', Lewis graduated in 2021 and has since worked on a selection of lifestyle magazines and regional newspapers. Outside of work, he enjoys gaming, gigs and regular cinema trips.