Rest in peace, the last iPad with a headphone jack

iPad 9th Generation in the Keyboard Folio Case with the Apple Pencil on a white background
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's exciting new duo of iPads announced yesterday certainly feels like a turning point for its tablets. The iPad Air is more powerful than ever before, and it comes in two new screen sizes – 11 inches and 13 inches, while the iPad Pro is a complete overhaul. That iPad comes with a Tandem OLED display, sandwiching two OLED panels together for enhanced brightness, and it's using Apple's most powerful processor, the M4, to drive that display with its Pro Motion 120Hz technology. It's also the thinnest Apple product ever made, even thinner than an iPod Nano – so surely I have nothing to complain about, right?

Wrong. While the new iPads are basking in the limelight, one of Apple's most underrated tablets has been quietly discontinued – and with it goes an endangered feature. 

As a previous Award-winner and budget champion, the iPad (2021) has remained on Apple's lineup alongside its more modern counterpart, the iPad 10th Generation, which also happens to be an Award-winner and Product of the Year recipient. Apple gave this tablet a brief spotlight in its Let Loose event, announcing that it will have its price slashed by a considerable £150 / $100 / AU$150. This is, of course, excellent news in most regards – however, I knew that could mean only one thing. 

Yes, the iPad 9th Generation is no more, as it has been dropped from Apple's lineup with the 10th Generation now serving as the most affordable tablet in the range. It was bound to happen, the 9th Gen device has been valiantly serving in this role since it launched in 2021, so it was probably time to set it out to pasture; however, it's taking with it a feature I hold near and dear to my heart.

This was Apple's last iPad to feature a headphone jack, and Apple's final portable device to include the 3.5mm socket in general. That luxury is now reserved for Apple's MacBook, iMac and desktop Mac devices, with all iPhones and iPads now requiring a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter (or Lightning depending on what generation iPhone you're using) if you want to use wired headphones. 

While an argument can be made for the impressively slender iPad not having enough room for a headphone jack, I find it confusing that Apple is billing this tablet as a media consumption and, to a greater extent, media creation device but has ditched the headphone jack. My bet is that music producers want the highest fidelity audio possible when creating tracks on Logic Pro for enhanced accuracy, and wired headphones will deliver that. Ironically, Apple is using the iPod Nano in its marketing to prove how thin the new iPad OLED is – which feels like an additional if subtle, kick in the teeth for music fans.

The new iPad Airs are certainly thick enough to house a headphone jack – in fact they're now thicker and heavier than the current iPad Pros, but I'll open that can of worms another time. 

Ultimately, I know it looks like I'm fighting a losing battle; and truth be told I'm not fighting at all, but simply reminiscing about a simpler time. The iPad 9th Generation certainly isn't without its flaws – I, for one, am happy to see the back of the Lightning connector, and the newer all-screen display still looks particularly slick, but the sunsetting of this iPad feels worth noting as it signifies the headphone jack's final hurrah on Apple's portable devices. 


Read our iPad (2021) review

Find out all the details about the new iPad Pro OLED

And everything you need to know about the new iPad Air (2024)

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.