iPad mini and Air to get OLED panels… but you’ll have to wait

 The iPad mini 2021.
The iPad mini 2021.

Apple’s first OLED tablet has been available for nearly two weeks now, but starting at $999, the new iPad Pro is a serious investment — no matter how great a comic-reading experience it offers.

Often, Pro-exclusive features gradually filter down to cheaper devices, as was the case with Apple Pencil support. The good news is that OLED panels will apparently be coming to the cheaper iPad mini and Air tablets in the future — the bad news is that you’ve got a wait on your hands.

According to ZDNet Korea, Samsung Display began developing samples of 8-inch OLED panels for a future iPad mini last month. Unfortunately, this is only the first part of a slow process, with the plan to move on to mass production at its Cheonan facility in the second half of 2025.

That means, as previously forecast by Korean media and the research firm Omdia, that the OLED iPad mini won’t actually be available to buy until 2026. The report adds that it will launch alongside an OLED iPad Air that year.

The good news is that it’s unlikely to be the next iPad mini out the door. According to the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPad mini 7 is expected to launch in the second half of this year — an overdue upgrade given the current iPad mini arrived all the way back in 2021.

This year’s refresh is not rumored to be a huge upgrade, however. Expect an A16 or A17 processor (the same that powers the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro respectively), as well as an end to the curse of so-called “jelly scrolling” of the current model, but otherwise it will be a pretty limited refresh, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

The introduction of an OLED panel in 2026, if it comes to pass, will be more significant, though. Unlike the LCD screen on the current iPad mini and Air tablets, pixels on OLED panels self-illuminate with no need for backlighting, meaning they offer infinite contrast with deep, inky blacks that are literally the absence of light.

Apple’s first OLED panel certainly impressed us. In his iPad Pro 2024 review, our Computing Writer Tony Polanco described it as having “the finest OLED panel my eyes have ever seen”.

“I’m a professional writer but I have a hard time conveying just how good the iPad Pro’s OLED display appears,” he wrote “This is arguably the best OLED display I’ve ever seen on a tablet. You need to see it to believe it.”

While it’s possible the iPad mini and Air won’t offer something quite as brilliant (Apple still has to upsell the Pro, after all), it should still be a big leap forward and something to look forward to in two years’ time.