The next iPad Air should become the second Apple tablet to swap the company’s proprietary Lightning port with the more ubiquitous USB-C protocol. At the same time, the upcoming iPad mini refresh should retain Lightning I/O.
Citing chatter from the Chinese supply chain, the fairly reliable Japanese blog Mac Otakara reported Tuesday that a fourth-generation iPad Air will feature a 10.8-inch display (the current model has a 10.5-inch screen) whilst ditching the Lightning port for USB-C. According to the publication, the new iPad Air will be based on the 11-inch iPad Pro.
At the same time, Mac Otakara is saying that the next iPad mini, coming in 2021, will boost screen size from the 7.9 inches on the current model to 8.5 inches diagonally. Aside from the screen size change, the next iPad mini is believed to be retaining the Lightning port.
Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently predicted both 10.8-inch iPad Air and 8.5-inch iPad mini.
Things could change by the time Apple releases these tablets, but this rumor sounds logical to me. The iPad Air is a more sophisticated tablet that the entry-level $329 iPad and going with USB-C will surely increase its versatility and ubiquitousness, as we saw with the iPad Pro.
As for the iPad mini, the diminutive tablet could of course benefit from USB-C, but my guess is that Apple wants to keep manufacturing costs down so they’re retaining Lightning.
It could also be that Apple is gradually adopting USB-C across its entire tablet lineup, starting with the iPad Pro back in 2018 and continuing with the next iPad Air and mini models before USB-C eventually makes it way into the iPad mini and the regular iPad series.