iPad Pro said be the first OLED Apple tablet, but you'll have to wait

An OLED iPad seems likely, but this new report says it's aimed at the iPad Pro, and I'm more skeptical about that

iPad Pro 12.9-inch next to iPad Air 2020, both showing the same still from a movie
(Image credit: Future)

For an update that is reportedly years away, there sure is a lot of news about a future OLED iPad floating around. This time, Digitimes reports that Apple is working with LG Display to make the specific type of OLED screen it wants in 12.9-inch sizes – that of the iPad Pro.

But wait, you say, didn't that size of iPad Pro just get upgraded with a cutting-edge mini-LED screen for the first time? Yes it did, and in my full iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021) review I raved about that display's performance. It's capable of hitting peak HDR brightness of 1,600 nits, and maintaining a full-screen brightness of 1,000 nits, which is brighter than any OLED TV can manage, while offering incredibly precise local dimming for deep and true black tones, similar to what OLED provides.

For comparison, that peak brightness is fully 50% higher than even the iPhone 13 can manage, which is rated for 1,200 nits in HDR. It's a big reason why the iPad Pro ranks so highly in our list of the best tablets.

Previous reports had suggested that OLED panels might come to smaller iPads first, but recently it was claimed that Samsung Display couldn't produce the type of screen Apple wants at 11 inches, at least not by a planned 2023 release date.

So now the suggestion is that the iPad Pro will get OLED first, based on the size of screen… but is it really worth the switch to OLED when mini-LED is already producing spectacular results, and surely Apple wouldn't switch to a lower-brightness display now that it's set this standard?

Well, it might work, because of the type of the OLED screen Apple wants to use.

I won't make it nerdy, I promise

Apple is apparently demanding that its iPad OLED screens should use a 'tandem stack' structure, which is kind of like squishing two OLED screens together into one. 

This has a ton of advantages that are important for the iPad, but the one we're most interested in is that Digitimes says it could go twice as bright as a 'single-stack' OLED screen. This might mean that Apple can reach 1,600 nits of brightness to equal what the iPad Pro can currently do… but you'd get all the advantages of OLED screens being self-emissive, so it would offer even better contrast than mini-LED can manage.

The other claimed advantages of tandem stack OLED screens are that they're more resistant to burn-in (which is still common in OLED displays on phones and laptops) and that they have a longer lifetime, which is important in iPads since people keep them for longer than phones, generally.

And while the current iPad Pro 12.9-inch actually had to get a little thicker to accommodate the mini-LED display, an OLED panel would enable it to go thinner again most likely.

Originally, there we rumours that the first OLED iPad would be the iPad Air in 2022, and this made sense to me, because OLED can't reach the brightness of mini-LED, so the mid-range Air could go OLED while the iPad Pro keeps mini-LED and remains the pro HDR screen of choice.

But if Apple can make the brightness of OLED match mini-LED using this new construction technique, then all bets are off.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.