iPad Pro set for huge OLED display upgrade – but there's a catch

Screen-age kicks, so hard to beat / every time your iPad wakes up from sleep

Apple iPad Pro 2021 12.9 review
(Image credit: Apple)

We haven't even seen the first version yet, but Apple's suppliers are already planning the second generation of OLED displays for Apple's iPad Pro. Those panels are destined for production in late 2024 for an early 2025 launch, and we'll see the first generation OLED iPad Pro some time in 2024. The same technology is also destined for future models of the M2 MacBook Pro. That's also pencilled in for 2025: Apple wants to see how well the OLED iPad Pro sells before green lighting the upgrade.

As MacRumors reports (opens in new tab), the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are expected to use sixth-generation OLED panels from LG and Samsung; their successors would use generation 8.5, which will presumably be cheaper for Apple to buy.

Why OLED is an important upgrade

The current generation of iPad Pros have mini-LED displays, which are significantly better than the displays of the entry-level iPad, the iPad mini and the iPad Air. That's because the tiny LEDs of a mini-LED panel can be crammed in much more tightly for much better control and contrast. But a backlight is still a backlight, and that means you'll never quite get the true blacks of an OLED panel: the LEDs in an OLED panel emit their own light and turn off when they're not required. You can see the difference if you have a recent iPhone such as an iPhone 13: its screen is so much darker and deeper than an iPad's one. And OLED also enables you to have the same always-on display features we're expecting to see in the iPhone 14 Pro.

The downside, as ever, is cost: as we've seen in OLED TVs, making massive panels is pretty easy and so is making smartphone sized ones. But it's been tricky for manufacturers to make mid-sized panels efficiently enough that they aren't prohibitively expensive, which is why there are so few mid-sized OLEDs among our best TVs guide. 

What we're likely to see in the next few years is the displays of every iPad tier moving up a level, so the Pros will move from mini-LED to OLED and at least some lesser iPads will get the mini-LED tech that's currently reserved for the Pro models. That means the Pros will remain the best iPads for photo and video pros, but the rest of us will get a display bump too.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).