OLED iPad Air is back on the cards with advanced next-gen screen tech

The OLED iPad Air was on, then it was off, and now it's back on again – and with this next-gen panel technology

OLED iPad Air
(Image credit: Apple)

I really rate the iPad Air (2020): I replaced my ageing first-gen iPad Pro with the 2020 model and haven't regretted it. It's one of the best tablets you can buy today. But while I like the size and the shape and the sound of the 2020 iPad Air, I wish it had the same OLED display tech as my iPhone. I use my iPad for a lot of digital magazines and movies and I'd love to see them with the contrast and deep blacks that OLED provides.

Apple was expected to release an OLED iPad this year, but the partnership was cancelled: some reports said cost, some said teething problems, and others said both. But it looks like the iPad OLED love affair is back on, with the iPad Air getting an OLED upgrade in the not too distant future.

Why was the OLED iPad Air initially delayed?

Now that's the really interesting and, for Apple fans who have been waiting for the OLED iPad Air, exciting question. The answer, as T3's resident Apple expert Matthew Bolton has already written about, is that:

"Apparently, Apple is asking for the panels to be made with double-stacked layers of pixels, which should provide higher brightness levels, but at the same time massively extends the lifetime of the screen, and can reduce the likelihood of image burn-in, which still plagues OLED screens on phones."

So, Apple wants to ensure it OLED iPads come with screens where burn-in isn't an issue and the brightness of those screens and the longevity of them is really impressive.

So, that's the good news. The bad? It looks like those OLED iPad screens are still some way off.

Why I'm expecting OLED before Mini-LED

There's no doubt that the mini-LED displays in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021), Apple's very best tablet, are stunning. But they're also expensive to make, and the likelihood of them coming to the more affordable iPads is pretty much zero right now: it'll be a while before the price is right.

The screen in my current iPad Air is an IPS panel, same as every other iPad I've owned. It's good, but OLED is better. OLED has better contrast, it has better viewing angles, it has faster response times and it doesn't suffer from light leakage. When I put my iPhone next to my iPad the difference is obvious.

According to news site The Elec, Samsung Display and Apple are talking iPad OLEDS again – but there's a possible fly in the ointment, because Samsung needs to use a more advanced manufacturing process than with previous OLED. That requires expensive machinery, so Samsung Display wants to see a really big order from Apple before committing. If it gets it, the equipment will be installed in 2023 and we'll see OLED iPads in 2024.

I hope we do, because as much as I love Mini-LED displays they're too expensive for the smaller iPads right now. An OLED iPad Air would be a lovely thing, and I'd buy one in a heartbeat.

Carrie Marshall
Carrie Marshall

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).