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I was not prepared for the OLED iPad Pro M4 chip rumor, but it makes complete sense

Published Apr 29th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
Apple iPad Pro Display
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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I’ve made no secret that I’m considering buying an OLED iPad Pro this spring, with a few caveats. First, the price has to be right. Yes, the OLED screen upgrade will be expensive, but I can’t see myself relying on the iPad Pro for work.

Therefore, I’d rather wait for Apple to announce iOS 18 in mid-June before making a commitment. That’s what I used to think until I read Mark Gurman’s latest rumor on the OLED iPad Pro.

If the Bloomberg reporter is correct, Apple will give the OLED iPad Pro a massive chip upgrade. It’ll use the M4 processor in the 2024 tablets, skipping the M3 generation that we all expected. The M4 upgrade is reportedly all about AI features, which is unsurprising. And I have to say, I’m excited by the prospect.

Gurman has a great track record reporting on Apple’s plans for unreleased devices. I probably wouldn’t even entertain the rumor if it came from a different source. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense for Apple to bring the M4 chip forward by a few months and have it ready for the OLED iPad Pro.

Gurman wrote in his Power On newsletter that there’s a “strong” possibility that the chip inside the new iPad Pro will be the new M4:

Better yet, I believe Apple will position the tablet as its first truly AI-powered device — and that it will tout each new product from then on as an AI device. This, of course, is all in response to the AI craze that has swept the tech industry over the last couple years.

Yes, the M4 would be a great marketing tool to fight OpenAI, Google, Microsoft, and Meta. But having the M4 chip inside the 2024 iPad Pro also feels like the right thing to do from Apple.

I’ve written extensively about the OLED iPad Pro delays in the past few months. I speculated that the OLED panel production might have forced Apple to delay the launch. Another possibility was Apple was looking to avoid cannibalization. The M3 MacBook Airs dropped in early March. They’d compete directly against the OLED iPad Pro.

But after Gurman’s report, I now think Apple might have decided to wait for the first batches of M4 chips to be ready.

Apple iPad Pro
The 2022 iPad Pro generation features LCD and mini LED displays. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Think about it: Apple doesn’t upgrade iPad Pros every year. The M3 chip is good for AI features, which is clear from Apple’s MacBook Pro and Air marketing. But the M4 would be Apple’s next best thing for AI processing. Its iPhone equivalent is coming in September, the A18/A18 Pro that will power the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pros.

Gurman says the big change in the M4 is “a new neural engine [that] will pave the way for fresh AI capabilities.” The A18 chips should match the M4.

Also, Apple launching the OLED iPad Pro in May makes sense if the M4 specs bump is correct. Apple will unveil its AI features for iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS 15 about a month after the 2024 iPad launch.

With the M4 OLED iPad Pro readily available, Apple can demo more AI features. The kind that would require specialized hardware. I said before that I didn’t think Apple would reveal all of its AI novelties in June, as some of them will be exclusive to the iPhone 16 phones and their A18 chips.

An M4 iPad Pro would fix that problem. Postponing some iOS 18 features to September would be a problem for Apple in the fast-moving early days of AI. Apple would benefit more from showing the world it can deliver AI features on par with ChatGPT and Gemini right now. Also, the M4 might let Apple run more AI applications on-device instead of the cloud compared to rival products.

Apple’s announcement event on May 7th for the OLED iPad Pro might be another telling sign that the M4 chip upgrade rumor is accurate. The OLED panel will be an amazing upgrade, yes. The iPad Air 6 is also exciting, as it’ll come in two screen sizes and inherit the Mini LED displays of the current Pro tablets.

But Apple could always announce the tablets via press releases as it did with the M3 MacBook Airs more than a month ago.

Finally, I’ll return to the OLED iPad Pro price. The OLED screen is expensive, so a price hike is inevitable. But add the M4 chip to the specs list, and the iPad Pro suddenly becomes a better computer than the M3 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. That alone could convince more people, yours truly included, to pay more money for a tablet than they’d like.

As easy as it might be to see evidence that Gurman’s take is correct, this is still a rumor. Apple could still use the M3 chip for the upcoming OLED iPad Pro series, and it wouldn’t be wrong to do so. Nor would the 2024 iPad Pros be any less exciting. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait that long. Apple’s Let Loose iPad event will stream online on May 7th.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.