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What we want to see from the iPad Air 5

Apple has been on an iPad update spree since last year. The company introduced a new iPad Pro with the M1 system on a chip, a redesigned iPad Mini 6, and an upgraded entry-level iPad. It is now expected to unveil the fifth-generation iPad Air at its March 8 Peek Performance event. While rumors suggest plenty of upgrades on the inside, as an iPad Air 4 user, I have some thoughts on what I want from the updated version. Here’s a wish list of features I’d like to see on the next iPad Air.

OLED display

The iPad Pro 12.9 inches in silver on a desk.

While Apple has gone all-in on OLED displays on the iPhones, the tech has yet to show up on the company’s tablets. There were rumors last year that the iPad Air 5 would come equipped with an OLED screen, but they did not pan out. Apple hasn’t used the OLED screens on its iPad Pro lineup yet, though both the iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch are said to be moving to an OLED display in the future. And since the iPad Air is on a 1.5- to 2-year refresh cycle, it makes perfect sense to introduce the OLED screen on the Air.

I’m in favor of an OLED display because I consume a lot of content on my iPad Air 4. I binge-watch my favorite shows, edit photos on Lightroom, and sometimes read on it while sitting on the balcony. An OLED display would offer better contrast for TV shows, deeper blacks for photo editing, and better sunlight legibility for reading outdoors. While mini-LEDs can get all of this done, I’m worried about the blooming effect, so going with OLED is a better bet.

An oleophobic coating on the display

A hand holds the Apple iPad Air fifth generation.

I’ve been using my iPad Air 4 for a year now. And I have to keep a cleaning cloth on my desk just for this device. Here’s how my usage goes:

  1. I pick up my iPad Air.
  2. I shrug upon looking at the screen.
  3. I ask myself, “Do I really need to use it?”
  4. If the answer is yes, I clean the display thoroughly.

This process has been repeated a large number of times to date. I don’t want to clean the part I interact with the most on a tablet every single time I pick up the device. It’s irritating! I hope Apple applies an oleophobic coating on the iPad Air 5.

Center Stage

The iPad mini is light enough to hold with one hand and read.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

As someone whose work involves being on a number of “quick calls” on Zoom, I have to get on calls while I’m in the kitchen. I’d like my device to keep me in focus while I’m trying to get my food done in the middle of calls. Center Stage offers that exact functionality! Apple rolled out the feature for the iPad mini and 9th-generation iPad last year, and it makes no sense to not bring it to the costlier iPad Air.

The introduction of Center Stage not only means better software for keeping you in focus, but it also means better camera hardware. Center Stage requires an ultrawide camera to function, so introducing the feature automatically means you’ll also get better camera hardware. As of now, the feature is supported by the latest iPad Pro (both 11-inch and 12.9-inch), iPad mini 6, and the iPad (9th generation), with only the iPad Air missing out.

A15 or M1?

The current iPad Air is powered by the A14 Bionic chipset, which is the same as the iPhone 12 series from 2020. It offered a significant bump in performance when it was launched, but with the A15 and M1 SoCs for iPads, it has quickly become dated. We are likely to get upgraded internals on the iPad Air 6, but it is hard to speculate on whether Apple will go with the M1 chipset or the A15 Bionic SoC, especially because the iPad Air lineup shares a lot with the iPad Pro series but doesn’t need as much power. I’ll be happy with either of these two offerings under the hood.

A better biometric authenticator

The iPad mini has a 100% recycled aluminum build.
Adam Doud/Digital Trends

I’ve been an iPad Air user for a year, and I’ve never used a worse fingerprint scanner. It works three out of 10 times, which makes it horrible as a single biometric authenticator offering. I’ve tried removing and reregistering my finger again and again but it just doesn’t work. As a result, I (almost always) have to enter my pin to log in to my iPad Air, which feels very 2012.

So we have two options, either get FaceID on the iPad Air or improve the present TouchID. Introducing FaceID on the iPad Air would mean borrowing the current feature from the iPad Pro lineup, which usually doesn’t happen till there’s a better version of the feature available to put into the iPad Pro. I expect Apple to stick with TouchID, but hope it makes the fingerprint authentication process more reliable.

Finally, apart from these features, I’d like to see more colors on the upcoming iPad Air 5. It might make the iPad Air a bit more consumer-friendly.

Some of these features are long overdue for the iPad Air. The fingerprint sensor is maddening, so I hope we can get a similar experience to the iPad Mini 6. Of all these requests, I’d have to think that Center Stage is a given; how can the iPad Air be the only one without it? We’ll find out on Tuesday!

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