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article imageApple planning to unveil a smaller iPad Pro in March, not Air 3

By James Walker     Feb 26, 2016 in Technology
Rumours of Apple updating its iPad Air line of premium tablets this March have been around for a while. With only a few weeks left, a new report now claims that plans may have changed and a smaller version of the iPad Pro will be launched instead.
Apple is thought to have a spring product unveiling planned for March 15 during which it will launch a new 4-inch iPhone, dubbed the '5se', and a small premium tablet. Initial indications of the iPad Air 3 being the next iPad may be incorrect, according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman.
Citing unnamed sources, the site reports that Apple plans to differentiate the new "Air" from its predecessors by promoting it to the "Pro" line, inaugurated last September with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This would effectively mark the end of the iPad Air, traditionally the thinnest, lightest and most premium iPad available.
Gurman notes that there have been signs of the brand's demise for a while. Apple's latest 12-inch MacBook laptop no longer carries the "Air" name, despite being an obvious successor to the first MacBook Air. The company appears to be slimming down its ranges to make product positioning clearer.
The new smaller iPad Pro will represent what the iPad Air 3 would have been but will include some of the high-end features of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This fits with earlier reports that the iPad Air 3 would support iPad Pro accessories such as the Smart Keyboard and Smart Connector.
The as-yet unnamed tablet has a 9.7-inch display and "nearly identical" hardware specifications to its larger older sibling. It will be powered by Apple's A9X processor and incorporate the quad stereo speakers of the iPad Pro.
Apple is said to be planning further changes for the iPad range to simplify the products on offer. The company will reportedly discontinue the original iPad Air and the iPad mini 2 once the new 9.7-inch Pro is out the door, clearing old stock to make way for new products and giving consumers less options to pick between.
The restructuring makes sense for Apple as it is still suffering from declining iPad sales. The tablet is currently the worst performing of its consumer devices as the company has suffered amid competition from Windows and Android alternatives.
According to 9to5Mac, Apple still has March 15th pencilled in as the launch day for the new iPad. In a break from tradition for the company, it may go on sale without a pre-order period, launching worldwide on March 18th.
The iPhone 5se, the other major product planned for the announcement, is also still on track for a March launch. The 4-inch iPhone is designed to appeal to fans of Apple's older handsets, using an updated iPhone 5s design with a faster processor and Apple Pay support. Apple will also launch a refreshed Apple Watch edition at the event but changes are likely to be minor as the company develops the Apple Watch 2 for unveiling later in the year.
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