One year ago Apple gave us the 6th-generation iPad. In the Fall, it treated us to two new iPad Pros with larger screens and no home buttons. Now Apple treats us to new additions to its Mini and Air lines, giving us a total of five current iPads.
Its’s been 3-and-a-half years since the iPad Mini 4 debuted. Four-and-a-half since the iPad Air 2. Children born between then and now can say their names, answer simple questions, sort objects by shape and color, and bend over without falling (thanks, WebMD). Compared to the world’s toddlers, the Air 3 and Mini 5’s development might seem to fall a little behind. Besides boasting Apple’s powerful new A12 Bionic chip, there’s little on the outside to separate the two new iPads from their respective predecessors.
Still, upgrades are upgrades, and most online reviews show appreciation for their screen quality and Apple Pencil support. But let’s let the product reviewers debate the merits of buying one of these long-awaited tablets.
Let’s look at repairability.
The Apple iPad Mini 5
Of the two new iPads, the Mini 5 shows the least advancement. It has the same dimensions as the iPad Mini 4, and the same 7.9” screen size.
It also retains its Lightning port, headphone jack, and Touch ID home button. It’s comforting news to repair techs, who won’t see much difference between working on earlier iPad Minis and this one.
- Home Button Woes: Retaining Touch ID functionality still requires removing and reusing the iPad’s original home button
- Sticky Battery: The battery’s shape and connector are relatively unchanged, but the battery itself is still excessively glued down without any pull tabs in sight
- Sticky Everything: It’s not just the battery. The screen is adhered very securely to the back housing. Business as usual.
- Apple Pencil Support: The Apple Pencil is an add-on accessory for $99, but unlike on the iPad Pros, it can’t magnetically dock to the iPad Mini’s side to charge. It might not have a direct effect on repairability, but as a wholesale parts distributor, we can dream of butterfingers accidents caused by jotting down notes on iPads held in the hand.
The Apple iPad Air 3
This is probably what more people had in mind when these iPads were announced. The new Air sports the traditional aesthetic – large bezels, home button, headphone jack, and Lightning port are all intact – but its size is a little bigger to increase its screen size from 9.7” to 10.5”.
The idea behind the iPad Air 3 was to mimic the iPad Pros' features at a lower price, so it gets a little weirder when we look under the hood. iFixit's teardown shows the biggest differences. Here’s what to look out for.
- Pro-Like Screen: If you’re tearing apart the iPad Air 3, you’ll notice the screen flex cables have shifted from the bottom right to the bottom center, where it connects to a logic board position squarely in the middle of the tablet.
- Bisected Battery: Centrally positioned logic board? Yup, the battery has been chopped in half, too, just like an iPad Pro, making for twice the glue and twice the prying.
- Apple Pencil Support: Slight departure from the Pro line here. Like the Mini 5, the Air 3 supports Apple Pencil, but without the magnetic docking station.
- Smart Connector: Another Pro feature here. The iPad Air 3 supports the Smart Keyboard when connected to the Smart connector on its side. So that’s one flex cable to carefully avoid ripping when you pry out the battery.
Amidst the hoopla surrounding these two new iPads, Apple quietly discontinued the iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) and iPad Mini 4. So while we bid farewell to those, we can welcome these new iPads to fill the same roles.
The iPad Mini 5 should be nice and simple. And knowing that the iPad Air 3 is a lot more like an iPad Pro than previous Airs should help you when you start heating up a cracked screen.
Parts will be on the way shortly. In the meantime, good luck with the rest of your iPad repairs!