Home / iPad / New iPad Pro may use an AI-enabled M4 chip and the Apple Pencil 3 may have haptic feedback

New iPad Pro may use an AI-enabled M4 chip and the Apple Pencil 3 may have haptic feedback

iPad Pro with keyboard and pencil

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

Apple is expected to unveil its latest iPad Pro and iPad Air models on Tuesday, May 7. Based on a scoop from noted tech reporter and Apple watcher Mark Gurman, the new Pro tablets could be Apple’s first AI-enabled devices. In his Power On column for Bloomberg on Sunday, Gurman hinted at a “strong possibility” that the chip in the new iPad Pro lineup will be an M4 chip rather an M3 chip.

What’s so special about the M4?

Apple’s latest chip could include a new neural engine with a focus on AI capabilities. Earlier this month, Gurman said that Apple plans to upgrade its entire line of Macs with the M4, claiming that the company will kick off three versions of the chip: an entry-level version dubbed Donan, a mid-tier version called Brava, and top-tier version codenamed Hidra. All three versions will have AI-processing skills that outperform anything offered by Apple’s current M3 chips.

Also: The best iPads you can buy: Expert tested

In the competitive AI arena, Apple has been slow to integrate AI into its core products or services, lagging behind Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies. At the same time, iPad sales are down. For Apple’s first fiscal quarter ending in December 2023, iPad revenue was around $7 billion, down from $9.4 billion in the same quarter a year ago. The downturn has likely been in part due to Apple not releasing any new iPad models in 2023. An upgrade, especially one designed to leverage AI, is long overdue.

What AI capabilities could an iPad Pro even offer?

That depends not only on the devices themselves but on new features coming with iPadOS 18, which Apple is expected to unveil at its 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference, which kicks off on June 10. The company has reportedly been working on its own in-house AI tech to add to next-generation iPhone, iPad, and other products. Reports suggest that Apple has also been talking with Google and OpenAI about integrating their generative AI tech into its products and services.

Some of the AI excitement may not be based on actual features but on the way Apple promotes the iPad Pro’s AI skillset. Gurman said that the new products “aren’t engineered and developed entirely around AI” and that the new strategy will be partly based on marketing. To take advantage of the AI craze, Apple could tout the new iPad Pro as its first AI-powered device and promote each new product as an AI-infused device from then on.

An AI-enabled iPad isn’t the only development we may see come May 7. The new Apple Pencil 3 will offer haptic feedback for the first time, according to Gurman. This means that the pencil will vibrate and buzz based on how you use it and what type of pressure you apply. A specific gesture would also let you perform certain tasks by squeezing the device. Other rumors have suggested the new pencil will be priced at $130, support Apple’s Find My service, and come with interchangeable magnetic tips.

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