iPad 2018 release date, specs rumors: Apple to unveil a cheaper 9.7-inch premium tablet next year

Following the launch of the latest iPhone X flagship last September, it is time for Apple to focus on its other prized possession, specifically the iPad lineup. The latest word from the rumor mill suggests that the Cupertino-based tech giant has figured out a way to secure high sales for the 2018 iPad, and that is by introducing a cheaper 9.7-inch variant. This move is similar to the launch of budget 9.7-inch iPad early this year.

As reported by DigiTimes, Apple might be pushing its luck once more by launching another 9.7-inch iPad device in 2018, and this one could be cheaper than the 2017 version that costs $329. For now, it is expected that the next budget iPad's price will not exceed $259. The publication notes that the tech firm may have finally decided to make the iPad more marketable by bringing down the price ceiling further. A premium tablet with a cheaper price would attract price-conscious buyers, especially the regular consumers with tight budget.

Introducing a much cheaper 9.7-inch iPad tablet in 2018 could be perceived as a way for Apple to cope up with the challenging iPad sales for the past three years. According to 9to5Mac, the iPad unit sales has seen a steady decline, even reaching record high losses in 2013–14 period. The arrival of the $329 iPad variant this year, however, marked the beginning of the sales growth recovery, not to mention to cutting-edge iPad Pro refresh in 2017.

It has yet to be confirmed if the rumored 9.7-inch iPad 2018 variant will come as the successor of the 2017 budget iPads. There is a chance that Apple will introduce the new $259 iPad along with the current $329 iPad model, instead of becoming the latter's replacement. Regarding the specs, it is speculated that the next 9.7-inch iPad will have almost the same features of the 2017 model, although some of these would be altered to match the reduction in pricing.

Aside from the 9.7-inch iPad 2018 model, Apple is also expected to unveil its next flagship handset after the iPhone X. There is also the company's first smart speaker, HomePod, which was supposed to be released this year, not to mention the next budget iPhone edition, SE 2.