ipad pro AP

Instead of an iPad Air 3, Apple's next iPad will be a smaller iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch display, according to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman. 

That's the same size screen as the iPad Air 2.

Gurman claims the smaller iPad Pro will be "nearly identical" to the iPad Pro in terms of specs, including the powerful A9X processor that made the iPad Pro as powerful as a full-size laptop

Gurman also reinforces previous rumors that the next iPad will come with a Smart Connector for a Smart Keyboard. Apparently, Apple is "preparing smaller versions" of the $170 Smart Keyboard for the smaller iPad Pro. 

We'll also see the same four-speaker arrangement that the iPad Pro has on the smaller model, too. 

Gurman also expects a similar price to the iPad Air models, and that Apple will start shipping the smaller iPad Pro as early as March 18. 

If these claims are true, it marks a new beginning for powerful iPads that might be used for more than browsing the web, social media, and streaming Netflix. As we reported earlier, the most used iPad in the world at the moment is the old iPad 2. People don't upgrade to newer iPads because the iPad 2 still works perfectly well for what they want it to do.

However, apart from compatibility with the Apple Pencil and the smart keyboard (Apple is trying to position the iPad as a laptop replacement), the iPad Pro doesn't really add much more functionality over the regular iPad. As my colleague Steve Kovach said in his review, "the iPad Pro acts like a jumbo-sized version of the iPad Air 2." 

We're also expecting Apple to announce a new iPhone called the iPhone 5se during the same event, as well as some Apple Watch updates, like new software and watchband materials.