Dimensions: Where iPad design could go next

A summary of what Apple could accomplish with the death of the iPad's Home button.

10 August 2018

Almost a year after the iPhone X’s launch, the rumor mill — as well as Apple’s own beta software — suggests that the iPad Pro is about to head in a similar design direction as Apple’s first nigh-bezel-free device (thankfully with no notch; don’t get Uluroo started on how terrible that would look on a tablet). As much for his own sake as for everyone else’s, Uluroo has done some mathemagical calculations to better explore the possibilities awaiting us in the coming weeks.

A note before we dive in: Uluroo doesn’t expect to have landed precisely on Apple’s plans for the devices; this is a fun way of seeing just how much the iPad Pros can change. Uluroo isn’t betting money on the accuracy of these estimates, but they’re definitely more accurate than the guesstimates that have been given so far.


This article contains a lot of boring math. Who wants that? Here’s a brief summary of what Uluroo rambles about for the next few hundred words.

Rumors suggest that the iPad Pros will be getting slim-bezeled screens, specifically an 11-inch screen in the size of today’s 10.5-inch device and a 12.9-inch screen in a device smaller than the current one. Here are the exact measurements for those possible models, along with some versions that correct for aspect ratio.

Here’s what the future could hold for today’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro. The guess of 11 inches isn’t quite right, as Apple can go even bigger:

An 11.26-inch diagonal screen in the same chassis size as the 10.5-inch model

An 11.65-inch diagonal screen that keeps the current 4:3 aspect ratio and slightly increases the width of the chassis

And for the 12.9-inch model, there are a few ways Apple could go:

A 12.9-inch diagonal screen in a model that is 1.17 inches shorter and 0.44 inches narrower than the current one

A 13.66-inch diagonal screen that keeps the current aspect ratio and is shorter than the current 12.9-inch model

A 13.9-inch diagonal screen with the screen size of copy paper, slightly wider and slightly shorter than the current 12.9-inch model

A 14.14-inch diagonal screen in the same chassis size as the current 12.9-inch model

A 14.4-inch diagonal screen that keeps the current aspect ratio and is slightly wider than the current 12.9-inch model

Read on to see the math behind the measurements.

The current lineup

The current iPad Pro range consists of 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch diagonal screens, sized similarly to the old MacBook Air models. Rumor has it that the smaller of the two will get a larger screen in a similar-sized footprint; the larger will get the same screen size in a smaller, more portable chassis. What the measurement of the smaller tablet’s screen could be has remained unclear, but the best guess so far is something like an 11-inch diagonal.

Get ready for some numbers. Starting with the 10.5-inch tablet, let’s get a bit more specific about these sizes. (The measurements presented were found here and here. If anyone finds them inaccurate, let Uluroo know and he can update the calculations.)

In portrait orientation, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is 6.8 inches wide and 9.8 inches tall. The screen itself is 6.32 inches wide and 8.42 inches tall. Don’t grab a calculator: that means there’s a 0.24-inch bezel on each side for a total of 0.48 inches of side bezel, and there’s a 0.69-inch top and bottom bezel for a total of 1.38 inches of chin and forehead.

Also in portrait orientation, the 12.9-inch behemoth is 8.68 wide and 12 inches tall. This one’s screen is 7.76 inches wide and 10.35 inches tall. That makes 0.46 inches of bezel on each side, for a total of 0.92 inches of side bezel. In addition, there are 0.825 inches of chin or forehead and a total of 1.65 inches of top-bottom bezel.

The scenario

Nothing’s confirmed until the keynote, of course, but let’s assume that the rumors are true and Apple is indeed planning to go iPhone X-style with the new iPad Pro models. Also, so that Uluroo’s calculations weren’t a total waste of time, let’s assume that in order for the devices to have symmetrical bezels and the TrueDepth camera system, Apple has to keep the bezel width the same as the small side bezels on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro: 0.24 inches on all sides.

The 11-something

Starting once again with what is now the 10.5-inch model, Apple has more than one option. In our imagined scenario, Apple can only slim down the bezels on the top and bottom (again, in portrait orientation), because the side bezels of this device represent the farthest Apple can narrow the bezels while keeping them consistent.

Now the tablet has a screen that is still 6.32 inches wide but is now 9.32 inches tall. The chassis measurements remain the same. Now, we just apply the Pythagorean Theorem… Boom! The device has an 11.26-inch diagonal, keeping the same footprint of 6.8 by 9.8 inches. Not bad, rumors, but you were a bit wrong.

It may seem that Apple could just go for an 11-inch diagonal and shrink the device’s footprint, but Uluroo doubts that would happen because the Smart Keyboard would also have to be shrunk. Not a good idea. Apple will at least keep the same footprint as the current 10.5-inch model, in which case we’ll see an 11.26-inch screen (granted Apple can’t shrink the bezels farther than 0.24 inches).

Aspect ratio problems

Those calculations are the essence of what the rumors suggest for the 11-inch model: same size, larger screen. But just increasing the device’s length, and not its width, will screw up the aspect ratio, which Apple might not want to do after eight years of iPads with 4:3 ratios.

Currently, the iPad Pros have an aspect ratio of 4:3. To preserve that aspect ratio while keeping the increased screen length of 9.32 inches, the width of the screen needs to be 6.99 inches. So now, let’s Pythagorize this thing! 6.99 by 9.32 inches… The diagonal measurement on this would be exactly 11.65 inches. Even bigger! Now if we add the total bezel width to that screen width… the preserved-aspect-ratio version of this model’s chassis is 7.47 inches wide by 9.8 inches tall, with an 11.65-inch diagonal display. So the chassis would be wider.

Uluroo doesn’t know which of those options is the likelier. Each of them comes with a sacrifice: one messes up the aspect ratio; the other makes the tablet slightly less portable and also means users couldn’t use the same accessories as before. And Apple may even elect to increase the size of the tablet even more than that, so as to make the Smart Keyboard bigger.

And in actuality, it’s probably not going to be either an 11.26- or 11.65-inch display. Those are just two of the practically endless possibilities. But they do give us a good idea of what the current notchless technological limits might allow Apple to do, and it’s a pretty radical increase in screen size.

The big guy

Okay, the larger of the two devices presents two other interesting possibilities. Let’s go with the general rumor consensus first: Apple will keep a 12.9-inch screen while slimming down the device’s footprint. Fun!

To figure this one out, just take the current screen dimensions (7.76 by 10.35 inches) and add 0.48 to each measurement for the bezels. So with a 12.9-inch diagonal, the device should have a chassis width of 8.24 inches and a chassis length of 10.83 inches. That’s some significant slimming right there, and it should make the 12.9-inch model more appealing to users who want a big screen but don’t want something too big to carry around easily.

But why stop there? Uluroo has noticed that the community of Apple rumor followers seems split between wanting a smaller 12.9-inch model and wanting the larger of the iPad Pros to undergo the same transformation as its smaller sibling: getting a larger display size in a similar footprint.

The bigger guy

So we do the opposite of what we just did. Rather than add to the display dimensions, subtract from the chassis dimensions to see what it would look like if Apple maximized the screen size. 8.68 minus 0.48, 12 minus 0.48… The screen would be 8.2 by 11.52 inches. And it would have a 14.14-inch diagonal. In the same size as the 12.9-inch model. That would be close to a 4:3 aspect ratio, but not quite.

There are two ways to correct the aspect ratio on this model. One would be to preserve the new width of 8.2 and detract from the new length of 11.52, keeping the whole thing a bit smaller. Thus the display would be 10.93 by 8.2 inches with a diagonal length of 13.66 inches. Not bad, but definitely smaller. The chassis length would be 11.41 inches and the width would stay the same, so the device’s footprint would shrink.

The other way to preserve the aspect ratio is to increase the width proportionally to the length of 11.52. That would make the new display width 8.64 inches and the new chassis width 9.12 inches — an increase from the already large model — and the chassis length would stay the same. This model would have a diagonal measurement of exactly 14.4 inches.

Imagine a 14.4-inch iPad. It would probably be able to handle three-app Split View. It would have a bigger onscreen keyboard than the 10.5-inch model — in portrait orientation. Artists could do even more than before. Is it likely? No, not really. Is it awesome? Yeah, kind of.

Bonus model

Actually, the thought that got Uluroo to do all this math was What if Apple made a tablet with the same screen dimensions as an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper? Printable documents would be actual size, and the proportions would be similar to what artists (and anyone who’s ever used paper) are used to. One thing Uluroo has noticed is that even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn’t as big as copy paper in either dimension.

Well, there are a couple of compromises. First, standard copy paper does not have a 4:3 aspect ratio like Apple’s tablets do. Second, it would make the chassis even more unwieldy than it is now.

But it would have a screen the size of a real piece of paper, so… worth it? Uluroo doesn’t know.

Anyway, to the calculations!

8.5 plus 0.48 is 8.98. 11 plus 0.48 is 11.48. The chassis would be 8.98 by 11.48 inches. The diagonal measurement would be 13.9 inches. That’s pretty cool. As a reminder, the current model is 8.68 by 12 inches. The device would get only slightly bigger in one dimension and smaller in the other, the screen would grow in both dimensions, and the proportions would change.

A note on corners

One thing to remember is that these displays would not literally be 11.26 or 14.14 or however many inches on the diagonal. As with the iPhone X, the corners of the display will be rounded. Apple advertises the iPhone X with a 5.8-inch screen, but it’s not actually 5.8 inches. The corners of the display fall within a 5.8-inch rectangle.

Uluroo expects that Apple will advertise the new iPad Pros by saying they’re however many diagonal inches, but just as with the iPhone, they won’t have quite that much usable screen space.

That makes some of these possibilities unlikely. For example, keeping the 12.9-inch display size isn’t ideal because the screen area will actually decrease with the rounded corners. The real device will probably be advertised as having a larger display in a similar chassis size.

Again, this wasn’t an attempt to decode exactly what Apple has planned for early September (or maybe October). It was an interesting application of geometry that gives us a better look at what Apple could be doing, though the actual display measurements will almost certainly fall somewhere between Uluroo’s guesses, not on a specific one. If he had to bet, Uluroo would guess the new models will be 11.6 inches and 13.6 inches.

What display size will the new iPads have? Maybe these numbers have given you a better idea. Guessing may be hard, but it’s certainly fun.