iPad Air 5 might get close competition from Realme's upcoming Android tablet

iPad Air 4 (2020)
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Different tablets are designed for different purposes, whether that’s as a small version of a laptop for productivity, or as an easy-to-use entertainment system, and the iPad Air series is designed around its svelte form and portability. It sounds like Realme’s upcoming Android tablet might be the same.

The Realme Pad, which the company has been teasing for a while now, was the subject of a tweet from company CEO Madhav Sheth. On Twitter, Sheth wrote “there is a need for a real-ly light & slim [tablets] for your ease and we might just have a solution![sic]”, ending the tweet with a hashtag reiterating the Realme Pad name.

So it sounds like portability is the name of the game here, and it sounds like Realme is trying to design a tablet that’s really easy to carry around, which is the same kind of thing Apple attempts with its iPad Air line. We'd expect the next entry in the line, the iPad Air 5, to be just the same, and if it launches in September (which would be a year from the iPad Air 4 launch) it could bump noses with the Realme Pad too.

Just note that Sheth doesn’t mention screen size at all, which suggests this isn’t an area that the company has tried to shrink. So perhaps the Realme Pad isn’t aimed as an iPad Mini rival.

We don’t know when the Realme Pad is coming quite yet, but the company is teasing it quite regularly now.

Analysis: iPad isnt the only rival

Our comparison to iPads isn’t just idle speculation; with Apple one of the big dogs in the slate market, it’s very easy to contextualize each new Android tablet as a rival to one of the company’s portfolio.

According to Statista, since 2011 Apple‘s iPads have made up roughly a third of all tablet sales each quarter, though there’s some variance with highs of 60% and lows of 20%.

What’s notable is that, each quarter, the top three biggest Android tablet makers make about the same number of sales combined, as Apple does alone (though this is quite rough given annual changes). Those are Samsung, Lenovo and Amazon, each offering tablets for different demographics, and other than a meaty slice labeled ’other’, they make up the majority of the rest of the slate sales each season.

As an Android tablet maker trying to earn a chunk of that ‘slate sale’ pie, Realme is going to figure out where it sits in the mix with its new Pad. Amazon’s Fire tablets, and entry-level iPads, are great for entertainment. Samsung Galaxy Tabs, and iPad Pros, are best for working. Lenovo slates, and iPad Air and Mini models, are great for education or on-the-go use.

So not only does Realme have to contend with top dog Apple, but with a big Android brand too which rules whichever market segment it aims for. That’s good news for consumers, as choice is always a good thing, but not so great news for Realme, trying to find a niche for its first slate.

We’ve been hearing rumors about lots of phone makers releasing their first tablets soon - Xiaomi recently unveiled the Mi Pad 5, its first slate in three years, and Vivo, OnePlus and Opop are all rumored to be entering the tablet market too. So while Realme is forging a path ahead with the Pad, it‘s blazing a trail that other brands might soon follow.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.