Apple’s new $329 9.7-inch iPad replaces Air 2, has no Pro features

Apple logoApple quietly announced via press release this morning that it would not be replacing any of its top-end iPads, just its two-year-old midrange iPad Air 2. The company's new mainstream 9.7-inch tablet, called simply "iPad," includes an Apple A9 SoC (not an A9X), but its most exciting feature is its starting price of $329, $70 less than the previous starting price of the Air 2. The tablet will be available to order starting March 24 and will begin shipping next week.

The new tablet takes a step back from the design used for the Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. At 1.03 pounds (469g) and 0.29-inches (7.5mm) thick, the tablet is actually almost identical in size to the original iPad Air, not the Air 2. Hopefully this doesn't mean that the screen or any other aspect of the tablet is also taking a step backward, but we'll have to wait to get one in our hands to know for sure.

Update: Looking at the comparison page for all current iPad models, it looks like the new iPad does in fact take a couple of steps back from the iPad Air 2. The LCD is no longer laminated to the front glass, as it is in all iPad Pros, the Air 2, and the Mini 4. Some repair advocates will like this, but the air gap between the glass and screen can noticeably affect contrast and color. The tablet also lacks the anti-glare coating that the Air 2, the MIni 4, and both iPad Pros have. This tablet is definitely an offshoot of the original iPad Air design, while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has more in common with the AIr 2.

Новый Apple iPad

The tablet's other key specs include the same 9.7-inch 2048×1536 screen as previous iPads of this size, an 8MP rear camera with no flash, TouchID, and a headphone jack. 32GB and 128GB capacities are available in both Wi-Fi and cellular configurations; 32GB models cost $329 for Wi-Fi and $459 for cellular, while 128GB models run $429 and $559 respectively. Space grey, silver, and gold colors are all offered, but no rose gold.

Apple doesn't talk about RAM in these announcements, but the new iPad presumably has the same 2GB as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the Air 2, and the iPad Mini 4 to support the multitasking features introduced in iOS 9. The tablet doesn't include a True Tone display, DCI-P3 color gamut support, Apple Pencil support, Smart Keyboard support, or any of the other stuff you get when you step up to the now year-old 9.7-inch iPad Pro. That tablet and the one-and-a-half-year-old 12.9-inch version are still being sold for all the same prices and capacities as before.

The iPad Mini 4 doesn't get a hardware bump, but buyers now get 128GB of storage space for the tablet's starting price of $399 ($529 for the LTE version). Everything else about it is unchanged.

The rumor mill has been indicating for a while now that Apple had a product event planned for late March or early April; the company doesn't always have a spring event, but these events happen often enough to fill the gap between the blowouts in September and October and the new software announcements at WWDC in June. This morning's low-key announcement-via-press-release could indicate that Apple had hoped to have a major product to show off that ended up not being ready in time—or that the reports of a major event were overblown or false in the first place.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Apple, iPad, tablets

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