Ahead of next week's “It's show time” event, Apple has today announced updates to its iPad line - there's a new 10.5-inch iPad Air, and a long overdue update for the iPad mini.
The new iPad Air has a 10.5-inch display and features the A12 Bionic chip found in the iPhone XS and XR. And, as MacStories states, it is essentially a “repackaged version of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro” which has been discontinued today:
The iPad Air is a brand new device that serves as a sort of mid-tier iPad, landing in both power and price point in-between the entry-level iPad and the high-end iPad Pro models. Like the entry-level iPad model, the iPad Air retains a classic home button with Touch ID, and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil, but it adds to those features a larger display, a modern CPU, Smart Keyboard support, and more. Essentially, it's the 10.5" iPad Pro reborn with a new name, more modern internals, and a lower price point.
The new iPad Air keeps the same basic form factor of the 9.7" iPad, but with slimmed down side bezels to make room for a larger 10.5" display. That display supports most modern Apple technologies like True Tone and P3 wide color, but notably it does not include ProMotion – a regression compared to the 10.5" iPad Pro.
Like the 10.5" iPad Pro, the iPad Air is equipped with Apple's original Smart Connector, so it can be used with the Smart Keyboard, but not the more modern Smart Keyboard Folio of the 2018 iPad Pros. Its Apple Pencil support is also limited to the first-generation Pencil; you cannot use the improved second-generation Pencil with the iPad Air.
If you are somebody who wanted something more capable than the entry level 9.7-inch iPad, but with a lower price and specification of the newest iPad Pro, the new iPad Air bridges that gap and may just be what you were waiting for.
Perhaps less clear, however, is who the new iPad mini is for.
Following the launch last year of the US$329 9.7-inch iPad, the previous generation iPad mini ceased to be the ‘budget’ option for iPad buyers.
When updating the iPad mini, 9to5Mac suggests that Apple had two options:
- Make the iPad mini a cheaper version of the entry-level iPad
- Make it an ultra-portable iPad Pro
The former route would have required pricing at around the $299 level, with specs equivalent to the 9.7-inch iPad.
The latter approach would have been creating a true premium model in ultra-portable form – which would have included near-bezel-free design with Face ID, and support for the Apple Pencil 2.
Instead, Apple has opted to create somewhat of a “weird hybrid”, where its pricing and specification may find it struggling to find a place in the market.
In regard to specification, 9to5Mac cites the following areas where it stands above the 9.7-inch iPad:
- A12 processor (versus A10)
- Neural Engine
- Embedded M12 coprocessor (versus M10)
- Fully laminated display
- Anti-reflective coating
- P3 wide-gamut color display
- True Tone
- 7-megapixel camera
- 1080p front camera
- Auto HDR
- Bluetooth 5.0 (versus 4.2)
- Gibabit-class LTE (versus standard LTE)
There's much there to justify it's US$70 price premium on the 9.7-inch iPad, but there are still many areas where the new iPad mini may fall short for anybody who was hoping for a 7.9-inch iPad Pro:
- Near-bezel-free design
- Face ID
- All the other TrueDepth camera features
- Portrait Mode
- Portrait Lighting
- 512GB and 1TB storage tiers
- A12X processor
- Support for 2nd-gen Apple Pencil
- 12-megapixel photos
- f/1.8 aperture
- True Tone flash
- Wide color capture for photos
- Auto-focus with Focus Pixels
- Smart HDR
- 4K video recording
- Cinematic video stabilization
- Continuous autofocus in video mode
- Four speakers
There's a lot to like about the new 5th generation iPad mini, but it's hard to know exactly who it's for. If you are choosing solely upon price and are happy with basic features, you're likely to look no further than the 9.7-inch iPad. However, if you were hoping for a smaller form factor iPad Pro, the iPad mini is likely to come with too many sacrifices and compromises.
With today's new releases, the iPad line looks probably more congested than ever, and may make it hard to choose what's the best fit for your use case and budget. But, the flip is that there should be something for just about everybody.
The new iPad Air and iPad mini are offered in 64GB or 256GB storage options, and come in gold, silver and space gray finishes. Prices for the iPad Air start at US$499 for Wi-Fi models and US$629 for Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The new 5th generation iPad mini starts at US$399 for the Wi-Fi model and US$529 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Both are available to oder online today, with availability in store starting next week.
Let us know in the comments what you think of these new iPads and whether you will be buying one.