While we’re still waiting for a fresh iPad with
barely-there bezels to make an appearance, Apple has returned to its roots with a new 9.7-inch model simply called iPad. And if you had previously balked at buying an
iPad Air 2 because the price was too high, you might want to take notice.
Apple hasn’t technically added a new model to the iPad lineup, but it has
bolstered the low end. Gone is the aging iPad Air 2 (as well as the whole Air branding), and in its place is a new model that looks exactly the same, with a 9.7-inch retina screen, Touch ID, 32GB or 128GB of storage, and the same color choices (silver, gold, and space gray). On the inside you’ll get an A9 chip—the same one that’s in the iPhone 6s—and the usual 10-hour battery. That’s a relatively small upgrade over the 8X chip that was in the iPad Air 2, but the difference here isn’t in performance, it’s in price.
Apple has slashed the cost of the entry-level iPad from $399 to $329, the same price it once charged for the iPad mini. For $100 more, you can quadruple the storage to 128GB, and as always, cellular capability costs $130 more. Obviously, the new iPad doesn’t have any of the Pro’s features, like the Smart Connector or Apple Pencil support, but it’s definitely an attractive entry-level model.
As far as the iPad mini, the fourth generation of Apple’s 7.9-inch tablet is still hanging around, but it’s the only model that doesn’t start at 32GB of storage. Apple has axed the $269 iPad mini 2, and the mini 4 now comes with just one storage option, 128GB, for the same price of $399. That makes it slightly cheaper than a similarly spec’d iPad, but Apple is clearly pushing the larger tablet here, continuing a trend that started with the iPad Pro. The mini is still running the two-year-old A8 chip, and all signs appear to point to a phase-out of the smaller tablet within the next year or so.
So, Apple’s iPad lineup now looks like this: at the low end, there’s the 32GB $329 9.7-inch iPad, followed by the $399 128GB mini. Then there’s the $599 9.7-inch 32GB iPad Pro, and the $799 12.9-inch Pro with 32 GB of storage. That’s still a lot of options, but it’s much easier to digest than the previous lineup, and puts a clear delineation between the upper and lower models without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.
The new iPad will go on sale Friday, March 24 in the U.S. and more the 20 countries.
Update, 10:45 a.m.: This article has been updated to reflect the discontinuation of the iPad mini 2.