Apple is launching a new 9.7-inch iPad that will start at $329, making it significantly less expensive than the $599 iPad Pro of the same size. It’s available to order starting March 24 and will be in Apple Stores next week.
The new iPad differs from its pricier sibling in several ways: To start, it runs on the company’s A9 processor, not the Pro’s beefier A9X chipset, and it isn’t compatible with accessories like the Apple Pencil or SmartKeyboard. While the forthcoming iPad’s screen has the same 2,048 x 1,536 resolution as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, it’s not fully laminated and does not feature an anti-reflective coating like the company’s other tablets. The new iPad is also missing the 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s sharper camera and 4K video capabilities as well, offering an 8-megapixel camera versus the Pro’s 12-megapixel shooter and 1080p video recording instead. The tablet only has two speakers instead of the Pro’s four.
Still, the tablet will be plenty powerful for those who intend to browse the web, check email, stream Netflix and play games, which is to say most people. Apple has been pushing the iPad Pro more for those who intend to use their tablet for creative and professional work, like photo and film editing, which are tasks that can require more processing power and a better camera. Despite its cheaper price, the new 9.7-inch iPad should be faster and more capable than Apple’s older iPad Air 2, which runs on a dated A8 processor versus the A9. In fact, the new iPad will replace the iPad Air 2, which is no longer present on Apple’s website.
It’s rare for Apple to release a full-sized iPad at such a low price. The Air 2 debuted at a starting price of $499 for the16GB of storage in 2014, while the new iPad includes 32GB of space for roughly $170 less. It’s also cheaper than the 7.9-inch iPad mini 4, which starts at $399 and runs on an older processor but includes 128GB of storage.
The discounted tablet could be a move to boost sales in an Apple product line that’s been steadily declining. During its most recent earnings report, Apple revealed that total iPad shipments dropped by 19%, while revenue from the tablets was down by 22%. Offering a cheaper option could give Apple fans and tablet shoppers a more compelling reason to upgrade from an older model or a mini. Data also suggests that shoppers prefer Apple’s less expensive slates over its Pro tablets: the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini accounted for most of the company’s tablet sales during the 2016 holiday quarter, according to The International Data Corporation.
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