At an unusual education-focused event in Chicago, Apple unveiled a new iPad with a student discount, as well as plenty of features to draw regular consumers as well.
The latest iPad still features a 9.7-inch Retina screen, but the base model now includes a higher-resolution touch sensor to support the Apple Pencil — meaning that you no longer need the more expensive Pro model to sketch, draw, or write notes. Inside is Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, designed to deliver AR experiences and with significantly more performance than the prior A9 SoC; Apple is quoting 40 percent boosts to the CPU and 50 percent to graphics, and from what we know of the A10 that should be doable.
Apple has also redesigned its app suite to support the Pencil, complete with palm rejection and lower latency. Supported apps include Notability, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and even Microsoft Office. The new iPad includes an improved gyroscope and accelerometer to better support the next generation of AR apps. As before, it also features built-in HD cameras front and rear, a compass, Touch ID support, and up to 10 hours of battery life.
Logitech also took the opportunity to unveil a $49 alternative to the $99 Apple Pencil called the Crayon, and an education-focused keyboard attachment as well.
The new iPad costs the same $329 as before, with two key differences: a $30 discount for students, and a free 200GB iCloud account (instead of 5GB). Students also get a $10 discount on the Pencil. A cellular-enabled version that supports 300Mbps LTE costs $130 more ($459). The new model is available for order today and will start shipping this week in silver, space gray, and a new shade of gold.
Whether Apple can make the case against Chromebooks or Windows 10 S (or whatever happens to the latter when it becomes a mode) is a different question. To cite just one example, Lenovo’s latest Chromebooks, announced last month, includes a stylus and built-in keyboard for $349. Apple’s new 200GB iCloud account should increase pressure on Google, which doesn’t offer as much space but makes it up with free unlimited storage for “high-resolution” (up to 16MP) photos and compressed (but still HD) video. Yesterday also brought us the first new Chrome OS tablet.
Apple has historically pushed hard in education, starting with school labs full of Apple IIe computers and discounted Macs in the 1980s and 1990s, all the way to supporting interactive textbooks in iBooks and efforts to give every student an iPad in some schools. This latest model, if it performs as expected along with the accompanying software boosts, should give Apple more ammunition for this monster of a vertical market, even if consumer interest in tablets is on the wane.
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