At its latest Special Event, Apple unveiled two new products – the 4-inch iPhone SE, and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Let’s delve into the details of the new iPad.
A smaller iPad Pro
Apple has released a new tablet, a smaller version of last year’s super-powered iPad Pro. To avoid further confusing their product lineup, the new device is not given a distinct name like the Mini or the Air. It’s simply referred to as “the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.” The key line is that this is not strictly a new device; rather, it’s an alternative size for an existing device. The same, but smaller.
As for the specifications, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is almost identical to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. They both rock a 264 ppi Retina display, Apple’s most powerful A9X chip and M9 coprocessor. They both include high-fidelity four-speaker audio, Touch ID and Apple Pay. They’re both compatible with Pro-only accessories like the Smart Keyboard and the impressive Apple Pencil. There are, however, some differences. In several ways the new iPad is actually superior to its predecessor.
The key differences
Compared with its bigger brother, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has a few display improvements. In a first for mobile devices, the new iPad uses True Tone technology to “automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment.” In theory, this results in a more natural reading experience, with whites always looking pure white, no matter the lighting in the room. It also boasts “the same color space as the digital cinema industry,” and the least reflective tablet screen in the world.
Both the front and back cameras have been upgraded to match the quality and resolution of the iPhone 6s. That means a 12-megapixel iSight camera and a 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with Retina Flash. Like the latest iPhones, the main camera can capture 4K video, 240-fps slo-mo video, and Live Photos. Quite an upgrade from the 8MP/1.2MP camera combo found in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro – but then again, who’s lugging such a big device around as their primary camera?
New iPad lineup?
Apple exec Phil Schiller revealed that Apple has sold over 200 million iPads with 9.7-inch screens so far. It’s the flagship tablet size, designed as the sweet spot between portability and usability, and clearly people like it. So it makes sense to bring the immense power and unique features of the iPad Pro to a more manageable scale. But what does this mean for Apple’s other iPads?
It’s assumed this will pave the way for a slightly more streamlined iPad lineup, potentially ditching the “Air” and “mini” monikers going forward. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a two-tiered system of simply iPad and iPad Pro, each coming in two sizes. So the first question for consumers would be, “do I need the power of the Pro model,” and the second would be “which screen size do I prefer?” If Apple get consistent with their naming conventions (certainly not a guarantee), the next set of non-Pro devices could simply be named the 7.9-inch iPad and the 9.7-inch iPad, replacing the mini and Air respectively.
Price & availability
The 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599 for the 32GB version. For $749 you can get a model with a more realistic 128GB, while $899 will net you Apple’s first ever device with 256GB of storage space. To keep up, there’s also a new 256GB version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro ($1,099). Add an extra $130 to any of those prices for Cellular as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. Oh, and to differentiate further between models, the two-year-old iPad Air 2 has dropped a hundred bucks to $399 for 16GB or $499 for 64GB. Orders begin March 24, and the new device will ship the following week.
For many people this will become the iPad of choice. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro is an incredible device, but for many consumers its just too big and too expensive. Releasing a smaller version solves both problems. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro retains all the power of its bigger brother while adding some notable improvements to the display and the camera. And to top it all off, it starts at $200 less than the existing iPad Pro. Unless you really need that extra screen size, this is the best iPad available in every department.