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Apple unveils new iPad and iPhone hardware in surprise announcement

Apple has announced a brand new iPad, and a brand new iPhone in an announcement that was both surprising, yet expected.

There have been rumors for weeks – even months – that Apple was gearing up for a major announcement event, complete with presentations and a keynote – for a new range of iPads, including a 10.5-inch bezel-free model. It would have fit with Apple’s previous year’s iPad refreshes. However, in recent weeks, production line leaks have suggested this iPad, alongside a second generation 12.9-inch model, wouldn’t arrive until later.

On the one hand, new iPads were expected, on the other, it wasn’t expected for a singular model to be announced via press release.

Introducing… iPad

Today, Apple unveiled a brand new 9.7-inch iPad. But rather than furnish the device with advanced internal technology or a new design, the company effectively retired the aging iPad Air 2, providing a new entry level, 9.7-inch iPad, and returning the original product line to a more straight-forward naming convention: Simply, iPad.

The new iPad looks much the same, but it's more powerful, and cheaper

The new iPad looks much the same, but it’s more powerful, and cheaper

The design remains largely the same and comes with a Retina display, as expected, though the Wi-Fi model is slightly heavier than the iPad Air 2. Interestingly, the Wi-Fi + Cellular model is weighted the same as its predecessor. However, internally, this seventh-generation iPad comes with Apple’s A9 chip and M9 motion co-processor – a progression from the A8X chip and M8 co-processor, though slightly less powerful than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro’s A9X chip.

“iPad is the world’s most popular tablet. Customers love the large, 9.7-inch display for everything from watching TV and movies, to surfing the web, making FaceTime calls, and enjoying photos, and now it is even more affordable,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “New customers and anyone looking to upgrade will love this new iPad for use at home, in school, and for work, with its gorgeous Retina display, our powerful A9 chip, and access to the more than 1.3 million apps designed specifically for it.”

Though on the surface, the iPad hasn’t progressed much beyond internal power boosts, its biggest selling point is… well, its selling point. It’s the cheapest iPad currently available, lowering the point of access for many. Despite its reduction in cost, it still provides TouchID, 64-bit architecture and HD video recording.

It comes in silver, gold and space gray, with prices starting at $329 (down from the iPad Air 2’s $399) for a 32GB Wi-Fi model, rising to a starting price of $459 for a 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The new device will be available for order from March 24, and will arrive in Apple stores the following week.

In parallel, Apple has announced that the iPad mini 4 will continue to be available at the same price, but models will start with a capacity of 128GB and the Wi-Fi only model will be priced at the previous price point of $399, making the new iPad the entry-level model.

If you were holding off buying an iPad, or your current model has begun to slow down, now might be a decent time to upgrade.

Introducing… the red iPhone 7

Alongside the new iPad, Apple also launched the new (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. This was another expected announcement, and it ties in once more with Apple’s partnership with (RED), a Global Fund for AIDS research, which it has worked with for 10 years.

The feature set remains the same, but now customers have access to a vibrant matte red color scheme.

“Since we began working with (RED) 10 years ago, our customers have made a significant impact in fighting the spread of AIDS through the purchase of our products, from the original iPod nano (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition all the way to today’s lineup of Beats products and accessories for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The introduction of this special edition iPhone in a gorgeous red finish is our biggest (PRODUCT)RED offering to date in celebration of our partnership with (RED), and we can’t wait to get it into customers’ hands.”

The new red iPhone 7 adds an additional color option to Apple's smartphone range

The new red iPhone 7 adds an additional color option to Apple’s smartphone range

The red iPhone will be available in store, and to order online from March 24. It’ll be available in only 128GB and 256GB models, starting from $749.

It’s not the first red Apple product – Apple first introduced a red iPod, and has since expanded its (PRODUCT)RED line to speakers, battery cases and other accessories. View the full line here.

The iPhone joins other speakers and accessories in the (PRODUCT)RED line

The iPhone joins other speakers and accessories in the (PRODUCT)RED line

Anything else?

Just one more thing. As with the iPad mini, the iPhone’s smaller sibling, the iPhone SE gets a little boost in terms of capacity. The SE is now available in 32GB and 128GB, replacing the 16GB and 64GB models, but will also be priced the same. These devices will also be available from Friday.

All new products and models were announced via Apple’s Newsroom website, making no mention of the rumored 10.5-inch iPad, or a second-generation 12.9-inch iPad. However, rumors persist that they may still arrive later in the year – perhaps during May or June.