Apple’s next-generation iPad is called the iPad Air, the Cupertino firm announced today. The redesigned tablet is now 20 percent thinner than the iPad 4 at 7.5mm, and drops its weight from 1.4 pounds to just 1 pound. It sports the same 64-bit A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor as the iPhone 5s, and it comes with a 5-megapixel iSight rear camera, a FaceTime front shooter that can take 1080p video, and dual microphones. Apple rates it at 10 hours of battery life, and its 802.11n WiFi will come with MIMO technology that Apple claims to be two times faster than the usual kind (there’s no 802.11ac, however). It features the same 9.7-inch ‘Retina’ display as before too.
The iPad Air name was a surprise, but Apple also announced a next-generation iPad mini today–and as expected, it’ll have a 2048×1536 Retina display. It’ll keep the same iPad mini branding (no “iPad mini 2” here), but its specs sheet is getting some notable upgrades: beyond the much-improved display, it too is getting that 64-bit A7 processor, MIMO WiFi, 5-megapixel and 1080p cameras, and 10-hour battery life. The new iPad mini, like the iPad Air, will run iOS 7, and will arrive in silver and black.
The technical upgrades are largely expected, so it’s not surprising to hear that Apple is largely keeping the same pricing structure with the two classes of devices. The iPad Air will start at the same $500 price point as the iPad 4 for a 16GB, WiFi-only model. Higher storage capacity and LTE-enabled models will then go up from there. The new iPad mini, meanwhile, is going to be $70 more expensive than its predecessor, as it will start at $400 for a 16GB model rather than $300. Both slates are coming to the usual retailers in November. Apple will be selling new Smart Covers and full covers for the devices as well, and they’ll start at $40 and $80, respectively.
Perhaps more interesting is what Apple is doing with the older iPads. For one, the iPad 4 is now going to fade into oblivion–instead, Apple is going to continue to sell the iPad 2 for $400. The older iPad mini is also going to stay on the market, but it’s getting a slight price cut down to $300. That’s cheaper, but it keeps both iPad minis much pricier than other 7-inch tablet competitors like Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX. A now-free suite of updated iWork and iLife apps will help make up for that disparity, but given Tim Cook’s announcement earlier in the day that 170 million iPads have been sold since 2010, the Cupertino company might not be too worried with being more expensive in the first place.