Last year's core 9.7in iPad hit the sweet spot for a lot of tablet buyers, offering solid power and capabilities at a reasonable price – but it lacked some features.
One of the biggest omissions was support for the impressive Pencil stylus, but now Apple is letting entry-level buyers scribble with the best of them with today's announcement and release of the new iPad (2018). Pencil usage is one of the biggest enhancements, but the refreshed iPad also packs in more power behind the scenes.
It's part of Apple's big education push, as unveiled at a high school in Chicago today, but the new iPad should be plenty appealing for anyone who wants a larger touch device without spending several hundred quid. Here are the five biggest things we learnt today about Apple's updated tablet.
1) It's a little cheaper than the last one
Last year, the 9.7in iPad (2017) arrived at a pretty appealing £339 price point, shaving a fair amount of cash off of the glitzier iPad Pro models – but Apple is dipping even lower this time around. The seemingly identical 9.7in iPad (2018) starts at £319 for the base 32GB model, with the 128GB version going for £409.
Cellular versions are available too, of course, coming in at £449 for the 32GB edition and £539 for the 128GB model. In the United States, on the other hand, Apple is sticking with the price points of last year's iPad, starting at US$329 for the 32GB Wi-Fi edition and rising from there.
Apple's fight to get more iPads into schools, to battle back the rise of Google's cheap Chromebooks and cloud-powered apps, also brings a slight price benefit for institutions: they'll be able to buy these iPads for US$299, and at an unspecified discounted rate in the UK.
2) It works with the Apple Pencil
Relegating Apple Pencil usage to the pricier iPad Pro models made it seem like Apple was keeping one of the best features exclusive to the big spenders, but now even entry-level buyers can get in on the fun: the new iPad supports the versatile stylus as well.
It's also a hair cheaper in the UK, with Apple knocking the price down to £89 from £99. However, it's staying at US$99 in the States, although schools can save US$10 on them. That's still pretty pricey for a stylus, so we'll have to see whether schools really are ready to make that kind of investment.
3) It's more powerful than before
Another year, another iPad – and with it comes a more powerful processor inside. This time around, Apple's A10 Fusion chip takes the place of the A9 chip from last year's iPad. Essentially, you're getting the iPhone 7's chip instead of the iPhone 6s chip.
What does that mean? Well, iOS 11 ought to run a bit smoother, and apps and games will benefit from having more horsepower within. Apple also pointed out that the new iPad will be better equipped to run ARKit-powered augmented reality experiences, again empowering more educational experiences (and dumb, fun ones too).
4) iWork apps get big upgrades
With the potentially wider spread of the Apple Pencil comes beneficial updates to the iWork suite on iPad. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote all bring in support for the Pencil, whether you're annotating documents and presentations or adding in your own drawings or scribbles.
Smart Annotation is launching in beta, and it allows users to anchor their Pencil-added feedback to specific words in the document, ensuring that it stays in the correct place in the document even amidst future changes.
You can also now create books within Pages for both iOS and Mac, using the new tools to put together interactive digital books that can be shared and viewed within the app.
5) There's a cheaper alt-Pencil
At £89, the Apple Pencil still isn't cheap – but Apple also announced that Logitech has a more affordable, third-party version of the Pencil called the Crayon, which will sell for US$50.
According to Logitech, the shorter Crayon "leverages technology found in Apple Pencil to deliver sub-pixel precision, low latency and support for tilt in a design that's perfect for students." In other words, it should be just as capable as the full-sized Pencil when it comes to sketching, doodling, and annotating documents. It offers 8-hour battery life, which steps down a bit from the 12 hours of the Pencil.
The Logitech Crayon will release this summer in the United States for schools, although it's not clear when it will be widely available – or when we might see it in the UK.