Apple took design cues from its smaller iPad mini and made the larger format tablet thinner and lighter, renaming it iPad Air. It also revamped the iPad mini with Retina display.
The new iPads have a number of small internal improvements which were seen in the recently launched iPhone 5S.
At an event in California US, on Tuesday, the company launched its new crop of products, including the two new iPads and Macbook Pro laptops, while also announcing the availability of its latest operating system OSX Mavericks as a free download.
The latest -- iPad Air and the new iPad mini with much-awaited Retina display -- come at a time when the Cupertino-based iPhone and iPad maker is facing a growing challenge from the Google Android-based tablets from manufacturers like Samsung, LG and Asus.
However, given the pricing of the iPads, it is obvious Apple does not want to compete in non-premium tablet category as it does in the smartphone business with iPhones.
iPad Air is 20% thinner, 28% lighter and has 43% smaller bezels than last year’s iPad 4, which has curiously been stopped by Apple even as it will continue to sell the earlier generation iPads. The 9.7 inch iPad Air with Retina display resembles iPad mini a lot. It is 7.5mm thick and weighs 1 pound. Apple claimed it is the thinnest full-sized tablet in the world.
iPad Air uses the same 64-bit A7 chip and the M7 motion co-processor that was introduced recently with the iPhone 5S. It can open files and render graphics twice as fast as the iPad 4, while still promising the same 10-hour battery life.
The new model will hit the shelves on November 1 and come in Space Grey and Silver colours. It will be available at $499, $599, $699 and $799 for the 16GB, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB Wi-Fi models respectively. The Wi-Fi and 4G models will cost another $130 over and above that in case of each model.
iPad Air comes with a disappointing 5MP rear iSight camera, but a 1.2MP front-facing HD camera for FaceTime with improved backside illumination sensors features larger pixels for better low-light performance. It is powered by iOS 7, which is the latest version of the software and brings features like revamped search, notifications, control centre and the iCloud Keychain password manager.
Curiously, while Apple phased out last year’s iPad 4 from its portfolio, it has retained in its lineup the iPad 2, which was launched two years ago. The fourth-generation iPad was launched last October.
Apple also unveiled the new iPad mini with Retina display which was much-awaited. The Retina iPad mini has twice the screen resolution than the first model at 2048x1536p in the same 7.9-inch display. It also runs on the 64-bit A7 chipset, a huge upgrade over the A5 chip used in the previous version. The new iPad mini too will be launched in November and come in Silver and Space Grey colours.
The mini-tablet also runs iOS 7 and comes with the same 5MP iSight and 1.2MP front camera for FaceTime. The Retina iPad mini will cost $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and $529 for 16GB Wi-Fi and 4G variant. The 32GB, 64GB and 128GB Wi-Fi models have been priced at $499, $599 and $699, while their respective Wi-Fi and cellular variants cost another $130 over and above for each model.
The company has also retained the iPad mini launched last year, but cut its price by $30, from $329 to $299. Apple also showcased two covers for the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini priced at $69 and $79, respectively.
Both new iPads feature two antennas to support Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology, bringing nearly twice the Wi-Fi performance with data rate possible of going up to 300Mbps. Cellular models too will have better LTE coverage as these will support more LTE networks worldwide.
Apple has sold over 170 million iPads and now has 4,75,000 iPad-exclusive applications in the App Store.