Apple iPad and iPad Air got a major makeover few minutes back. Apple revved up the iPad brand Thursday with a new iPad Air 2 that is just 6.1 mm thick.
“It is the thinnest iPad we have ever made,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. The new iPad Air 2 is so thin that two stacked on top of one and other are still thinner than the original iPad, said Schiller.
As is usually the case, Apple shares were down slightly the day of new product news. Shares dipped about 1%, to $96.78, in afternoon trading.
Apple will begin to take orders for the new iPads on Friday and they will ship “next week,” said Schiller. The new iPad will come in a new color. In addition to the previous silver and space grey, a new color, gold, is being added.
The price will range between $499 to $699 depending on the amount of storage.
New capabilities include better power using the A8 chip, the same chip used in the new iPhone 6, said Schiller. The chip, which features a 64-bit system, has 25% more CPU performance and 50% more graphics performance but draws only 50% as much power.
The iPad will also include a new iSight 8 megapixel camera as well as improved FaceTime cameras, Schiller said. The iPad was ready for a makeover. Unlike smart phones, they are not as frequently replaced.
Sales of the iconic tablet, first introduced in 2010, are down 9% for the year, according to IDC, but Apple still leads in market share with 26.9%.
The improved iPads aren’t game-changers by any means, which may upset analysts who have pointed to declining iPad sales as a sign that Apple needs to do more to rejuvenate its lineup. The company sold 13.3 million units in the third quarter, a 9 percent decline from 14.6 million sold in the same quarter last year. But iPads are still big business: Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Thursday that the company has sold more than 225 million iPads around the world since launching its first tablet four years ago. iPads outsell PCs every quarter.
So the big question of the day: “What do you do when you make the best tablet in the world?” Apple CEO Tim Cook asked. “How do you make it better?”
Slim it down, speed it up
First, you shave it down to 6.1 millimeters, 18 percent thinner than the first-gen iPad Air. If you stack two of the new iPad Airs on top of each other, they’re still thinner than the original iPad. The iPad Air 2 also has anti-reflective coating, which reduces glare by 56 percent.
“Can you even see it?” Cook said, holding up the super-slim new tablet. (You can.)
Then you add a new chip. The A8X chip developed for the iPad Air 2 is a variation of the A8 chip created for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, making the new tablet’s graphics 40 percent faster. Its Wi-Fi connectivity is also faster, thanks to the inclusion of the latest 802.11ac technology. The second-gen iPad Air has the same M8 motion co-processor baked into the new iPhones, which is used for tracking activity and even has a barometer for measuring elevation (because hiking is exercise, too).
The new iPad also has improvements for photographers. The new 8-megapixel iSight camera can shoot photos in Burst mode (even selfies), take panoramas, has an improved FaceTime HD camera, and records 1080p videos.
The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are optimized for online shopping with Apple Pay, though can’t be used for in-store purchases, because they lack the necessary NFC technology.
These improvements were all expected. Even the names of the tablets came as no surprise after Apple accidentally posted screenshots of its iPad User Guide for iOS 8.1 on Wednesday. But updates like these are necessary to get the iPad on the same playing field as the iPhone.
Prices and Pre Orders
Apple starts taking preorders for both tablets on Friday and begins shipping next week. The 16GB iPad Air 2 starts at $499, with a 64GB model for $599 and 128GB for $699. Tack on $130 to each model for Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.
The iPad mini 3 starts at $399 for the 16GB model. You can get 64GB for $499 and 128GB for $599. The iPad Air and iPad mini 2 aren’t going away. Neither is the original iPad mini, which now retails for $249.