Although Apple released a pair of pretty big updates to its iPad lineup earlier this year, one thing that was conspicuously missing was a refresh of its entry-level standard iPad model, which had been traditionally released in late March in prior years. While its absence led some to believe that Apple was omitting it this year in favour of the new mid-tier third-generation iPad Air, rumours later surfaced that it was still on the books, likely for a fall release.
Today’s Apple event confirmed that these earlier rumours were right on track, with Apple taking a moment out of the event that’s traditionally focused on iPhones to announce a new seventh-generation model of its most affordable iPad, boosting the screen up to 10.2 inches and adding support for Apple’s Smart Connector.
During the event, Apple also noted that the entry-level iPad, is not surprisingly Apple’s most popular iPad, accounting for more than 60 percent of first-time iPad purchases.
In addition to the larger screen, which Apple pointed out has over three times the pixel density of the most popular Windows laptop, the most significant new feature of the seventh-gen iPad is support for Apple’s Smart Connector.
Originally the exclusive domain of Apple’s iPad Pro models, the company surprisingly added the Smart Connector to the new iPad Air earlier this year as well, offering full support for Apple’s own Smart Keyboard Folio and other supported third-party keyboards, and even at least one charging dock.
Although Apple moved the Smart Connector to the rear of last year’s Face ID equipped iPad Pro models, the new iPad Air mirrors the older 10.5-inch iPad Pro in leaving the connector on the left/bottom edge of the iPad. While it wasn’t clear from the presentation, we’re guessing that this will be the case for the new 10.2-inch iPad as well, making it compatible with the same keyboard accessories as the iPad Air and older iPad Pro models, which Apple still sells alongside the newer iPad Pro Smart Keyboard.
Another feature that was previously exclusive to the iPad Pro was added to the sixth-generation iPad in early 2018, so it naturally continues to be supported in this year’s model.
Again, Apple didn’t discuss it during the presentation, but it appears from the images shown in the presentation that it will be the first-generation Apple Pencil that will be used with the new iPad — the one that charges from the Lightning port rather than wirelessly from the edge of the iPad, since it seems very unlikely that Apple will have added wireless charging support to the entry-level iPad.
Pricing and Availability
Apple didn’t go into any details on the capacities that the new iPad will be available in, but did note that it will start at the same $329 ($299 for education) price tag as the prior sixth-generation model. Users will be able to order the new model today and it’s expected to start shipping on September 30th.