Last week, Apple subtly introduced a new iPad that’s more wallet-friendly.
This early 2017 edition, which starts at US$329 (under B$500) for the base model, may seem like a good deal for those looking to get a cheap iPad right now, that is if you don’t mind the slightly old internals.
That’s not exactly a bad thing, since most older iPads released after 2013 still run fine in 2017, which explains why many existing iPad owners are reluctant to upgrade their tablets (and led to iPad sales dipping in recent years).
This 9.7-inch iPad is essentially a repackaged iPad Air running on Apple’s 64-bit A9 chip with an embedded M9 motion co-processor, the same chipset used in the iPhone SE, 6s and 6s Plus.
In comparison, this iPad’s predecessor, the iPad Air 2, was powered by the A8x chip, while the current top-of-the-line iPad Pros use Apple’s newer A10 processors.
So this new, more affordable iPad is definitely no slouch, and it’s obvious that Apple is using an older chipset to help bring its cost down. It’s similar to Apple’s approach with the iPhone SE last year, which repackaged the older iPhone 5s with updated internals.
But those expecting features from Apple’s premium iPad Pro lineup will be disappointed to know that this iPad only has a single row of speakers at the bottom and does not support the Apple Pencil.
At least this iPad retains Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor and, surprise surprise, a headphone jack.
It also retains the legendary 10-hour iPad battery life, which is good, and has an 8 megapixel rear camera, which, I don’t know, why would anyone want to take pictures with their iPads again?
This new iPad is also slightly heavier than the iPad Air 2, weighing at 469 grammes for the WiFi-only model and an extra 10 grammes on the cellular option. There are 32GB and 128GB storage options available.
Out of the box, this iPad comes pre-installed with iOS 10. Software-wise, this iPad is up-to-date and should support all one million apps on the Apple App Store without a fuss, even with that A9 chip under the hood.
It also looks like Apple has ended its ‘Air’ line of its iPad business, with this cheaper iPad simply taking over the iPad Air 2’s place as the newer iPad. Apple is also simply calling it ‘iPad’.
And with a US$70 price reduction from the previous iPad Air 2, this iPad is clearly targeted for kids and the education market.
Apple says it hopes to “get them (to buy Apple products) when they’re young” with their new strategy, which contrasts the company’s previous campaign that attempted to convince consumers to swap their notebooks for iPads.
With smartphones now equipped with larger screens, its really tough recommending the iPad these days.
But for anyone looking to get an iPad right now, I would easily recommend this over the more expensive 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
You’ll get nearly the same iPad experience (minus the stereo speaker and Apple Pen Support) as all the iPads in the entire lineup for less.
I would also recommend getting the discontinued iPad Air 2 if you ever spot them at a bargain, either sealed or used, as the older generation iPads still work fine for at least another couple of years or so.