A week ahead of Apple's March 25th services event, when a rumoured news-subscription and much-hyped TV subscription service are expected to launch, the Cupertino, California-based company announced significant updates to their iPad Air and iPad mini lines.
Unlike the new (and expensive) iPad Pros, which have slimmed-down bezels, Face ID, and an updated Apple Pencil that magnetically attaches to the side of the device, the updates to the iPad Air and iPad mini lines bring them more or less up to the standard of the old iPad Pros.
The new iPad Air, for example, is essentially a refitted June 2017-era 10.5 inch iPad Pro. Starting at $499, the 2019 iPad Air inherits the former top-of-the-line iPad Pro's screen size boost from 9.7 inches as well as new HD-capable front and back cameras that are better in low light and for using augmented reality tools. The new cameras are also available on the updated 7.9 inch iPad mini, which starts at $399. Both new models maintain the larger bezels around the display and leave out Face ID.
However, for the first time, both the iPad Air and iPad mini support the (first generation) Apple Pencil, a feature previously reserved only for owners of the more expensive iPad Pro. The new iPad Air can also hook up to the Apple Smart Keyboard. In addition, the updated Retina displays on the two devices have a wider range of colour, better brightness, and a new antireflective coating to reduce glare. By incorporating Apple's True Tone technology, the screens on the devices should produce less eye fatigue by dynamically adjusting the white balance on the display to current lighting conditions.
On the inside, both devices include the A12 Bionic, the same Apple chipset debuted in the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. In addition to faster performance, the A12 Bionic incorporates a Neural Engine that uses machine learning to constantly optimise performance. The chipset also has a 4-core graphics engine that improves the performance of 3D games, augmented reality games and tools, and in-app graphics. Lastly, the new models have upgraded Wi-Fi to allow them to operate at full speed on the fastest wireless networks, and versions purchased with a wireless data plan offer Gigabit-class 4G LTE wireless connections.
Overall, the update is most significant for the iPad mini, which has languished without an update since late 2015. Apple claims that the new chipset brings performance up to three times faster than the previous edition, the iPad mini 4, and has a nine times faster graphics performance. For the iPad Air, Apple claims a 70% speed increase from previous models.
Both models are said to last up to ten hours on a single charge. The Wi-Fi enabled iPad Air begins at $499 and comes with 64GB of storage, while a more expensive model that uses cellular data starts at $629. The iPad mini starts at $399 for the 64GB Wi-Fi model and $529 for the cellular capable model. More expensive 256GB storage models are also available for both tablet lines.