This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.
The holiday shopping season is fast approaching and Apple has begun lining up its new devices, including its latest entry-level iPad and iPad Air, which the tech giant revealed at a launch event Tuesday.
The new iPad Air gets a bigger screen, at 10.9 inches from 10.5. That bump-up in display size was made possible by removing the home button on the front of the device. Now, Touch ID to unlock the screen will be available on the top button instead. The device will switch over to a USB-C connection from Apple’s own Lightning port, a move Apple has already made with its iPad Pro and laptop line. The processor will be upgraded to the new A14 Bionic chip, from the A12 Bionic, which was introduced in 2018. Apple pitched the new processor as powerful enough to handle tasks like editing 4K video and playing graphics-intensive games.
The Air will come in five colors: silver, space gray, rose gold, green and sky blue. (The older model came in silver, space gray and gold only.) It’ll be available starting at $599 (£579, AU$899) and goes on sale next month.
The new, eighth-generation entry-level iPad — Apple’s most popular tablet — starts at $329 (£329, AU$499) and is $299 for education customers. The 10.2-inch device, which offers the same display size and hardware design as before, will be available starting Friday. It gets the A12 Bionic chip, a boost from the 4-year-old A10 Fusion in the prior model.
The two updated tablets were introduced after Apple already refreshed its top-tier iPad Pro in March. Also, in recognizing the 10th anniversary of the iPad’s launch, Apple revealed it’s already sold over 500 million of the devices.
While the iPad isn’t nearly as popular or profitable as Apple’s iPhone, it’s becoming a more critical part of Apple’s lineup during the coronavirus pandemic, with millions of customers upgrading their devices for work-from-home and remote learning setups. Showing that increased demand, the tablet market posted a huge gain in the second quarter this year, after two prior quarters of declines. The PC market has experienced a similar boost, even amid a global economic slowdown.
“Now more than ever, iPad has become even more important,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the virtual event, “keeping us close to the ones we love when we can’t be there in person, helping students learn remotely, helping people express and share their creativity, reshaping how the world communicates. And iPad is providing a critical lifeline for doctors, nurses and patients.”
Like many companies, Apple has struggled with manufacturing and delivery delays driven by the pandemic, which has upended billions of lives around the globe. In February, before the coronavirus was widely detected in the US, Apple warned that the virus was slowing manufacturing and supplies in China. The country is a primary hub for assembling most of Apple’s devices and has struggled with manufacturing delays for the wider tech industry as well.
All these manufacturing problems mean Apple went against its typical pattern by hosting a September launch event without revealing a new iPhone. Tuesday’s event focused on iPad, Apple Watch and other products like a new Apple One services bundle. But Apple’s new phone, rumored to be called the iPhone 12, will be released “a few weeks” later than normal, Apple warned in June. The phone is expected to be unveiled in October or November instead.
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