All hail ‘iPad,’ Apple’s most affordable full-size tablet yet

A red iPhone wasn’t the only thing Apple had up its sleeve this week. On Tuesday, the Cupertino, California company announced a new 9.7-inch iPad that’s intended to replace the iPad Air 2, which has been discontinued. It starts at $330.

The new entry-level new iPad, which Apple is simply calling “the iPad,” features the firm’s speedy A9 processor, a Retina (2,048 x 1,536 pixels) display, a battery that lasts about 10 hours on a charge, and virtually the same specifications as the outgoing iPad Air 2. It boasts an 8 MP rear iSight camera, a 1.2 MP front-facing FaceTime camera, two speakers, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, support for Apple Pay, and accouterments you’d expect — namely, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, and Bluetooth 4.2.

“iPad is the world’s most popular tablet. Customers love the large, 9.7-inch display for everything from watching TV and movies to surfing the web, making FaceTime calls, and enjoying photos, and now it is even more affordable,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in a press release. “New customers and anyone looking to upgrade will love this new iPad for use at home, in school, and for work, with its gorgeous Retina display, our powerful A9 chip, and access to the more than 1.3 million apps designed specifically for it.”

The new 9.7-inch iPad will launch on Friday, March 24 in Apple’s online and brick-and-mortar stores. The first batch of launch countries include Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The second wave, which includes Denmark, India, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Turkey, and other countries, will follow in April. Finally, Brazil, Taiwan, and others will get it in May.

Compared to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the new iPad is a step down in terms of raw processing power. The Pro features a 12 MP camera and a faster chip. But this time around, affordability seems to be the focus, and at $330, the new iPad is significantly less expensive than the $600 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

That could help spur lagging iPad sales. Last fiscal quarter, Apple sold 13.1 million iPads, compared to 16.1 million from the same time last year. The company still dominates the tablet industry with an estimated 21-percent market share, according to Strategy Analytics, but the market overall is on a downswing. A recent report from market research firm IDC showed that table vendors shipped 52.9 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2016, down 20.1 percent from a year ago.

With any luck, the new iPad will turn things around.