Apple today announced a new, $329 iPad at an education-focused event in Chicago. The tablet is clearly aimed at Chromebooks, looking to stave off Google’s increasing dominance for cheap laptops in classrooms. For schools, the tablet will only cost $299.
The new iPad looks pretty much identical to the standard 9.7-inch model, but supports the Apple Pencil, featuring the same tilt and pressure sensitivity as the iPad Pro. It has 10 hours of battery life, a Retina Display, an A10 Fusion chip, 32 GB of storage, and weighs one pound.
Apple took a dig at Google, saying the A10 Fusion is more powerful than “virtually every Chromebook,” despite being a generation old (it’s the same chip as was in the iPhone 7). If you’re coming from an older, non-Pro iPad, it should be a significant upgrade – the A10 Fusion delivers a 40 percent faster CPU and 50 percent faster graphics than the previous generation.
There’s also an LTE-enabled model that will retail for $459. It uses an Apple SIM, which should allow it to connect to a variety of networks without requiring an actual SIM card. If you want an Apple Pencil, that will still set you back $99 ($89 for schools).
Apple also announced new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote with Apple Pencil support. The apps also come with better collaborative editing features, including a ‘Smart Annotation’ feature that lets teachers add notes to papers directly. The company also upgraded default iCloud storage for students from a measly 5GB to 200GB.
Although the new features and lower price tag is appealing for schools, it looks like Apple has a lot of work to do if it expects to challenge Chromebooks as a consumer option. $329 only gets you a tablet, which can’t reasonably replace a ‘proper’ laptop for schoolwork the way a Chomebook can.
As powerful as iOS may be, students need to write papers, and you need a keyboard for that. That’s another $50 bucks or so for a cheap third-party accessory. If you want to use the Apple Pencil, then that’s another 99 bucks or so. If you need to connect a USB accessory or an HDMI cable for a presentation, you’ll have to spend money on a dongle.
Meanwhile some decent Chromebooks sell for under $200 and are arguably more practical devices, if not as shiny, and you have a wealth of options all around the price spectrum. And with the extra competition, you can bet Google is thinking of ways to fend off Apple.
Still, it’s nice to have a cheaper iPad option with Apple Pencil support. iPads are already popular in schools, so I’m happy to see Apple openly embracing the tablet’s potential in the education space. It’ll just be an uphill battle to challenge Chromebooks.