THE LEAST EXCITING IPAD UPDATE YET, ALTHOUGH STYLUS SUPPORT ADDS A SOUPÇON OF EXCITEMENT
We’re used to Apple launching products in darkened halls, with the hush of an expectant crowd only broken by the generous distribution of adjectives. “Magical.” “Wonderful.” “Amazing.” “Cool.” By contrast, Apple’s keynote unveiling of the new iPad felt positively downbeat. The keynote wasn’t even in a glamorous location: Apple chose Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. This signals a gear change for the iPad.
Apple is clearly aware that it’s already reached the vast majority of home users and professionals who are going to buy tablets, and it’s switching its gaze to potentially the biggest market of all: schools. This is the irst iPad to be aimed at students, and that’s re acted in a lower price plus further discounts for educational establishments.
It’s a welcome development, but Apple needs something else if it’s going to schools – and all other potential buyers – interested.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE
There is, if you’ll excuse the pun, one key point of difference: this is the irst non-iPad Pro device to support the Apple Pencil. Nor has Apple scrimped by removing the excellent tilt and pressure-sensitive features that made the $145 Pencil such an excellent adjunct to the iPad Pro.
If you don’t fancy spending a third of the price of the iPad on a stylus, Apple has opened up its technology to third-party manufacturers. The irst of these will be the Logitech Crayon, which was announced alongside the new iPad; it sells for $49 in the US, but we haven’t yet heard what the Australian price will be.
Whether you choose the Apple Pencil or a cheaper alternative, it’s education-focused apps where such a stylus comes into its own. I’ve used the Pencil to draw pictures and take notes in meetings in the past, but the new Smart Annotation feature on Pages feels almost revelatory: you quickly forget you’re annotating a digital ile on a touchscreen. Of course, you don’t get the same feedback as a pen on paper, but it’s very close.
This is the first iPad to be aimed squarely at students, and that’s reflected in a lower price plus further discounts to schools
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
Elsewhere, the new iPad is much less exciting. It’s identical to the previous iPad in terms of looks and physical attributes, right down to the dimensions and weight. Unsurprisingly, it feels the same in the hand too, with an excellent display and a highly responsive touchscreen. The screen is vibrant and colour-accurate, while the contrast ratio is slightly better than the previous model at 1,023:1. Brightness reaches a peak of 507cd/m2.
It must be said, though, that the iPad’s 9.7in, 2,048 x 1,536 display looks dated alongside the edge-toedge displays we’ve seen on many recent phones, tablets and laptops. The bezel is huge in comparison to rival tablets. This unchanging design does bring advantages, in that existing accessories will continue to work, but history may well suggest that this was the year Apple should have either reduced the size of the iPad or boosted the size of the screen.
The cameras are similarly old-school. On the rear you get an 8-megapixel f/2.4 cameraaccompanied by an f/2.2 1.2-megapixel “HD FaceTime” camera at the front – the exact same offerings as last year. As before, the front camera is only good enough for FaceTime, but the rear camera remains a strong inclusion for a tablet – although, with no ash and mediocre low-light performance, it’s for use in good conditions only. There’s still a Touch ID button below the screen (phew) but no Smart Connector for hooking up an external keyboard. Considering students do a fair amount of typing that’s a bafing omission. That doesn’t mean you can’t use a keyboard at all. For schools speciically, Apple is relying on Logitech to provide rugged keyboards and cases that can be dropped from a height of 4ft and shared among students.