Following the announcement of iOS 8.1, Apple announced its newest iPad models in the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3, with the Air 2 being the focus of the event. The Air 2 now features a 6.1 mm thick bodyshell with a bonded display that does not feature an air gap, as with previous iPad models, which makes the device much thinner and lighter as a result. The display also features an anti-reflective coating that reduces reflections by 56 percent, according to Apple.
The iPad Air 2 now features a customized A8X chip and a GPU that Apple says is 180 times faster than the original iPad that also includes a new M8 motion co-processor and allows for a 10-hour battery life. The tablet will also feature the TouchID fingerprint sensor first included on the iPhone 5S that can be used to unlock devices, confirm App Store purchases and is also available to third-party developers to use when their apps require authentication as of iOS 8. Apple Pay will also be supported on the new iPads, but no NFC hardware will be included, limiting its functionality.
The iPad Air 2 will also feature an 8-megapixel iSight camera with an f/2.4 aperture capable of 1080p HD video and the camera will also allow for improved face detection, Burst Mode, time lapse video, and “burst selfies” along with an updated FaceTime camera with a new sensor and dual microphones for improved audio quality. The iPad Air 2 will also feature an improved Wi-Fi radio, supporting 802.11ac with MIMO, which allows a theoretical 866Mbps maximum up from the 300Mbps maximum in the last model. The LTE-capable iPad Air 2 will also come with support for 20 LTE bands, supporting up to 150Mbps network speeds.
Related to the expanded LTE support, Apple confirmed the debut of the Apple SIM, a new tool meant to make international data roaming much easier for owners of the iPad Air 2. The multi-carrier SIM card is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as EE in the U.K, with more carriers expected to announce support in the coming weeks. Verizon was not mentioned in the initial Apple SIM announcement, suggesting that the carrier has not yet come to terms with Apple on support for the SIM on its LTE network. The SIM is pre-installed on all iPad Air 2 models with Wi-Fi+Cellular connectivity support.
The iPad Air 2 will come in space grey, white, gold and will start at 16GB for $499, with the 64GB and 128GB versions will be priced at $599 and $799 respectively for Wi-Fi versions. Wi-Fi+Cellular versions will also be available, with the 16GB version pricing at $629, the 64GB version pricing at $729, and the 128 GB version at $829. Both tablets will be available for pre-order on Friday, October 17, and they’ll be shipping “by the end of next week” according to Apple.
Apple also announced the iPad Mini 3, which will start at $399 and will come in a new gold color. The tablet also includes TouchID, but is otherwise unchanged from last year’s model while the iPad mini with Retina is now known as the iPad mini 2 and getting a price cut to $299 and the first generation iPad mini will remain in the lineup at $249.