Apple had been widely expected to be refreshing its tablet line at its event last week. What came out of it was the Apple iPad 2018, optimised for education with Apple Pencil support, together with significant upgrades from last year’s model.
The 9.7-inch iPad 2018: Where Does It Fit In?
Apple’s iPad line-up has seen multiple shuffles. The new series of iPad had taken over from the entry-level iPad Air line, labelled by its dimensions only, formally. To keep up with refreshes and updates, the 9.7 inch iPad is suffixed by the year. The 9.7 inch iPad 2018 is the company’s entry-level tablet, adjacent to the downsized iPad Mini 4, which still rocks an A8 chip compared to the A10 chip on the new iPad.
With pen support, users can expect iPad Pro-like Apple Pencil support at even lower prices. Although they have similar resolutions, the Pro maintains its edge with enhanced processing power (A10x chip instead of the A10), along with significant features essential to creators and power users. These include a fully laminated display, anti-reflective coating, ProMotion technology, a P3 wide colour display, and a true tone display. This easily justifies the almost two-times markup from the 128GB model of the 9.7-inch iPad 2018 to the entry offering of the 64GB iPad Pro.
The 9.7-inch iPad 2018: What’s the Big Idea?
With the digitisation of all forms of content, education has traditionally been a hot ground for the contest between tech giants. Apple had made significant headway in schools, particularly in America, but it was rather shortlived. A USD1.3 billion deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District to roll out devices to all students in 47 institutes soon turned sour: technical issues made the devices more a hindrance than a help. There looms an ever-increasing threat of dominance by Google’s Chromebook, which had since obtained market dominance in the US.
The 2018 iPad was launched with the intention to recapture this lucrative market. Journalists, analysts and educators were packed into an actual high school, given a timetable, and had to attend classes. After the general assembly (Apple’s keynote), attendants were introduced to classroom-friendly features of the 9.7-inch iPad 2018.
Software was a huge selling point, with Apple’s launch of the Schoolwork app the result of lengthy consultation with educators. While the processing capabilities were also enhanced, the talking point of the show was the iPad’s Apple Pencil support. At SGD138 (USD99), the Apple Pencil offers full stylus interactivity with Apple’s bundled Pages, Keynote and Numbers applications. This also means the tech giant is primed to compete with Microsoft’s Office in the classroom.
The 9.7-inch iPad 2018: Is This The Best Choice?
Starting at SGD498 (USD329), the 2018 iPad presents an incredible value proposition. However, many features from Apple’s lineup hasn’t been brought over. Face ID is noticeably absent, although Touch ID is available for login and payment purchases. Only two speakers feature on board, from the four available on the Pro model. While also found on the iPhone 7 and 7 plus, the A10 processor presents a significant leap from the 2017 iPad, which had only a 1.84GHz dual-core CPU. It now sports a 2.34GHz quad-core unit, along with GPU improvements – in all a 40% CPU and 50% GPU advance from its predecessor, the A9.
The Smart Connector is also noticeably absent. These enable Apple’s smart keyboards to be charged from the device. The lack of True Tone means that colours are not adjusted for ambient lighting conditions, but creators would be glad to know that reports show that Apple Pencil support matches up to that on the Pro.
A sigh of collective relief: the headphone jack is included. Not a big deal if you are deep into the Apple ecosystem, though: you would probably have multiple Bluetooth options by now. But for classroom use, this might be a welcome inclusion from a reliability perspective.