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Apple debuts new iPad Air and iPad mini, which work with Apple Pencil stylus

Apple debuts new iPad Air and iPad mini, which work with Apple Pencil stylus
The iPad Air — which Apple phased out when it launched the iPad Pro a few years ago — is back, now with a 10.5-inch screen and faster processor. (Apple)

Apple Inc. debuted a new mid-tier iPad with a larger screen and introduced the first iPad mini update since 2015. The announcements Monday come a week before the company rolls out a media and entertainment bundle designed to compete with Netflix Inc.

The company debuted a new iPad Air with a 10.5-inch screen, bringing back a model that was phased out when Apple launched the iPad Pro a few years ago. That screen is larger than the 9.7-inch, $329 model designed for education that Apple launched last year. The iPad mini, a device for which some consumers have been seeking an upgrade, continues to use a 7.9-inch screen. The larger iPad introduced Monday supports the company’s Smart Keyboard. Both new devices work with the Apple Pencil stylus and include a faster A12 processor, a step up from the A10 chip used in last year’s education model.

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The new models still use a home button with fingerprint scanner rather than the facial recognition feature the more expensive versions have. The new iPad mini models will still start at $399, while the 10.5-inch iPad Air starts at $499. They’re available to order online now and in stores next week, Apple said.

Like every version of the iPad since the first in 2010, the latest models come in configurations that connect to either just Wi-Fi or cellular networks as well. The cellular iPad mini costs $529, while the cellular iPad Air costs $629. Both iPads come in 64GB and 256GB storage capacity options.

Last year, Apple held a launch event to promote the previous entry-level iPad and its education efforts at a Chicago-area high school. The company revamped its more expensive tablet line, the iPad Pro, in October with Face ID and slimmer bezels.

On March 25, Apple is scheduled to hold an event to launch its Netflix competitor and an Apple News Magazines subscription service. And it’s planning to announce the next major iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV software updates June 3. Apple could position the cheaper device as a hub for the new services and as a way to use the company’s latest software.

Apple’s iPad strategy in recent years had been splitting the category into two lines: lower-end models geared toward education and high-end models for business users. It typically updates the cheaper versions in March and the Pro models in the second half of the year. However, this year the company is pushing its entry-level iPads toward the higher end of the market.

For years, Apple has dominated the tablet category. According to IDC, the iPad held a leading 27% of the market in the third quarter. However, that represented about a 7% year-over-year decline in sales for the quarter. Apple stopped reporting iPad, iPhone and Mac unit sales during its previous holiday quarter. Annual iPad revenues have also fallen slightly each year since 2013 as Apple and the industry increase smartphone screen sizes.

The new iPads will kick off a planned year of several major new hardware launches for the Cupertino, Calif., technology giant. Apple is also planning new AirPods and Apple Watches, multiple new Macs, including a revamp to the Mac Pro, and three new iPhones for this year.

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