Apple unveils its “most affordable” 9.7in iPad – now with support for the cheaper £89 Apple Pencil

Apple has taken the covers off its latest education-focused products at a launch event in Chicago, including a cheap version of the 9.7in iPad. 

The Apple March event – the first Apple presentation of 2018 – took place at Lane Tech College Prep High School and was a bit of a breakaway from Apple’s usual events because it was neither held in San Francisco nor streamed live. As a result, it was a relatively low-key unveiling of an Apple product.

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Tim Cook addressed this, a little, by saying Chicago is “home to one of the most forward-thinking school systems in the country,” because it shares Apple’s strong belief “technology has an important place in education.” 

New iPads

Apple new iPad

Ahead of today’s event, rumours – correctly – suggested Apple would launch low-cost iPads and education software in a bid to target students and teachers. Although, the iPad isn’t as low-cost as was hoped.

Apple is lagging behind both Google and Microsoft when it comes to shipping its devices to schools and the tech giant is said to be keen lure these customers away from Chromebooks, Windows PCs and Surface tablets.

 Google’s Chromebooks and Android tablets take around 60% of the education market, with Windows devices making up around 22%, according to figures from Futuresource Consulting. In a bid to launch a counterattack, ahead of today’s Apple event, Google finally unveiled its first Chrome OS tablet, made by Acer, on Monday. It very much occupies an area that Apple has failed to capture effectively with the iPad. This chart from our friends at Statista shows the state of play as of 2016:apples_place_in_education

Last year saw the launch of the 7th generation iPad, the 2nd generation 12.9in iPad Pro and a 10.5in Pro model but we’ve been waiting for an entry-level iPad to join the ranks for some time. We haven’t seen an iPad mini since the iPad mini 4 in 2015, which was later discontinued in September 2016 for all but the 128GB model, and it appears it may be well and truly dead. 

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At today’s event, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP, iOS, iPad and iPhone Product Marketing introduced a new 9.7in iPad to this line-up. “The most popular iPad in education is the 9.7in iPad available to schools for $200,” explained Joswiak. “Today we’re introducing a new iPad that’s taking what’s so popular about the old iPad and making it better.” It will also support Apple Pencil, the stylus previously restricted to the iPad Pro range.

The new iPad comes in silver, grey and gold and will cost £319 for the 32GB with Wi-Fi model and £449 for the 32GB Wi-Fi+Cellular. The Apple Pencil drops to £89 and both are available to order today. Discounts will be available for schools wishing to purchase the new iPad. In the US, this is a straight reduction from $329 to $299. However, in the UK, it depends on the authority in which the school falls under and who they buy it from. Typically, an authority of reseller will purchase a job lot of iPads direct from Apple and then sell on, which causes the price to vary. As a guide, this discount should drop prices down to around £303-£306. Higher education students also get student discounts across Apple’s full range of products, as long as they produce an official ID. 

Below is a chart which shows how the new iPad compares to previous models. With the launch of the new iPad, Apple is discontinuing last year’s 9.7in iPad model. 

iPad (2018) iPad Pro iPad Pro iPad mini 4
Display 9.7in 12.9in 10.5in 7.9in
Resolution 2,048 x 1,536 2732 x 2048 2224 x 1668  2048 x 1536 
Processor A10 Fusion A10X A10X A8
Front camera 8MP 12MP 12MP 8MP
Rear camera 1.2MP 7MP 7MP 1.2MP
Dimensions (WHD) 169 x 240 x 7.5mm 220 x 305 x 6.9mm 174 x 250 x 6.1mm 135 x 203 x 6.1mm
Storage 32GB/128GB 64GB/256GB/512GB 64GB/256GB/512GB 128GB
Weight Wi-Fi: 469g; Cellular: 478g 677g; 692g 469g; 477g 298g; 304g
Stylus Apple Pencil: £89; Logitech Crayon: $49 Apple Pencil: £89 Apple Pencil: £89 N/A
Colours Silver, grey, redesigned gold Silver, grey, gold Silver, grey, gold, rose gold Silver, grey gold
Price From £319; discounted for schools From £769 From £619 From £419

Cheaper Apple Pencil 

Ahead of the Apple March event, reports suggested Apple was gearing up to ship more Apple Pencils. One way to do this is to increase the number of Apple Pencils being shipped to schools.

As a result, rumours suggested a new, revamped Apple Pencil would launch today to extend the Apple Pencil’s compatibility beyond the iPad Pro range and add new features. This didn’t quite materialise. Instead the Apple Pencil’s compatibility is being extended to run on the new iPad but the feature remain the same.

Before today’s event, the Apple Pencil cost £99. This has now dropped to £89. Logitech is additionally launching the Logitech Crayon, a low-cost alternative to the Apple Pencil for just $49 (UK price TBC). The Crayon leverages tech seen inside the Apple Pencil, so it has the same latency and tilt features, but it isn’t Bluetooth-enabled. This has the benefit of being able to be shared shared easily with other students, for example, but it also means it can’t use Bluetooth to offer the same level of pressure-sensitivity seen with the Apple Pencil. 

Education apps and software

In recent months, Apple and Tim Cook have been pushing the company’s education agenda hard with a series of teaching and training events taking place at Apple stores globally. In an interview with Alphr last year, Tim Cook discussed the need to teach more children and young people coding during a visit to London during EU Code Week. 

Over the next year, Apple plans to offer more than 6,000 sessions across Europe as part of its Today at Apple programme, unveiled at its September event. These sessions will take place in 100 stores in ten countries and will specifically teach participants how to code in the programming language Swift. Apple introduced Swift Playgrounds and its Everyone Can Code curriculum in 2016, both of which are free. 

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At the Apple March event, Apple took this campaign up a notch by launching more education-related software as well as the Everyone Can Create curriculum.

Everyone Can Create is a range of free learning modules and teaching guides to help teachers use the iPad to introduce drawing, music, filmmaking or photography into any lesson, topic or assignment. In a demonstration, Apple showcased how its Clips app can be used in maths lessons to teach students about the Fibonacci Sequence. Alternatively, students can use the built-in camera in iPad to learn about fractals, or  use Apple Pencil and apps like Tayasui Sketches to learn about symmetry.

Later this year, Apple Stores will begin teaching Everyone Can Create as part of its Today at Apple sessions. 

Among the other announcements was that the Classroom app is coming to Mac for the first time. This means teachers can launch apps, books and webpages on all student devices at once, or send and receive documents. It also lets teachers view student screens during class to make sure they’re not watching YouTube, or similar, which introduces some of the control features typically seen on Chromebook. The Mac version of the app will be available in beta starting in June. 

Elsewhere, iWork apps, including Pages and Digital Books, are becoming more integrated with iPad and the Apple Pencil, and Apple has launched an app called Schoolwork, to help teachers assign tasks and homeworks to students and track their progress. 

Joswiak also demonstrated three ARKit apps designed to help with education – Boulevard AR, which lets people explore history; Free Rivers, from WWF, to teach children about nature and geography; and Froggipedia, which lets students dissect frogs in AR. And, with a new ARKit module for the Swift coding programme, students and teachers will be able to develop even more. 

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