Apple Announces Thinner, Faster iPad Air 2 And iPad Mini 3 With Touch ID

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Apple refreshes iPad range as it seeks to maintain its grip on the top end of the tablet market

Apple has announced the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, adding Touch ID fingerprint sensors to both devices and making its flagship tablet faster, more powerful and thinner.

The iPad Air 2 is 18 percent thinner than its predecessor at 6.1mm thick, with Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, making the bold claim that you could stack two of the tablets and this would still be thinner than the original iPad.

The more slender size has been achieved by removing air gaps between different components, which has the added benefit of reducing internal reflection, improving the quality of the display. Apple has also applied an anti-reflective coating that reduces flare by 56 percent for a better view indoors and outdoors.

“This has never been done before in a tablet,” declared Schiller. “This is the best tablet display you’ve ever seen.”

iPad Air 2

iPad Air 2 (1)Underneath this exterior is the custom A8X processor, an updated version of the A8 chip powering the iPhone 6 that boasts three billion transistors. This gives the iPad Air 2 two and a half times the graphics capabilities of the iPad Air, while the CPU is improved by 2.5 percent. Apple promises this will have no impact on the battery life, promising it will last for ten hours with normal use.

The rear facing iSight camera and front facing FaceTime camera have been upgraded. The eight megapixel iSight lens is now capable of taking 43 megapixel panoramic photos, burst photos, slow-mo and timelapse videos, while the front facing lens can now take burst selfies.

The iPad Air 2 supports 20 LTE bands and carrier aggregation, or LTE-A, for faster 4G and it supports 802.11ac MIMO Wi-Fi. The Touch ID sensor can be used to unlock the device and to pay for goods online with Apple Pay.

Pre-orders for the tablet start tomorrow and the device will be shipped next week in silver, space grey and gold varieties. The 16GB version costs £399, the 64GB edition £479 and the 128GB £559, with an additional £100 required for 4G versions.

iPad Mini 3

The iPad Mini 3 costs £319, £399 and £479 depending on how much storage you want, with the same £100 premium levied for LTE. Both previous versions of the iPad Mini will be kept on as cheaper options, as will the iPad Air, with the original 7.9-inch tablet now £199, bringing it into much closer competition with seven-inch tablets from the likes of Google and Amazon.

“It seems Apple’s enthusiasm hasn’t been knocked by waning iPad sales over the past six months – or ‘speed bump’ as Tim Cook puts it,” comments Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch. “Apple might have brought the tablet to the mainstream market, but if slates are Apple’s back yard, the neighbours are staging a sit-in. Samsung tablets have brought the fight to the iPad with some breathtakingly good screens, so it’s crucial for Apple that its latest incarnations keep the iPad’s nose in front.

“The addition of Touch ID, more exciting colourways, an improved camera and a snappier processor all worked for the iPhone 5S, so could be enough to convince iPad owners to turn their current one into a hand-me-down.

“The iPad Mini 3 might have been introduced as a more affordable afterthought but, by not phasing out any of the earlier models, Apple has instantly created a broader range of tablets to suit all price points and budgets – a bit like Samsung. One problem Apple faces is that, without a finite network contract to concentrate their minds, tablet owners need more persuading to upgrade than phone users.”

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iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3

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iPad Air 2