iPad Air lifts off

The grand finale of Apple's October event was all about the iPad, including the new extra-light iPad Air and "retina" iPad mini.

Robert Galbraith/REUTERS
Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook holds up the new iPad Air during an Apple event in San Francisco Oct. 22, 2013.

One pound. 9.7-inch display. 72 times faster graphics performance. This tablet launch is a go.

The iPad Air lifted off at Apple’s October product release event, along with a new "retina" iPad Mini and a price reduction on the older iPad Mini. The new Apple iPad will no doubt be a strong competitor in the increasingly saturated tablet market.

The newest iPad is trimmed down, except in specs. Apple shrunk the bezel (frame of the device) by 43 percent, sliced 20 percent of its width, and trimmed 28 percent of its weight. How thin is this? At the end of its press conference, Apple showed a new ad with a pencil in the center of the shot. At the last second, the camera shifts, and we see that the iPad Air is hidden behind it. That thin. The screen is also 9.7 inches across and features the now-standard high-definition retina screen.

Internally, Apple actually added hardware to the iPad frame. The Air runs on the 64-bit A7 processor seen in the new iPhone 5S, which enables a faster performance and better battery life – extended to 10 hours without charging. The camera got a bump to 5 megapixels, dual microphones, and 1080p HD video. This is key as Apple also announced updates to its iLife apps (iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand) and iWork apps (Pages and Numbers), making the iPad friendlier to heavy-use operations. The iPad Air will start at $499 and be available Nov. 1, in either space gray/black or silver/white.

Both new iPad models will also feature two antennas to support Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) Wi-Fi, which brings up to twice the amount of Internet access to a device for faster Wi-Fi speeds.

The iPad Mini, on the other hand, got its predicted updates. The new version of the Mini now will feature a retina screen. It will start at $399 and will be available later in November in the same shades as the new iPad Air. The original iPad Mini got a price cut, now retailing for $299.

Apple started its tablet release with a quick peek at iPad by the numbers: More than 170 million iPads have been sold since they were first released in 2011, and there are more than 475,000 apps configured for the device. Even though tablet production has surged in the last year, Apple saw its share of the tablet market drop from 60.3 percent in the second quarter of 2012 to 32.4 percent a year later. 

For now it is up, up, and away with the newest generation of iPads.

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