Apple Unveils New 9.7-Inch iPad with Apple Pencil Support; Along with New and Updated Tools for Schools and Teachers

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple today held an education-focused ‘Lets take a Field Trip’ event in Chicago, during which it announced a new iPad and a range of new and updated tools for schools, teachers and students.

The main feature of the new 9.7-inch iPad is the fact that it's compatible with Apple Pencil, something that's previously only been available on the iPad Pro range, and is intended to enable students to ditch their notepad in favor of an iPad.

In an early hands-on review of the new iPad, TechRadar calls it “a really impressive tablet for the general user who wants to get a great experience”:

If you just picked up the new iPad 2018 and didn't know anything about it, you'd be relatively unimpressed. It's just an iPad, with the same thick bezels and metal chassis. Sure, it looks fine, but it's nothing new.

But this tablet is designed to be two things: accessible for the consumer that doesn't want to pay loads for a tablet, and ready for the classroom. To that end, Apple has largely succeeded, although it's hard to know whether educators will be more willing to buy into the Apple classroom ideal at this price point.

Given that Chromebooks from Google can be had for under $100 / £100 / AU$150, that's a tough price point to match. But Apple has made a premium-feeling device, with a decent camera and Apple Pencil support, which could really offer a point of differentiation from the rest of the competition – this is a powerhouse for not a lot of money, and it'll be interesting to see if that's attractive to educators.

The new iPad brings with it a raft of new software for the classroom too – combined with the new Pencil and innards, it's hitting the right marks, but it remains to be seen whether that price point gets a passing grade from schools.

The new iPad comes in silver, space gray and a new gold finish and starts at a price of US$329 for the 32GB with Wi-Fi model and US$459 for the 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. The pricing for schools starts at US$299. It is available to order today and starts delivering to customers and arriving in stores later this week in more than 25 countries and regions. Availability will expand to other countries and regions during April and May. Further details of pricing and availability can be found on apple.com.

The specification and full feature list of the new 9.7-inch iPad can be found on the Apple Online Store.

In addition to unveiling the new iPad, Apple made a number of education-focused launches and announcements at today's event. These included:

  • Apple's iWork suite of productivity apps is to gain support for Apple Pencil and enhancements for use in education.
  • Digital book creation tools will be included in the new version of Pages, with teachers able to add photos and Apple Pencil illustrations.
  • Apple is to launch a Mac version of its existing iOS "Classroom" app, beginning with a beta this June.
  • Apple is to launch a new "cloud-based" app called Schoolwork that lets teachers assign handouts and track progress of their students.
  • Apple announced the ClassKit API, which will enable developers to create educational apps that function within Apple's new Schoolwork app. The ClassKit API will be available in iOS 11.4.
  • The free iCloud storage for teachers and students is to be increased to 200GB from 5GB.
  • Apple announced “Everyone Can Create”, a free curriculum available to teachers that includes various resources and guides intended to help them integrate creative elements such as music, drawing, photography, and filmmaking in to their lessons.
  • Clips and GarageBand on iOS have been updated with new educational features. This NacRumors post has further details and full release notes for these updates.
  • Apple launched Apple Teacher, a free professional learning programme designed to support and celebrate educators using Apple products for teaching and learning.

Today’s event is now available as a video on the Apple Events app on Apple TV. It is likely that it will be made available online in due course.

Away from its Chicago event, Apple has today debuted new iPhone and iPad cases and launched some new Apple Watch bands. This MacRumors post details the new offerings. Additionally, after previously only being available to iMac Pro owners, the Space Gray versions of Apple's Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 are now available to all.

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