Sources close to Apple hinted that an “iPad Air 3” will not be announced next Monday, but will instead have its market slot replaced by an identically-sized 9.7-inch iPad Pro, complete with Apple’s Pencil stylus and four self-adjusting speakers.
Apple was expected to announce a four-model iPad lineup (or three models, based only on display size), and it finally has the pieces in place to do so. The 7.9-inch iPad mini will now become the base model at $399, the iPad Air 2 will see a price drop to $499, while the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro will become the new midrange option at $599, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will remain the flagship option at $799.
Basically this means that Apple is jacking up the price for the midrange iPad by $100 – perhaps to compensate for a more powerful A9X SoC or 3GB or 4GB of LPDDR4 memory. There might be a camera upgrade from 8-megapixels to 12-megapixels with support for 4K Ultra HD 3840x2160p video capture like the iPad Pro. Or Apple might just think people will feel it is more valuable if it costs $100 more.
9to5Mac: Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro (left) and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (right) with Smart Keyboards
The original iPad with a 9.7-inch (1024x768) display was launched in April 2010 at a base price of $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version. This was followed up with the 2nd-generation 9.7-inch unit (1024x768) in March 2011, the 3rd generation 9.7-inch (2048x1536) unit in March 2012, the 4th generation 9.7-inch (2048x1536) unit in November 2012, the 9.7-inch (2048x1536) iPad Air in November 2013, and the 9.7-inch (2048x1536) iPad Air 2 in October 2014, all of which retained the same $499 base price for 16GB Wi-Fi only units.
Three iPad sizes, four models: 7.9-inch iPad mini (right), 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 and 9.7-inch iPad Pro (center), and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (left)
Even at the new $599 midrange price, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro will probably not come with Apple’s Pencil stylus. This is a Bluetooth accessory available separately for another $99. Of course, Apple might surprise its customers on Monday by including it free with the 9.7-inch device, but equally hell might freeze over, pigs might fly and Apple might start being good for users.
This major detail would puts Apple behind Microsoft in terms of stylus adoption for its tablets, considering that the Redmond-based company included the Surface Pen with every Surface Pro unit it has sold since the original launched in 2012.
Meanwhile, sources suggest that while the iPad Air 2 is likely to receive a price drop down to $499, dwindling supplies of the first-generation iPad Air from 2013 may result in the original unit’s discontinuation.