Just as was the case last month, almost all of the details on new iPads were well-established months before Apple officially debuted them in San Francisco today—our January reports on the iPad Air and second-generation iPad mini mentioned pretty much everything important except for their names. But there were still some surprises left unanswered until today, and we’ve uncovered some interesting details since the event ended.
10. Changing Names: iPad 5 is “iPad Air;” the second-generation iPad mini the is “iPad mini with Retina display.” Now there are four iPad models being sold simultaneously, and Apple’s naming conventions have just become a little more complex. The flagship 9.7”-screened model is now iPad Air, sold in 16GB/32GB/64GB/128GB capacities at prior prices, just like the flagship “iPad mini with Retina display” is offered in those capacities—now at $399/$499/$599/$699. They are seemingly very similar to one another in specifications, only with different screens, and now separated in price by $100.
9. One Cellular iPad To Rule Them All? Breaking with the past, Apple has seemingly come up with a single iPad Air cellular model and a single iPad mini with Retina display cellular model compatible with 14 LTE bands—all of the ones Apple currently supports across the globe. As a result, users will conceivably be able to carry a single cellular iPad almost anywhere in the world where LTE is offered, rather than needing to worry about whether a U.S. model only works in North America or is capable of being used across Europe. This is a quiet but big win for traveling iPad users.
Oh No, They Didn’t: Rumors that the new iPads would get improved rear cameras, Touch ID sensors, and other externally obvious frills turned out to be inaccurate. They both have 5MP rear cameras with the same specs as their predecessors. Gold iPads were also not in the offing this year.
7. But Yes, They Did: The biggest spec change is the iPad mini with Retina display’s jump from 163ppi 1024×768 resolution to 326ppi 2048×1536 resolution. Apple bumped both new iPads’ front cameras with improved backside illumination sensors, which appear to be the same parts found in the iPhone 5c and 5s, likely to yield small but welcome improvements to color rendition in low lighting. Both models received A7 and M7 processors—the “A7X,” a rumored step up over the iPhone 5s processor, did not materialize. It’s unclear whether Apple has given the iPads more RAM than the iPhone 5s, but if we were betting, we’d guess “yes, for sure.” MIMO Wi-Fi and improved LTE band support will be interesting, as well.
6. T-Mobile Gets iPads, Offers Free Data: For the first time, T-Mobile will officially be selling the iPad mini 1G, iPad mini with Retina display, and iPad Air. If you’re willing to go with a base-level 200MB/month cellular data package, T-Mobile will provide data to you for free.
A Little Detail On Cases and Covers. As Apple noted during the event, it will be offering $39 polyurethane iPad Air Smart Covers in six different colors, plus leather iPad Air Smart Cases in six colors. Not mentioned: the new covers are three-segmented rather than four, a change carried over from the iPad mini version, and Apple got rid of the metal exterior hinge — a design element that previously added some class to the otherwise plasticky lids. Leather iPad covers appear to be gone unless you want them with a case attached.
4. How Much Thicker/Thinner? The iPad mini with Retina display is 0.01mm thicker than the original iPad mini, or 7.5mm versus 7.2mm. The Wi-Fi version weighs 0.05 pounds more, a difference of 23 grams, and the cellular version jumps by 0.06 pounds or 29 grams. By comparison, the iPad Air sheds 0.1 inch (1.2mm) of height, 0.71 inch (16.2mm) of width, and 0.05” of depth (1.3mm) versus the iPad 2, losing a more noticeable 0.33 pounds of weight in Wi-Fi and 0.3 pounds of weight in cellular.
3. Big Battery Changes: The Retina iPad mini is jumping from a 16.3-Watt-hour battery to 23.8-Watt-hours, a 46% increase in power consumption if the number of hours of run time is actually remaining the same. Apple says that it is, with 10 hours of Wi-Fi/video/music versus 9 hours of cellular web use. To reduce refueling times, the company will now include a 10-Watt charger in the package rather than the 5-Watt charger it bundled with the first-generation iPad mini. Notably, the iPad Air is dropping in battery size from 42.5-Watt-hours down to 32.4-Watt-hours, which should mean much faster recharging times and better performance with external battery accessories.