Today Apple revealed its updated iPad and, as has long been rumored, it is thinner and lighter and takes a lot of design cues from the existing iPad Mini. Apple says it's such a big change that it's no longer just worthy of the name iPad, and they've rebranded it the iPad Air.
The iPad Air offers a full 9.7-inch Retina display, but has a body that's just 7.5 mm thin—a descriptive style that Apple first used on the MacBook Air—and it weighs only a pound. The body is flatter, and it has a smaller bezel so it's less work to hold in the air and maneuver around as you use it. There's a 5-megapixel camera on the back, a new HD camera on the front for video calls, and there's better screen illumination. One thing that isn't in the new device, though some were predicting its appearance, is the fingerprint sensor Apple's debuted on the iPhone 5S.
It's got the new A7 chip inside with 64-bit architecture, and Apple showed off some productivity apps both for creative and office-based professionals that, thanks to the power of that CPU, are basically desktop PC class. And Apple is including its flagship iWork and iLife apps—from Keynote to GarageBand—for free with the latest updates.
Introducing the design, Apple's design chief Jony Ive noted Apple had started working on it "years ago," as they tried to get the engineering and technology right. And this makes us wonder if the MacBook Air was an experiment spun out of the iPad technology development process.
The new Air starts at the iPad's traditional entry price of $499 for the 16GB model—something that rivals have still got difficulty matching. It's available in silver and space gray starting November 1. Apple's keeping the iPad 2 on sale starting at $399 to cover people who want to spend less.
But here's a thought. This is a smart rebrand to make the iPad Air stand out in the market, and stand out from the iPad Mini. But is it also about making room for an iPad "Pro" with a 13-inch screen...sometime in the future?
Want to go inside the Apple design lab? Fast Company is gathering several former Apple designers for a Live Oral History at our Innovation By Design Conference on November 6. Find out more here.