"Today we have the biggest news in iPad since the iPad," says Apple CEO Tim Cook. That's right: Apple has just announced the iPad Pro, and it's definitely the biggest iPad yet. It has everything the iPad Air 2 offers, and a little extra on top. Rather than talking about their similarities, though, let's look at the differences.
Gallery: Apple iPad Pro | 19 Photos
Gallery: Apple iPad Pro | 19 Photos
The iPad Pro has a giant 12.9-inch display with 2,732 x 2,048 pixels. To put that size into perspective, that means the screen is almost exactly the same width as the regular iPad's is tall. It's also, in case you didn't run the math, got the same familiar 4:3 iPad aspect ratio and a functionally identical pixel density to the iPad Air. Apple says it's so big the on-screen keyboard is "full-sized," like on its laptops.
The larger panel, Apple hopes, will be ideal for the new multitasking additions to iOS 9, which let you run apps side by side, or in a split view and "pop-over" video. Of course, you can do that on an iPad Air 2, but thanks to the larger screen, the apps will look more like they do on a regular iPad in full-screen mode. It also frees up some extra space around the display, which Apple has decided use to include four speakers up front. Hopefully they sound good, and this'll be a great high-def movie machine.
Powering the iPad Pro is Apple's latest SoC (system on a chip), the A9X. As you'd expect, it's an upgrade over the iPad Air 2's A8X in every way, with double the memory bandwidth and graphics performance. Apple says it's faster than 80 percent of "portable PCs" sold in the past year. One thing Apple isn't saying is how much RAM the Pro has, but chances are its silence on the matter means that it's the same 2GB as the Air 2.
Elsewhere, this is very much an iPad. It's super thin (6.9mm) and super light (1.59 pounds). You'll find a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera up front and an 8-megapixel iSight camera at the back. It has Touch ID built into the home button, 10 hours of battery life and multiple color options (silver, gold and space gray). Essentially everything else you'd expect of an Apple tablet.
So. What's the price for all of these additions? Brace your wallet: The iPad Pro will start at $799. That's for a 32GB WiFi model. The 128GB WiFi model will cost $949, while the LTE 128GB model costs $1,079.
But wait, there's more! There are also a number of new accessories. But before we get to that, a quote -- one you'll probably hear a lot on social media over the coming weeks:
"It's like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it."
Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
That's right, Apple has announced a stylus, called Pencil. Okay, so it's not fair to evoke that Jobs quote. He was clearly talking about a stylus as a primary interface tool, rather than an optional accessory, which is exactly what this is. But a writer can't resist a good egg-on-face quote. The new stylus, then -- what does it do? It does lots of things. Unlike the capacitive third-party styli for previous iPads, the Pencil is truly pressure-sensitive, behaving more like a Galaxy Note or a Wacom unit.
It's also got some sensors inside for detecting position, force and tilt. It'll be great, Apple says, for drawing, annotating and other stuff that most people do with pens. Apple was joined onstage by Microsoft (yup), which showed off how well the new accessory works with its Office suite. Oh, and it charges from the iPad's Lightning port. At least you'll never lose the cable? It'll set you back a cool $99.
In addition to the stylus, Apple also trotted out a "Smart Keyboard," which is a $169 keyboard case for the iPad Pro that turns the tablet into a Surface-a-like. It connects to the iPad via a new port called the "Smart Connector," and contains a full keyboard with the same butterfly key technology as Apple's recently launched super-thin MacBook. Yay? Yay!
While we'll need a lot of time with the new device to make a verdict, there are a couple of things that are very clear right now.
First, Apple recognizes that consumer tablets are not the growth market they once were, and it needs to keep the pricing of its regular iPads as low as it can while maintaining both its profit margins and its "unique selling point" of being a manufacturer of "superior" devices. That's why we're seeing a newer, more-expensive iPad. It will at least get the attention of those looking for a high-end tablet, and the iPad Air and Mini will be there if customers want something cheaper.
Second, Apple recognizes that with Windows 10, Microsoft's Surface and similar devices actually pose a threat to the iPad in enterprise environments. That's why we're seeing styli and keyboards; that's why it's paired with IBM over the past year to make sure there are plenty of suitably enterprise-focused apps for iOS; and that's why it brought Microsoft onstage to show how "productivity" friendly the Pro is.
One thing we don't know? When exactly this thing will be available. Apple's keeping quiet on that for now, but you'll be the first to know once we find out.
Update: It's coming out this November.
Get all the news from today's iPhone event right here.