When Apple released the impressive and wildly expensive iPad Pro last fall, I started thinking that the company could use an iPad XR. I imagined a tablet that takes the high tech found in the new iPad Pro but cuts some corners to make it more approachable to the masses. The new iPad Air isn't that. Instead it's like the 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017, except with a price cut and a few spec bumps. That's not very exciting. What's more, the iPad Air doesn't have the flashy bezel-less display, Face ID sensor and support for the new Apple Pencil, like the existing iPad Pro does.
But compared with the basic $329 iPad, the new iPad Air has worthwhile improvements: a bigger, better screen, a much newer processor, more storage and support for Apple's Smart Keyboard accessory. It's a logical step up from the base iPad, and it also says a lot about how Apple views its tablet lineup. Nearly every review of the new iPad Pro noted that it was powerful, impressive hardware that nonetheless couldn't fully replace a "real" laptop. The iPad Air is an admission that while not everyone needs the expensive iPad Pro, there's a market for a nicer iPad than the base model.