Apple unveiled a new, thinner, lighter tablet called the “iPad Air” along with a slew of new Macs Tuesday in San Francisco. The iPad Air weighs just 1 pound, compared with 1.4 pounds for the previous version. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller called the tablet a “screaming fast iPad.” He said it is eight times faster than the original iPad.
The iPad Air will go on sale Nov. 1 and start at $499 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory. Apple plans to phase out its third and fourth generation iPads while the iPad 2, which launched in 2011, continues selling at $399. A new iPad Mini, meanwhile, will be available in November starting at $399 for a 16-gigabyte model. It has a retina display designed to give it a clearer, sharper picture and the same 64-bit chip as the iPad Air.
“I think today was about re-establishing that the iPad is the benchmark for what a good tablet experience should be,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi.
The iPad’s market share has been eroding compared with cheaper rivals running Google Inc.’s Android system. Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that Android tablets will end 2013 with a 50 percent share of the worldwide market versus 49 percent for the iPad.
Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in the June quarter, down 14 percent from the same time last year. Nonetheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook touted that Apple has sold 170 million iPads since the tablets launched three years ago.
Apple also refreshed its computer lineup.
A new, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is thinner and lighter, Schiller said, adding that the laptop has up to 9 hours of battery life, enough to watch the entire trilogy of ‘The Dark Knight’ on one charge. The notebook’s new price is lower: $1,299, compared with $1,499 for the previous version.
A larger MacBook Pro, with a 15-inch monitor and 256 gigabytes of storage starts at $1,999, compared with $2,199.
And they arrive as retailers face an uncertain holiday season.
Even so, some analysts are optimistic about Apple’s prospects.
“Between the iPad and iPhones, I think they’ll have a monster holiday season,” Bajarin said.