Apple’s new iPad series cements market leadership

Prior to a special event scheduled for March 25, Apple surprised the market on Tuesday with the launch of two updated versions of the iPad.

The unveiling of the new iPad Air and iPad mini demonstrates Apple’s commitment to strengthen its leadership in the tablet market, with the updates providing handwriting compatibility to all the new iPad models and making them more competitive with rivals Samsung Galaxy Tab and Huawei MediaPad.

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The iPad Air comes with a bigger 10.5-inch display (starting at HK$3,999) while the iPad mini has the same 7.9-inch screen (starting at HK$3,199). For the first time, both models support the Apple Pencil and comes with the A12 processor, three times faster than the previous models.

The new models bridge the gap between the entry-level iPad (starting at HK$2,588) and iPad Pro (starting at HK$6,399). The mid-price range of the two new models should offer a good entry point for mass users, or for those who have been using older versions bought five or six years ago.

According to Apple’s press release, the iPad Air offers the latest innovations including Apple Pencil support and high-end performance at a breakthrough price, while iPad mini is a major upgrade for fans who love its compact, ultra-portable design packed with the latest technology.

Based on initial market response, the new iPad mini is a popular choice for users who do not want to buy a big-screen iPhone at an expensive price. The new iPad mini costs only HK$3,199 with a full Apple iOS experience and comes with a 7.9-inch screen, while an iPhone XS max is priced at more than HK$9,000 with the same processor but a smaller 6.5-inch screen.

In other words, users could buy three iPad minis for the price of an iPhone XS Max. That makes the iPad mini the best substitute for the iPhone XS Max.

Apple understands that iPad users don’t upgrade their device as frequently as they upgrade their iPhone. As such, the technology giant is also targeting the commercial sector, particularly businesses undergoing digital transformation in a bid to stay competitive.

The iPad mini is a popular choice for small businesses looking to modernize their point-of-sale terminals. The iPad’s compact size also makes it an ideal option for kids who love to play games and adults who are looking for a Kindle-sized device to read newspapers or bestsellers.

For iPad Air, Apple had provided a smart keyboard that allows busy executives to work on the go. The entry-level iPad may be not suitable for business use while the iPad Pro may be too advanced for them. That makes the new iPad Air attractive to general users who want to replace their laptops.

Apple is offering four iPad models with five screen sizes, ranging from 7.9 inches to 12.9 inches. The 9.7-inch entry-level iPad is apparently targeted for use in schools, especially digital classes.

The iPad mini and the iPad Air are for loyal iPad users ready for an upgrade, while the iPad Pro is aimed at corporate customers, such as those in the insurance and banking sectors.

In short, Apple has a complete iPad lineup to serve different market segments. That should help the company to cement its market leadership even at a time when users appear reluctant to spend more for a new gadget.

One important feature of the iPad upgrades is that all the models in the entire series have Apple Pencil support. This compatibility allows iPad users to draw or write on the screen just like on paper or notebook.

This handwriting function is a unique feature that differentiates iPad from the Mac PC, which doesn’t have touch-screen capability. Indeed, handwriting and drawing with Apple Pencil is a killer application for iPad. The feature should also convince users of drawing pads such as Wacom to join the iPad camp in their pursuit of creativity and innovation.

Still, consumers are advised to seek value for money when deciding on what iPad to acquire. Would they prefer an iPad mini with a smaller screen size but HK$611 more expensive than the entry-level iPad with a 9.7-inch screen? The consumer always has a choice.

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A columnist in political development in Greater China region, technology and gadgets, media industry, parenting and other interesting topics.

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