You don't need to buy an iPad Pro to experience the joys of using an Apple Pencil. Thanks to the arrival of Apple's newest iPad, which is available now for $329 ($299 for students), the company's stylus is much more accessible to consumers—and, more importantly, educators and students.
If you're a normal schlub like me, the iPad Pro has always felt a little too expensive despite its myriad capabilities. The screen technology is phenomenal and the synergy between Pencil and software is second to none. Still, I haven't been entirely convinced the iPad Pro is worth it, not when I already use an iPhone and MacBook Pro.
Apple's new iPad is a different story. It combines the affordability of last year's iPad with the iPad Pro's best capability. Adding Pencil support to its cheaper iPad is just the thing Apple needed in order to gain traction in the education market, as well as spark excitement among consumers.
There were a lot of really neat demo areas setup at Lane Technical High School in Chicago, including a place that taught coding, frog anatomy, and how AR can complement a lesson. I even coded a robot to dance. Everything was incredibly easy and straightforward thanks to Apple's device.
Never at any point during these demos did Apple highlight the hardware of the iPad, which people have criticized for having chunky bezels. Focusing too much on the hardware is entirely missing the point. Instead, Apple wanted the attention to be on what people like me can do with the company's slate.
If you've ever used an iPad, the new 9.7-inch model won't feel any different, and that's how it should be. Apple isn't trying to reinvent the wheel here. Rather, it's trying to capture the imagination of consumers who couldn't afford an iPad Pro.
The design of the iPad is incredibly familiar, but it still wows when held in the hand. The screen also looks terrific despite not featuring the fancy True Tone technology introduced by the iPad Pro. The only real omission here is the lack of a Smart Keyboard connector.
After using Apple's newest tablet, it's easy to predict that it'll be a huge seller among consumers. But will the device see Apple challenge Google's growing popularity among educators? Wandering the halls of Lane Tech yesterday, Apple showcased some really cool ways to integrate the device into the classroom, so Google certainly has a challenge coming.
Then again, the canned demoes might not reflect what we see in the real world.