Keeping with the theme of going smaller with its devices, Apple on Monday drew open the curtains on a smaller, sleeker version of its behemoth 12.9-inch display iPad Pro.
With a 9.7-inch display measured diagonally, the new iPad Pro packs all the power of its larger sibling into a package that’s more familiar to users of Apple’s similarly sized tablet, the iPad Air 2. Beyond a faster A9X processor, the iPad Pro packs a smart connector, a physical port that supports Apple-manufactured smart keyboard covers or those from third-party vendors.
The tablet also supports the Apple Pencil, the company’s pressure-sensitive iPad stylus, which can also be used to shade drawings depending on the angle a user tilts it. When out of juice, the Apple Pencil can be recharged by plugging it into the iPad Pro’s lightning port. One feature unique to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a 12-megapixel camera, an upgrade over the 8MP sensor found in the 12.9-inch Pro. Apple also added a built-in flash, a first for its tablet line, and four speakers for louder stereo sound.
But with a new tablet comes a new price tag. Instead of taking the $499 price of the iPad Air 2, the iPad Pro will start at $599 for a 32GB Wi-Fi model, $749 for 128 GB and $899 for 256GB.
The smaller iPad Pro come as Apple has had eight consecutive year-over-year declines in iPad sales, in part because customers have held on to their tablets for years. One example of this is the 2011 iPad 2, which Apple continued to support with its latest mobile operating system, iOS 9.
Despite the shortfall, Apple is bullish about the tablet line’s prospects. CEO Tim Cook in February told employees he expects the iPad to return to revenue growth by the end of 2016, according to 9to5Mac. In the United States, iPad users are expected to grow to 79.7 million, a 1.7 percent increase over the 78.4 million users last year, according to eMarketer.
Those who want to get their hands on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro can preorder the tablet starting Thursday through the Apple Store website or iOS app. Alternatively, customers can wait for March 31 when the tablet officially goes on sale.