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Apple iPad 9.7-inch (2018)

Not so long ago, Apples in the classroom meant computers (in addition to a fresh piece of fruit for the teacher). As recently as five years ago, Apple had a good grip on the education market, with several large institutions announcing plans to hand out iPads for students to use in the classroom. Then came the Chromebook, which today owns about 60 percent of the education market. And Microsoft, which last year rolled out an ambitious effort targeting classrooms with including Windows S, augmented reality, and custom software for educators.
What’s a little old tech behemoth to do?
At an education-focused event in Chicago, Apple announced its answer: An iPad. But the spotlight fell on the iPad’s support for the Apple Pencil, as well as a bevy of new software designed to foster collaboration in the classroom. Why an iPad, and not a new Macbook? Just think of Apple’s latest ad, which features a precocious child making the most of her iPad throughout her day. It ends with her asking, “what’s a computer?” Point made, Apple: The company clearly thinks tablets are sufficient for the education market. As Apple’s demos showed, you can do a lot with a tablet and a pencil.
Look and feel
So how does the $330 iPad look? Not to be snarky, but it looks like an iPad. The new product, which carries a lower $300 price for the education market, is identical to last year’s model, although the internal specs have been bumped up.
It’s still a 9.7-inch Retina screen, but the new iPad includes an A10 Fusion chip (the same powering the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, a front-facing HD camera, Touch ID, 32GB of storage, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p HD video, and up to 10 hours of battery life. There’s also up to 200GB of free iCloud storage for students, which is a significant upgrade from the previously-allocated 5GB. As usual, the new iPad has LTE options at a higher price that lets customers connect to wireless data plans.

The aluminum body is well-built, but visually not much has changed. Touch ID is still around, likely because the components that make Face ID work on the iPhone X are likely still too expensive to throw into a budget device. The biggest addition, other than the minor specification bump we mentioned, is support for the Apple Pencil, which until now has been restricted to the iPad Pro lineup.
The software
More interesting are the apps announced, including updates to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote to support the Pencil (which still costs $100). Beyond that, Apple talked about software to allow educators to completely control the experience in the classroom – students won’t be allowed to log on to Twitch and waste the afternoon. Instead, the educator controls not just which app can be launched but what features within the app can be used. It’s a powerful way to counter arguments that students will simply waste time given a digital distraction device like a tablet, and we saw this in action in one classroom demo.
The company clearly thinks tablets are sufficient for the education market.

Then there’s Apple’s reassertion of the importance of the Everyone Can Code program and the Swift programming language. Demos showed us how to control robots and drones using drag-and-drop programming on the new iPad. Physical keyboard? Who needs a keyboard? The Swift Playgrounds coding app also now lets kids play around with augmented reality so they can be exposed to AR and its capabilities at a young age. Third-party AR apps can even teach kids how to virtually dissect a frog, so there’s a lot of potential here and it’ll be interesting to see how the classroom changes as these technologies become even more popular.
Apple also discussed new easy log on programs to make individual iPads more interchangeable, something IT teams should appreciate. But is it enough? Google has a very strong lock on the education market now, thanks to affordable products and software that really moves the needle on collaboration. Apple’s $300 iPad is the same exact price as last year’s iPad (with the discount for educators), but our favorite budget Chromebook, the Asus Chromebook C202, is just $225 – a price sure to make a principal smile.
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital TrendsIn terms of pushing the needle, Microsoft’s Mixed Reality vision of the future seems more ambitious. Will anyone take Redmond up on their ideas? We’ll see. Mixed Reality has been a mixed bag to date, and Apple’s AR plans are nearly as impressive.
Ultimately, there’s a fresh polish on Apple for the classroom – now let’s see what the fruit of its labors tastes like. The new iPad ships this week. You can buy it for $330, but educators can nab it for $30 less.

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