Apple releases new iPad Air and Pro models

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Apple introduced a new, larger 13-inch iPad Air and the upgraded 11-inch iPad Air at their special event.

Apple’s iPad line has been long overdue for a refresh and hasn’t been updated since 2022. You likely haven’t noticed unless you’re a power user who needs the latest Apple silicon M-series chip for gaming or media production. It’s a testament to how far the iPad has come since its original introduction in 2010. The entry-level iPad released at the end of 2022 has more than enough processor, memory, and battery life to handle even the most demanding aviation EFB app effortlessly.

But we’re talking about Apple here, and pushing the limits of hardware technology is in their DNA, so it was only inevitable that new iPad models were right around the corner. During a live-stream event this week, they took the cover off their latest designs this week, showcasing new iPad Air and iPad Pro designs. Here’s the short and sweet summary: the new 11-inch iPad Air continues to represent the best iPad for pilots ready for an upgrade, and the new iPad Pro is for the pilot who wants nothing short of the best iPad Apple has ever made.

New iPad Air

Like most iPad Air updates over the past five years, this update focuses on a handful of minor updates and doesn’t change the overall design. The most notable change to this line is the addition of a larger 13-inch iPad Air model. This represents a less expensive option for pilots looking for an iPad with a larger screen when compared to the premium 13-inch iPad Pro.

Both the 11-inch and 13-inch models now include Apple’s M2 processor, which is 50% faster than the M1 chip from the previous iPad Air. Apple’s primary focus on this upgrade is its ability to support current and upcoming AI capabilities. Out of the box, the AI features are fairly limited, but speculation is that this is in preparation for Apple’s upcoming iOS 18 generative AI features that will require on-device processing vs. traditional cloud-based AI processing.

The new 6th generation 11-inch iPad Air is the exact same size as the previous model, so pilots who decide to upgrade can continue to use existing mounts. The only noticeable exterior change is that the front camera was moved from the top of the screen to long side of the screen, so that it captures video from a more central location during video calls.

The starting price for the new 11-inch iPad Air remains the same at $599, but it now includes twice the standard storage, at 128GB. The 13-inch model starts at $799. As with previous versions, you can upgrade to a model with cellular data connectivity (and GPS) for an additional $150 and upgrade the internal storage up to 1 TB.

New iPad Pro

The iPad Pro line was designed primarily for content producers in photography, film, and audio and includes the most capable hardware of any iPad. The new iPad Pro is the first Apple product to include the new M4 processor, which is 50% faster than its predecessor’s M2 chip, to handle the most demanding video, gaming and AI processing.

The new Pro models are thinner and lighter than the previous versions, with the 11-inch version coming in at less than 1 pound (which is surprisingly less than the new iPad Air).

The iPad Pro’s screen was upgraded from LED to OLED, significantly improving color depth, contrast ratio, and overall brightness. For an additional $100, you can upgrade the iPad Pro’s screen to nano-texture glass, which, in simple terms, uses a matte display instead of a glossy finish. Unfortunately, Apple only offers this option after upgrading to the 1 TB model, increasing the price after both upgrades to a staggering $1600 for the 11-inch model. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes for a better viewing experience in bright cockpits, and hopefully, it’s only a matter of time until this technology trickles down to less-expensive iPad models. We’ll be testing the new screen in the cockpit soon, so we’ll report back.

The entry-level 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 and the 13-inch model at $1299, each with 256 GB.

Other announcements

Apple continues to offer the entry-level “iPad” and lowered the price to $349 (it was initially sold for $449). They also discontinued the iPad 9th generation, which represented the last model with the traditional home button at the bottom of the screen.

Apple debuted a few new accessories, including a thinner and lighter Magic Keyboard for the new iPad Pro. Last but not least, there’s a new iPad Pencil Pro that includes squeeze gestures and haptic feedback for use with the new iPad Air and Pro models.

8 replies
  1. Dave B
    Dave B says:

    Any wordd on when/if these screen improvements might hit the iPad mini? That’s the only size that works in my cockpit.

  2. Phil D
    Phil D says:

    Endless complaints that the iPad experience is much like a dog chasing its tail: consumers are saying “with all that power, why doesn’t it run MacOS?”

    Dedicated apps that are not reliant on an underlying operating system will be the path forward for computing. Über-fast processors – paired to A/I – will ensure this transition, and by most accounts, has already done so.

    Deny this as you must, but MacOS, Windows (and in my estimation, keyboards and mice) are “relics of a bygone era” that are in their sunset years. Apple Vision Pro allows a sneak-peek into the paradigm shift and realm of future devices. And that ForeFlight is already “tinkering” with this lends credence to this concept.

    “Welcome to the brave new world.”

  3. Will
    Will says:

    Please report back on the nano textured glass. That’s a steep upgrade so obv we’re all curious how it performs in bright sun aloft !

  4. Gene
    Gene says:

    I’ll join those asking about the mini update. I used two versions of the mini, up until I joined my current airline about a year ago. The company issue item is a basic 10.9 inch iPad. It functions well enough for an EFB, but I find it to be ponderously, clumsily large, even in the spacious A320 cockpit. Glad I kept my mini! I’ll happily spring for the updated version if and when it comes. Facial recognition, a USB-C charger and a fresh battery will make updating from the mini-5 worth it. Come on Apple, there’s a horde of us out here who love the mini — don’t let us down!


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