Apple’s most popular iPad is getting more creative.

Today at an event in Chicago, Apple announced a new version of its base-model iPad—$329 for consumers and $299 for schools—which supports Apple’s Pencil stylus and augmented reality education apps.

The 9.7-inch iPad keeps most of the features of the 5th-generation model, including an 8MP main camera, Touch ID fingerprint sensor and “up to 10 hours of battery life,” but boosts the processor from an A9 to an A10 unit and adds support for the Pencil.

At the event, Apple showed off education apps that combine AR and Pencil support; one lets you virtually dissect a frog using the Pencil as a tool.

Apple Schoolwork App

“With the A10 [processor], this iPad is now more powerful than most PC laptops and virtually every Chromebook,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Product Marketing.

The new iPad doesn’t include a Pencil or a keyboard, which significantly increases the price relative to the Chromebooks Apple has been competing with in educational markets. Apple showed off a $99 ruggedized Logitech keyboard case, as well as a $49 Logitech “crayon” as a lower-cost alternative to the Pencil.

“That works great with iWork and other Pencil enabled apps,” Joswiak said.

Apple Smart Annotation feature in Pages

Software was a big part of the presentation. A new Apple app coming in June, called Schoolwork, will let teachers deploy assignments, check on students’ progress on assigned work and assign activities within third-party apps. Apple emphasized that the app keeps data private; it won’t be uploaded to Apple.

An upcoming Smart Annotation feature in Pages lets teachers mark up papers using a Pencil, in a nondestructive way that also transfers comments as you move content around in a document. You can also now create “digital books” on iPads, when previously you needed Macs.

Joswiak really pushed the idea of Apple’s iWork, creative apps such as moviemaking apps, and augmented reality apps as differentiators between the iPad and Chromebooks.

“There’s nothing like these creativity apps on any other device. This goes way beyond the basics and way beyond browser-based apps,” he said.

To support all these new apps, Apple is also boosting the free iCloud storage offered to Apple IDs associated with schools from 5GB to 200GB. This isn’t for ordinary consumers, though; you have to be at a school.

The new iPad is available to order today and will start shipping this week.

The event is ongoing; check back for more details as they’re announced.



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