Apple trims 18% from 9.7-in. iPad price

Dumps 'iPad Air' name, returns to plain 'iPad' in move analysts view as effort to distance its standard tablet from 'Pro' line

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Apple today cut the price of its least expensive 9.7-in. iPad by $70, and as it did, dropped the "Air" nameplate and returned to simply "iPad" as the moniker.

The 32GB Wi-Fi iPad is now priced at $329, an 18% reduction from its predecessor, the iPad Air 2. The 32GB model with a cellular modem cost $459, a 13% discount from its forerunner.

Apple's changes put the larger 9.7-in. iPad at the bottom of the price list for its tablet portfolio, as the 7.9-in. iPad Mini 4 kept its $399 tag. The iPad price cut also put more room between it and the top-of-the-line iPad Pro, which starts at $599 for the 9.7-in. model.

"I think it makes sense to build in some space between the iPad and iPad Pro," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It also puts Apple's entry-level closer [in price] to tablets from everyone else in the universe. There has been lots of room to move the [iPad] prices down and still remain very, very profitable."

In many respects, the new 9.7-in. iPad is identical to the iPad Air 2. According to Apple, however, the former was slightly heavier than the latter, weighing in at 1.03 pounds versus the Air 2's 0.96 pounds. The iPad also sports a newer-generation processor, the Apple-designed A9 versus the Air 2's A8x.

The iPad Pro line retained a processor lead; the 9.7-in. and 12.9-in. Pro tablets rely on the A9x.

At the same time, Apple added new products and modified existing ones.

The Cupertino, Calif. company unveiled new red iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones; boosted the storage space of both the iPhone SE and the iPad Mini 4 while sticking with the previous prices; and announced a new app, dubbed Clips, that will launch in April for iOS.

The red iPhones will go on sale Friday starting at $749 (iPhone 7) and $869 (iPhone 7 Plus) -- $100 more than all other hues except jet black -- with a portion of the proceeds, as usual, going toward HIV/AIDS programs.

Apple doubled the storage on the low-end iPhone SE -- from 16GB or 64GB to 32GB or 128GB -- without changing prices, and dumped the 32GB iPad Mini 4 and slapped its $399 price on the 128GB model.

"What we have now, then, is a clear bifurcation between the iPad Pro ... and the more basic and low-end iPad," wrote Jan Dawson, chief analyst of Jackdaw Research, in a post to his Tech Narratives website. Dawson also characterized the new iPad as playing the same role as the iPhone SE in the smartphone line-up.

"[It's] taking older innards and wrapping them in new branding to bring the price down to a new level, and I suspect that -- like the iPhone SE -- it will indeed bring the device to new people," he said.

The iPad will go on sale Friday through Apple's online store, and next week in its brick-and-mortar retail outlets.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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