Apple's new iPads: The features business users will love

While Apple's new iPad Air and iPad Mini are largely just hardware updates, there are features that make the mobile devices great for business users.

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Image: Apple

Apple has announced the release of two new iPad models, bringing a new Air and a Mini to its existing lineup. At first glance it's easy to dismiss these new iPads as just minor hardware updates: The form factors are the same, and there are no new accessories--only an extension of existing peripherals to the new models.

Despite the seemingly minor nature of the updates to the iPad Air and iPad Mini, the new hardware is a big leap forward for business professionals who want to make an iPad their on-the-go productivity machine.

SEE: The Apple Developer Program: An insider's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What's new with the iPad Air for business users?

As TechRepublic sister site CNET points out, the new iPad Air is meant to be the replacement in the iPad lineup for the 2017 iPad Pro. The 2019 iPad Air is the same size as the 2017 iPad Pro and boasts a lot of the same features, particularly Apple Pencil and keyboard folio support; it is also a solid hardware upgrade.

If you want to know all the specifics of how the new iPad Air stacks up against similar iPad models, check out the CNET article referenced above. Here's what will matter for business users:

  • The new iPad Air supports the Apple Pencil, but only the first generation model that was released in 2015.
  • The new iPad Air supports the Smart Keyboard folio, which acts as both a keyboard and a cover for the device.
  • The 2019 iPad Air is available in Wi-Fi and LTE models. There isn't a 5G option.
  • The iPad Air supports a nano-SIM and an eSIM.

The new iPad Air is meant to replace the 2017 Pro, but its design, hardware features, and accessories make it obvious that Apple wants it to be a slightly cheaper version of the new iPad Pro.

At only ½" smaller than the 2018 iPad Pro and with similar hardware specs, the vast difference in pricing ($499 USD to start for a 64 GB iPad Air v. $799 USD for a 64 GB iPad Pro) makes the iPad Air a great deal for professionals who want a Pro experience on a smaller budget.

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The Smart Keyboard alone is enough to make the iPad Air worth buying for those who plan to use their iPad as a work device. It attaches directly to the iPad Air using the Apple Smart Connector port introduced on the iPad Pro, which means it doesn't require pairing, has no extra battery to charge, and supports native keyboard shortcuts, which can go a long way toward making a tablet feel like a real laptop.

How does the new iPad Mini fit in the business world?

If you want a detailed rundown of the hardware difference between the new iPad Mini and the iPad Mini 4, you can see a point-by-point comparison on CNET. Suffice it to say, the new model is indistinguishable from the old, at least visually: It gets several internal upgrades to RAM, processor speed, and a new True Tone display that should make it look better than the older device's Retina Display.

SEE: Review: iPad Mini is back and Apple's 2019 update offers new mojo for small tablets (CNET)

What makes the 2019 iPad Mini a productivity machine is its big new feature: Support for the Apple Pencil. Like the new iPad Air, the iPad Mini only supports the first-gen Apple Pencil, but that's still great for productivity enthusiasts who don't need a full laptop-style experience.

As Apple describes it, the iPad Mini with an Apple Pencil is a "take-anywhere digital notebook." For those who need to take quick notes, frequently fill out digital forms, sign documents, or sketch, the new iPad Mini could be a solid investment.

The new iPad Mini is priced at $399 USD, which is the same as the iPad Mini 4 that preceded it.

Beloved features that aren't going away

The first thing that may spring to mind when thinking of the latest generation of Apple devices, whether it's a phone or a tablet, is the elimination of Touch ID in favor of Face ID. Apple users hesitant to ditch the fingerprint don't need to worry on this go-around--both devices have Touch ID.

For those who have an iPad Pro and miss the headphone jack, the new iPad Air and the iPad Mini come with one.

Both the new iPad Air and the new iPad Mini are available to order today from Apple.com, in the Apple Store, and from authorized retailers. There's a long list of which countries the new devices are available in, so check the Apple press release for a full rundown.

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