Five things you need to know about Apple's new iPads

The iPads are coming! The iPads are coming! Yes, as expected, Apple announced the newest members of its ever-growing iPad family on Thursday—the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. These two will be available for pre-order beginning tomorrow, October 17; here's what you need to know about them.

1. The iPads are numbered again (and there are a lot of them)

Yes, it's true: Apple's abandoned its Mac-like naming structure of "The new iPad" and retreated into once again numbering its iPad models. And as much as I love the Mac's naming schema, I agree with Apple here: It wasn't working on the iPad because of the sheer number of models still available. iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air… When it's difficult to explain to your mother which model she should remember to buy, that's trouble.

Apple hasn't completely alleviated the "which model to buy problem" with its five-iPad lineup, but they're at least all streamlined in name now: The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are the latest models, with the iPad Air, iPad mini 2 (née iPad mini with Retina display), and iPad mini sticking around as cheaper price-point options.

The cheapest iPad in the lineup is now the iPad mini, coming in at $249 for a 16GB-only model ($379 for cellular access); the iPad mini 2 and iPad Air stick around at $299 and $399, respectively, with a 32GB model available for $100 more; and the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 begin in at $399 and $499.

2. The iPad Air 2 is packed to its super-slim gills with power

Apple spent a good portion of today's event going over the numerous power boosts and tweaks to its flagship iPad model: The company has created a brand new A8X processor to power the iPad Air 2 that's 40 percent faster than the A7 and provides a 2.5x graphics boost in comparison to its predecessor. It also gains the M8 chip found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (and its new barometer sensor).

Despite this major power improvement, the new iPad retains its 10 hour battery life and slims down 18 percent from the iPad Air, coming in at just 6.1mm thick. In part, the device's thinness is due to display innovations; Apple has laminated its Retina display, reducing the space and air in-between the glass and screen. (Yes, Apple got rid of the air in the iPad Air 2. Har har har.) The iPad Air 2's display also receives an antireflective coating, reducing glare and reflectivity on the screen while out in bright or harsh environments.

The one casualty in this quest for thinness? The iPad's rotation lock/mute switch. RIP, little buddy.

Last (but not least) is some connectivity tweaks to increase speed over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections. The iPad Air 2 incorporates the Wi-Fi 802.11ac standard into its antenna set, and supports even more LTE bands.

3. Tablets are cameras, too

There are also some big camera improvements coming to the iPad Air 2 for those who like snapping images with their tablet. (I may not be one of them, but I know they're out there.) The iPad Air 2 isn't quite the gift to photographers as its iPhone cousin, but it at the least makes the tablet a viable alternative for shooting images. The rear camera now sports an 8-megapixel sensor with improved on-device image processing; the iPad also gets the iPhone's burst mode and slo-mo video features, though slow-motion video is only available at the iPhone 5s's 120 frames-per-second speed and not the 240FPS of the iPhone 6.

4. The latest iPad mini has only one major improvement: Touch ID

After lavishing a lot of love on the iPad Air 2, I'd hoped we'd be treated to a slightly shorter but still glowing presentation for the iPad mini; instead, we had to make do with a few short slides on Apple's smaller device. And for good reason: The company's iPad mini 3 has just two features that differentiate it from last year's model—Touch ID and a gold coloration option.

Yeah. That's it. It keeps the same exact form factor, the same A7/M7 chipset combination, the same 5MP camera sensor and photography features, and the same antennas.

Sure, if you're really itching for Touch ID and gold on your mini, the $100 might be a good investment. But for those hoping those on-stage upgrades made it to Apple's smaller device, you're flat out of luck.

5. Speaking of Touch ID...

Gone are the days when you had to click the home button, swipe over, and enter either a simple passcode or complex password just to access your iPad. Now, simply placing your finger on the Touch ID sensor will read your print, compare it to the one stored securely on the Apple A8 processor, and if it matches, instantly grant you access.

Touch ID is a biometric personal identity scanner and not only is it simple and fast, it's also an excellent compromise between convenience and security. It brings all of the authentication and authorization benefits the iPhone has enjoyed since last year, but now brings back consistency between iPhone and iPad as well.

In other words, those of us with both iPhones and iPads will no longer be placing our fingers on the home button and wondering why nothing is happening.

iPad users also get the online-only version of Apple Pay, which allows you to use the Touch ID sensor to pay for online purchases with certain vendors. It just means that shopping from the iPad—already one of the most popular devices for doing just that—becomes not only quicker and more convenient, but more secure as well. It doesn't carry over to using your iPad to pay for items in-store, however—you'll still need an iPhone 6 to take advantage of Apple Pay's NFC pay technology.

Stay tuned for more

We'll have lots more on the new iPads very soon, so stick around. Rene's down in Cupertino playing with the new iPad Air and iPad mini as I type this very sentence; check back later on for his first thoughts and reactions.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

  • My understanding was the new mini did get the new reflective coating... no? yes?
  • Nope, not even that.
  • I don't know if this Mini would deserve to call it a new model if they put that 8MP camera inside. While not seductive enough for an average customer the Mini size is a bit more portable so it would make a little more sense to use it for a photo/video situation. This is just slapping a "3" on the box and calling it new.
  • Everything that was announced was a great in my opinion, except one thing and that is the one thing that I was most looking forwarded to... iPad Mini 3.
    What a disappointment putting a $100 price tag on just Touch ID is almost laughable. It is an awesome feature but I can't justify spending the extra $100 on just that. I do not wan't a tablet the size of the Air 2, but it you want the raw power you don't have a choice now.
  • yeah ... completely ruined the iPad mini ... i was all set to buy one this time around assuming it would have had the same innards as the bigger brother .... but to hobble it and charge so much for TouchID.... Bad Apple!!
  • I wouldn't say ruined. But this was going to be my first Apple tablet. Now, not so sure.
  • As a first tablet it's a good deal. I say go with it. As an "upgrade" from a previous model it's probably one of the worst deals in recent memory, because you have to pay the full cost of the device, not just the $100 difference. People are forgetting that. The iPad mini 2 is really almost indistinguishable from the original iPad mini as well, both in looks and performance, so even as an upgrade from iPad mini first gen, it's still quite the bad deal.
  • A5 vs. A7
    nonretina vs. retina Sorry but there was a big jump from original mini to mini 2.
  • I went from the original mini to the mini 2 and the screen upgrade was worth it. I have zero reason to upgrade with this refresh. Maybe next year or even later but it doesn't matter since its easier on my wallet
  • Why not just buy the Mini2?
  • Touch ID *might* be a feature worth $100 on a phone, but on a tablet, which you don't lock and unlock nearly as frequently as a phone, it's not even close. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • I was really interested in getting TouchID on my iPad as I find "swipe to open" both cumbersome and something that heavily detracts from my iPad experience. I'm not sure why there isn't just a preference to turn it off. Since I already have the iPad mini 2 though, I'm certainly not going to shell out $700 for a new one just to get it.
  • I agree, $100 for Touch ID is Nuts. I was hoping for a new ipod in the 6 or 6plus size my self or at least one with a better chip. like the A6 in the iphone 5C. looks like i get to save my money again and keep using my iphone 3gs and Ipod 4th gen.
  • I agree. It was kind of a slap in the face in my book. Can't believe they just three Touch ID on it and said "meh, good enough!" Especially after all they did to it last year. Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree. If they were afraid of cannabilizing IPad Air 2 sales they should have given the mini 3 an A7X upgrade and improved camera without increasing MP.
  • I can't quite imagine people lining up for the iPads this year as they have years prior. Of course, I know I'm wrong. Maybe anything would seem slightly meh after the iPhone 6 and + blew the doors off not too long ago. I'm sure it's beautiful to hold in the hand and, for anyone in need of this kind of thing still in the trenches with the iPad 2, it's a solid upgrade. New hardware from Apple these days just seems so overqualified when considering the vast majority of software/apps...
  • Shouldn't you include: "6) The iPad Air 2 no longer has a rotation lock or mute button." ? Personally I found that rather shocking and more so that it wasn't even mentioned in the event.
  • It's mentioned. Third paragraph of section 2. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Well, my comment was that it should be a point unto itself. It's a very significant change. It's the first time *any* iPad has not had a rotation lock. It makes it a non-starter for me and I'm sure there are many many people who think similarly given the HUGE online outrage the last time Apple tried to remove it. It bears saying too, that it's a pretty sh*tty move (regardless of how one feels about the feature) to remove it "silently" the way they have, without even mentioning it in the event or on the web site. I'm sure there are lots of consumers buying iPads online at this very moment that don't realise it's gone and will get a nasty surprise when they open the box.
  • Nothing to see, nothing to speak about, instead of a keynote they could have refreshed their devices only on the website. At least Steve knew that specs alone aren't enough to get people excited (A8X, 8MP, 6mm. Goodbye). Also I don't see no Mini 3 here, I see Mini 2.5 at best. It's just Mini 2 with TouchID so why bother ? Why name it 3rd gen ? Why keep the previous model and introduce confusion ? $100 for a fingerprint button ? What is happening here ? Bwahahaha, it's gold now so it's 3rd gen ? Best upgrade EVER ! Yep, welcome to the crazy-land. Customers will be stunned at the store.
  • So no 2gb for the air 2??
  • Don't understand the lack of support for the ipad mini. I have the ipad mini with retina display with 128gb of storage, wanted to upgrade to a ipad mini with beefier specks ala iphone 6. Not upgrading for the sake of Touch ID.
  • if you already have the retina one as I do, it's basically a $700 "upgrade" just to get TouchID too. So while many are quoting the $100 price difference, the real cost is actually $500-$700.
  • Can we see a comparison between the iphone 6plus and ipad air 2?
  • Bigger question - do the Smart Covers (not cases) from iPad Air 1 work with iPad Air 2? Sent from the iMore App
  • In the defense of the new ipad mini 3 it got. Two significant updates. The gold color option is Very important
  • You forgot the /s tag at the end of your comment.
  • Is it a joke, isn´t? kkkkkk
  • of course it is!! i mean this is so ridiculous that i cannot help but laugh at it
  • There is a mistake in the first paragraph, ipad air and mini 2 32GB are not $100 extra but $50
  • i wish they kept it that way throughout the entire mobile lineup
  • No MacBook Air Retina.
  • I have the iPad Air, BLAH on this year, I'll skip and wait for the full 1080p iPad Pro next year 12 inch!! Hopefully!!, the Touch ID can wait so NOT WORTH IT!! Sent from the iMore App
  • And the new Gold Color?? CRAP!!!, Space Grey all the way! Sent from the iMore App
  • I was going to want a Mini 3 (have a Mini 1). Using 1password now and I miss having touch on my Mini. But, yeah, the price jump for basically the same tablet is not something I am going to do. Unless of course someone wants to buy my Mini 1 for $200. ;) I'll make do. Thanks Apple. Sent from the iMore App
  • The Mini 2 32 GB I wanted was $499 and now it's only $349. I was expected it to only drop to $399. I'm thrilled!
  • Its 299 refurbished
  • "Gone are the days when you had to click the home button, swipe over, and enter either a simple passcode or complex password just to access your iPad." Actually, those days are still here. Have a wet, or perhaps a sweaty finger after working out?? Guess what?? Touch ID won't read the finger!!! At least that's been my experience, so yeah, for some people, those days are still here.
  • So disappointed in the Mini3. I was ready to pull the trigger on a Mini versus the full size that I currently use, but the thing is a year old just taking it out of the box.
  • I can't believe Apple had the balls to call this the ipad mini, would have made a lot more sense.
  • Agreed
  • a lot of people don't like that TouchID is the only upgrade;
    I have an original Mini, and miss the TouchID I have on my 6 and my (now wife's) 5S. If you have a job that requires you to use the pass code for every access, then Touch ID is pretty nice. I may get one in a bigger memory version than the one I have now.
  • The iPad Mini 3 is the new iPad 3. I wonder how much longer Apple can get away with stuff like this....?
  • Why do they even bother in taking the mini 3 out? Just touch id and a new color option? Are you kidding? It should have received all the benefits from its bigger brother but I'm sure most of them will be there next year (typical Apple); it's time they take the mini version much more seriously. In the meantime, iPad mini 2 is 100 dollars cheaper, that's the device to get.
  • It looks like a little toy, just to play. It was just made a make-up. We want more than it.
  • I spend my sacred Money with new techs, but not throw it away. Maybe I´m a techaholic but not a fool.
  • Jobs died and it seems that Apple is dying too. Samsung company is changing the Apple´s way to work or maybe its essence.