The new iPad's 'brighter Retina Display' is a cheaper version of the Air 2 panel

Apple iPad family portrait

Apple's press release yesterday ushered us in the era of cheap iOS tablets. The new iPad 9.7" puppy starts at just $329, whereas all of Apple's 10-inchers before it were $499 at their basic config. Slashing launch prices by a third is not usually in Apple's DNA, but the iPad is a special animal. Tablets in general have fallen drastically in popularity to begin with. You can, for instance, now get an LG Gram 2017 13" laptop that weighs two pounds, or about as much as a tablet with a keyboard cover, but has larger screen, lasts 16 hours on charge, and has way more storage. You can't, however, get it for $330. The most you can get at that price would be a Chromebook, and that might be what Apple is targeting here, as Google's pseudo-laptops are wiggling their way in the education realm, encroaching on Apple's educational focus for iPads.

How does Apple make money out of a $329 iPad, though? Well, when the iPad Air 2 launched two and a half years ago, IHS estimates pegged the cost of its components and assembly at $275. The nature of the electronics' industry is that cost of components drops drastically over time, that's how Chinese brands like Xiaomi are able to sell phones near cost, but keep them longer on the market, and eventually start to make decent profit when their parts fall in price over time. Apple is likely pursuing a similar strategy, as the only upgrades worth talking about in the new iPad compared to the Air 2 are a faster, A9 chipset, a "brighter Retina Display," and a new Touch ID finger scanner. We wouldn't be surprised if the total cost to make this thing hovers around the $150 mark, so the new slate still offers a decent margin, while Apple's apps and subscription services, whose profitability is growing leaps and bounds, will also add up with each new iPad sold.

What piqued our interest, however, was the phrase "featuring a brighter 9.7-inch Retina display" that Apple starts the new iPad's press release with. While we can't vouch how much brighter the new display will be, as we have to run it through our screen benchmark routines, but it certainly sounds like the display, albeit with the same resolution, will differ somehow from the one that is on the Air 2. But how? 

Well, as you can see in Apple's own iPad family comparison below, the new iPad won't have the laminated display tech and anti-reflective coating of its predecessor. These omissions might allow for more of the backlight to pass through, but will likely diminish visibility outside on a bright sunny day. No lamination of the cover glass with the screen package, and eschewing an anti-reflective coating, however, may have allowed Apple to secure the new iPad's 9.7" display at a much lower cost than what the original panel of the Air 2 used to command, and, thankfully, has passed those savings onto us users now.

The new iPad's 'brighter Retina Display' is a cheaper version of the Air 2 panel
source: Apple

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