Apple has announced its follow-up to 2017's 9.7in iPad. The iPad 9.7in (2018) is cheap - and cheaper still if you're a schools buyer - but offers Apple Pencil support and far better specs than last year's model. Read on to find out the new iPad's release date, price and specs.

For advice related to the 2017 iPad 9.7in, see our iPad buying guide and our roundup of the best iPad deals.

Release date

At its education-focused event on 27 March, Apple introduced new low-cost iPads and education software, in a bid to win back students and teachers. The budget iPad fit neatly with the education theme.

Apple revealed that the iPad 9.7in (2018) is available for pre-order right away and will ship and arrive in shops next week - that's the week beginning 2 April.

New iPad 9.7in 2018 release date rumours: Spring event

Design

The iPad 9.7in has largely the same physical design as the previous model, with the exception of the screen technology that enables it to support the Apple Pencil.

New iPad 9.7in (2018) release date, price & specs

In fact, the one thing we wanted was a laminated screen. We didn't much dig the unlaminated screen on the 2017 model (a surprising throwback, since even 2015's iPad Air 2 had a laminated screen), because it flexed slightly when you pressed on it, and felt plasticky and cheap.

Frustratingly, this is still the case. Apple's specs comparison page makes it apparent that the new iPad does not have a laminated screen, same as its predecessor. We haven't got our hands on the new model yet, so cannot be certain that it feels exactly the same, but we are not optimistic.

Other than that, no great design innovations were expected or particularly wanted from what is an appealingly low-cost (by Apple's standards) mid-size tablet. We certainly didn't expect to see any reduction in the bezels, or the removal of the Home Button.

Specs

We expected cautious incremental improvements to the specs so that Apple could keep the price down, but the updates are reasonably impressive.

Processor

You get an A10 Fusion processor, which is about as advanced as you could expect; even the current Pro iPads have only an A10X Fusion, the souped-up version of this chip. (Although they may soon be superseded by new Pros with A11 chips, like the iPhone X.) The 9.7in 2017 featured an A9 processor.

Apple boasted that with the A10, the new iPad is more powerful than most PC laptops and almost all Chromebooks, which are one of its biggest rivals in the low-priced computing and education arenas. It also claimed that the A10 Fusion chip will "enable incredible AR experiences simply not possible on other devices".

Storage

Storage is the same as last year, with 32GB as the only entry-level option and 128GB as the upgrade. (The 2017 model was also available with 128GB, and we actually thought it might get a 256GB option this time around since, for comparison, the Pros go up to 512GB).

Apple is making up for this, however, by focusing heavily on cloud storage - schools will get 200GB of iCloud storage for free.

Camera

The rear-facing camera appears to be the same as last year: an 8Mp camera offering 1080p HD video. The front-facing camera is still 1.2Mp with 720p HD.

Other specs

  • 10 hour battery
  • Gyroscope
  • Up to 300MBps LTE
  • Touch ID
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass

iPad 9.7in (2018) release date, price & specs

Pencil support

The predictions were right: the new iPad supports the Apple Pencil (and a number of third-party styluses too) for a clear benefit in an education setting. No word on the Apple Pencil 2, however.

Apple's spokesperson indicated the iPad will feature "a high-resolution touch system" to "enable ultra-low latency". It'll be the same tech we're used to in the Pro models, then.

Price

The 9.7in iPad's raison d'être is its bargain price tag. Despite the addition of Pencil support and the improved specs, Apple has brought the tablet in at the same US price as last year, and a slightly lower UK price. There's a nice discount for school buyers too.

  • iPad 9.7in (2018, Wi-Fi, 32GB): £319/US$329
  • iPad 9.7in (2018, Wi-Fi, 128GB): £409/US$429
  • iPad 9.7in (2018, cellular, 32GB): £449/US$459
  • iPad 9.7in (2018, cellular, 128GB): £539/US$559

You can pre-order the iPad 9.7in (2018) here.

Apple has announced that schools will be able to buy the new iPad for $299, a $30 discount. We're not sure what the discount will be in the UK, if there will be one.

New iPad 9.7in (2018) release date, price & specs

Buying the new iPad on contract

We don't yet have full details, but we have been told that Vodafone and EE will both sell the new iPad.

"EE will offer the new 9.7in iPad," said our contact, "featuring support for Apple Pencil plus even greater performance. Customers will be able to order iPad starting Thursday 29th March at www.ee.co.uk, from EE over the phone and in EE stores. Further details on pricing and availability will be available in due course."

Our contact at Vodafone, meanwhile, told us that "the new 9.7in iPad will be available soon at Vodafone UK".