School was back in session (alarm bells and all) at today's Apple announcement event at Chicago's Lane Tech College Prep High School. But you don't need to be a student to appreciate the product taking centerstage: An upgraded version of Apple's affordable, 9.7-inch iPad. The tablet starts at $329 for 32 GB with WiFi, making it almost half the price of the 10.5-inch, $649 iPad Pro alternative. (For schools, the iPad is $299.)
One of the main benefits of the Pro is coming to the regular iPad: The ability to use the Apple Pencil (sold separately for $99). Apple says that improved sensors will allow the Pencil to react better to pressure and tilt, making it easier to use when marking up documents or presentations, and sketching. Plus, updates to the iWork apps you've used previously (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) will allow you to use the Pencil to write and draw directly within those apps. An upcoming Smart Annotation feature in the Pages app will let you leave and receive edits more easily. A tool for creating interactive books, meanwhile, looks like an easier way to sum up your vacation for eager relatives.
The iPad's other main assets, a retina display and A10 Fusion chip, are geared towards improving overall performance. These will be familiar to Apple users but are still worth noting. The Retina display promises to make colors in hi-res photos, 4K movies, and Netflix originals pop; the A10 Fusion chip is focused on enabling seamless multitasking and fast-loading graphics. There are still rear and front-facing cameras, handy for FaceTiming friends and selfie-taking. Those cameras will also be useful for the suite of AR apps, such as IKEA's virtual furniture tool, that developers continue creating.
For those who have the iPhone X, the new iPad might induce some nostalgia with its reminders of iPhones past: There's still a headphone jack and Touch ID.
There is one major perk to today's iPad announcement that sets it apart from any iPhone release. You can get the 9.7-inch iPad starting now, in three pretty colors: silver, space gray, and "a new gold finish" that looks like a slightly bronzer version of rose gold.
The real question on our minds after today: Now that the $329 iPad works with the Apple Pencil, will anyone shell out for the Pro?