Apple announces iPad Air, “the lightest full size tablet in the world”

Phil Schiller took to the stage on Tuesday to announce Apple’s next generation iPad Air. “iPad created an entirely new mobile computing experience, and the new iPad Air is another big leap ahead. It is so thin, light and powerful, once you hold one in your hand you will understand what a tremendous advancement this is,” Schiller said.

The iPad Air is a substantial change in design from the previous iPads. It features the same 9.7inch retina display with a smaller bezel than the previous generation iPads, and measures 20 percent thinner than the previous fourth-generation tablet. It’s substantially lighter as well — 1 pound, down from 1.4 pounds from before. Apple claims that this is “the lightest full size tablet in the world… When you hold it, it will be a dramatically different experience.”

The iPad Air features Apple’s new 64-bit A7 chip and M7 motion coprocessor, which we’ve seen recently in the iPhone 5s. It’s up to eight times faster, with graphics performance up to 72 times faster than the original iPad model. That means even simple tasks like opening up apps should take half the time.

Wi-Fi has been given a boost as well, with dual-antennas to support Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology, which can double your Wi-Fi performance. Cellular models also come with expanded LTE coverage to support more LTE networks worldwide than the previous iPads.

There’s a 5-megapixel iSight camera on the back of the tablet, with a 1080p FaceTime HD camera. Battery life should last for 10 hours, and the tablet will be available in silver and white, and space gray and black.

The iPad Air replaces the previous fourth-generation iPad and starts at $499 for a 16GB Wi-Fi version. It will be available starting November 1. The iPad 2, meanwhile, will still be available for $399.

Though the rumored keyboard cover was nowhere to be seen, new polyurethane Smart Covers for the iPad Air will be available for $39, while new aniline-dyed leather Smart Cases will cost $79.