iPad Air 2: Release date, pricing & specs confirmed

Apple confirmed the release date, specs and pricing for iPad Air 2 at its launch event. Here’s everything you need to know

The iPad Air 2 made made its grand debut, with Apple confirming the 6.1mm gold tablet's existence at its 16 October launch event.

The tablet will sell for $499 (16GB), $599 (64GB) or $699 (128GB), with an additional $130 for each with cellular included.

Pre-orders begin today, with the devices due to ship by the end of next week.

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As rumours suggested, the device has an improved Retina display, Touch ID sensor on the home button, an anti-reflective coating and second generation 64-bit A8X chip.

The iPad Air 2 sports an 8MP iSight camera in addition to a new front-facing FaceTime HD camera.

Popular photo and video editing apps, Pixelmator and Replay, were demonstrated at the event in order to demonstrate the increased capabilities of the new iPad Air 2.

It is the thinnest tablet Apple has ever released: 18 per cent thinner than the iPad Air and around half the size of the original iPad.

It emerged after the conference that the iPad Air 2 will come with a software-based 'soft' sim card, meaning users will be able to sign up to their chosen mobile provider straight from their tablet, eliminating the need for the individual cards provided by respective operators.

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At the time of writing, EE were the only provider confirmed for the iPad Air 2's built-in sim card in the UK, with Sprint, T-mobile and AT&T participating in the US.

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"The Apple sim gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from selected carriers in the US and UK right there on your iPad," Apple says of the new technology.

uSwitch telecoms expert Ernest Doku said the new features included on the iPad Air 2 could be enough to convince users to dump their older devices: "According to Apple, making the number one selling tablet better means making it thinner than a pencil, and gold, apparently. Let's hope it doesn't bend.

"The addition of Touch ID, more exciting colourways, an improved camera and a snappier processor all worked for the iPhone 5S, so could be enough to convince iPad owners to turn their current one into a hand-me-down."

Reports on falling tablet sales have surfaced recently, throwing the prospective success of a new iPad into doubt.

"It seems Apple's enthusiasm hasn't been knocked by waning iPad sales over the past six months - or 'speed bump' as Tim Cook puts it." Doku continues.

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"One problem Apple faces is that, without a finite network contract to concentrate their minds, tablet owners need more persuading to upgrade than phone users.

"Only giant leaps forward will provide the wow factor needed to drive new sales in an increasingly saturated market."

Ahead of the event, Apple may have prematurely confirmed that the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 will be unveiled, following the publication of screenshots from an iOS 8 user guide featuring the devices.

Following the event, Apple stock was down 1.3% to $96.26, as the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 failed to reinvigorate interest in the tablet market.

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iPad Air 2: The story so far...

The firm sent out invites to the event, which featured the phrase "it's been way too long" as its tagline at the end of September. 

This development will hardly come as a surprise to some, given that Apple traditionally showcases the latest additions to its tablet range in October, in order to capitalise on the potential for Christmas holiday sales. 

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As well as a new iPad, the event is also widely expected to be used by Apple to showcase its new Retina Display iMac, and mark the official release of its OS X Yosemite desktop operating system.

Below is a list of everything we knew about the iPad Air 2 in the run up to the event. Feel free to double-check it against what was actually announced to see how much of the rumour and speculation surrounding the device came true.

Specs

Rumours that a larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro could be released at some point in 2015 have also been circulating for a while (via Techie News), with speculated stats including a A8X chip for enhanced performance and graphics that are in line with what the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus currently offer.

KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a source with plenty of credibility accrued from accurate past predictions and leaks, previously suggested that the iPad Air 2 could be set for a September launch this time around. 

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According to the source, the iPad Air 2 will have "anti-reflective coating for the cover lens, full lamination for the touch panel, a gold-coloured metal casing, an A8 processor, Touch ID/fingerprint recognition and an 8-megapixel rear camera."

The 9.7-inch tablet is rumoured to be getting a 2GB RAM boost, with the Touch ID home button first featured on the iPhone 5s and split-screen capability. Other reports also have it slimmed down when compared to the previous generation iPad Air.

The current iPad Air ships with only 1GB RAM, which is much lower than that on various Android devices, so the 2GB RAM boost will help Apple to keep up with the mounting competition.

It also makes sense when considering the increased demands on the hardware brought about by different iOS 8 features, such as split-screen functionality.

It has been heavily suggested the new iPad will feature a daylight-friendly, anti-reflective display, making it easier to read from in natural light.

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Release date availability

Meanwhile, Ming-Chi Kuo (via Mac Rumours) has also now claimed in a report that supply of the iPad Air 2 is likely to be limited, saying: "Of the new products, we think the market will be more interested in iPad Air 2, as the poor yield rate of anti-reflective coating cover lens has delayed mass production, we estimate 2014 shipments of iPad Air 2 of 7-9mn units, lower than the 12mn units of the then-new iPad Air shipments in 2013.

"We thus expect iPad Air 2 to contribute less to the supply chain than iPad did last year. We also don't expect the event to boost supply chain shares much."

Back in 2013, Business Insider posted alleged images of the new iPad Air, complete with its rumoured metal gold casing.

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