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Apple's new iPad is really the iPad Air 2.1 with a price cut

Apple quietly upgrades its mainstream tablet with a more powerful chip, while knocking $70 off the iPad Air 2's price.

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Say goodbye to the iPad Air. It's just the iPad now.

Apple announced Tuesday morning that it's replacing the aging iPad Air 2 with a new 9.7-inch model that's simply called "iPad." The new iPad, which features a faster processor than the Air 2, starts at $329, £339 or AU$469 for the 32GB iPad, and $459, £469 or AU$669 for the 32GB model with 4G LTE.

That's a $70 price cut from the price of the outgoing Air 2, and the most affordable iPad in Apple's revised iPad lineup. The previous budget champion, the $269 iPad Mini 2, has been dropped. The 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models remain unchanged, and the iPad Mini 4 gets a bump to 128GB (from 32GB) for the same $399 base price (£419, AU$579).

The new iPad gets a speed boost, courtesy of a 2015-era A9 processor (replacing the Air 2's 8X). Except for losing an antireflective coating, however, it appears otherwise identical to 2014's iPad Air 2.

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Although Apple's iPad leads the tablet market, it's still a tumbling one. Most people who want tablets already have them, and they just aren't replacing their existing tablets all that often.

The company has made multiple efforts to boost the tablet market, including the introduction of the larger iPad Pro in November 2015. It was supposed to be Apple's new flagship tablet with the added capabilities that came with its Pencil stylus and keyboard accessory, but has failed to generate much excitement as a replacement for laptops.

The company released a smaller iPad Pro a year ago with a 9.7-inch display, but it too did little to halt slowing tablet sales. While both tablets came with an A9X chip, embedded with an M9 coprocessor, it wasn't enough for buyers.

Even as the iPad Pro jumped into Apple's growing arsenal of devices, iPad sales dropped for the 12th consecutive quarter in the final three months of 2016.

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