Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad ups the processing power and lowers the price

Apple’s got a brand new iPad this morning. The latest version of the company’s tablet is really the successor to the Air 2, announced in late 2014, but drops that bit of the name for the sake of simplicity, like the MacBook before it.

The new iPad features a 9.7-inch Retina display with improved brightness, coupled with a souped-up processor under the hood, trading the proprietary A8X for the faster A9.

Notably, it’s done so while dropping the entry-level price for the popular tablet, which now starts at $320 for the 32GB version. Stepping up to 128GB, meanwhile, will run $459, making this the cheapest tablet the company has offered thus far in this class.

The announcement comes on the heels of Samsung’s Tab S3 unveil last month at MWC. That device was priced at $600 this week, to the chagrin of many who hoped the company would offer something more competitive. Apple has taken things even further, nearly halving the price of that 9.7-inch slate.

Phil Schiller referred to the new simply titled iPad as “even more affordable” in a press announcement tied to this arrival, and it’s clear that Apple is looking to offer an entry level for those looking to finally get on board with the popular slate.

Its position appears safe at the top, however, with Apple remaining the longstanding market share leader in tablet sales as the overall category has cooled in recent years. Strategy Analytics puts the hardware maker at 13.1 percent of the global tablet market share for Q4 of last year.

A combined spec upgrade and price drop on the device that is essentially synonymous with the category for many users ought to help Apple maintain a healthy lead in tablet sales.