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Apple’s new iPad with Pencil support is just $299 for schools

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Apple introduced a new iPad today at its education event in Chicago. Rumors of a new, cheaper iPad emerged recently, and Apple is making it official with a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. The updated iPad will be available in Apple stores today, in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish. The tablet will include Touch ID, an HD FaceTime camera, 10 hours of battery life, an 8-megapixel rear camera, LTE option, and Apple’s A10 Fusion chip.

Apple previously lowered the price of its 9.7-inch iPad last year, with a base model starting at $329, but today it’s going a step further for students. Apple is offering the new iPad to schools priced at $299 and to consumers for $329. The optional Apple Pencil will be priced at $89 for schools and the regular $99 price for consumers. This is obviously not the $259 budget iPad pricing that was rumored, but it does make it a little more affordable to students and teachers.

Still, an iPad with an Apple Pencil and keyboard is going to run close to $450, which is more expensive than cheaper Chromebooks that are starting to support styluses. Google is also starting to introduce Chrome OS tablets, so a $299 iPad could soon come under even greater pressure in classrooms.

This new iPad will be a key addition to Apple’s lineup as it seeks to fight back against Google’s Chromebooks. Apple’s iPads and Mac laptops reigned supreme in US classrooms only five years ago, accounting for half of all mobile devices shipped to schools in 2013. Apple has now slipped behind both Google and Microsoft in US schools, and Chromebooks are dominating classrooms with nearly 60 percent of shipments in the US.

Apple’s vice president of product marketing, Greg Joswiak, revealed there are 200,000 apps made for education and that Apple’s most popular iPad is the 9.7-inch model. Apple is attempting to capitalize on these stats with its new iPad that supports the Apple Pencil. Apple originally introduced its Pencil stylus nearly two years ago, but it only worked on the more expensive iPad Pro model and it was sold separately at $99. It will still be sold separately with this new iPad, but it now works on this cheaper (for students) model.

Apple demonstrated Smart Annotation, which allows teachers to mark up reports in Pages directly, and the company promised new versions of its iWork apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Apple Pencil. Teachers will also be able to use Macs to create digital books for their classrooms, and Apple is building a books creator into the Pages app. Apple is also introducing Schoolwork, a service for teachers to assign students work. Schoolwork will compete with Google’s Classroom software.

Alongside the education-focused features, Apple also highlighted some augmented reality apps for the updated iPad, including a Froggipedia app that lets students virtually dissect frogs using an Apple Pencil.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, the stylus won’t ship with the iPad, but there will be third-party options. Apple revealed Logitech is creating its own Crayon for the iPad priced at $49. Apple is also boosting its free iCloud offering from 5GB to 200GB for students, making it way more affordable to use Apple’s service to backup iPads and use Apple’s photo services. Comparatively, Google’s G Suite for Education includes unlimited cloud storage, and regular Chromebooks come with 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years.

All of Apple’s software and hardware improvements could help tempt students and teachers to adopt the iPad more widely. Overall iPad sales declined for three straight years, and pricing and complexity of managing iPads have been key factors in the rise of Chromebooks in schools. A $30 hardware price cut might not be enough on its own to convince schools, but if Apple keeps delivering on its software features, then it might just have a unique way to fight back against Google’s Chromebook domination.