Since Apple introduced the iPad in 2007, the tablet has evolved from its role as a novelty item to a business-critical tool for enterprises around the world. iPads empower workforces with powerful, desktop-level performance while maintaining the level of portability and ease-of-use they have come to expect with their smartphones.
With five iPad models available today, it can be difficult to know which your business should invest in. In this post, we'll walk you through what sets them apart from one another, helping you make the best decision for a more agile workforce.
iPad Pro, 12.9-inch
By far Apple's largest tablet to date, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is built for power users looking for desktop-level performance out of their tablet. The introductory model in Apple's new "Pro" lineup for iPad, this device was built with the enterprise user in mind, boasting a number of features designed specifically to maximize productivity. First of all, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was the first iOS device to support Split View. With a display as wide as the iPad mini is tall, the large tablet has room to run two apps side-by-side in their native layout. Powered by the A9 chip, Apple's fastest mobile processor to date, the iPad Pro also has the internals multitask without sacrificing performance.
What further sets the iPad Pro apart is the slew of productivity-boosting accessories Apple released alongside it. Apple's new pressure-sensitive stylus, the $99 Apple pencil, is only compatible with the iPad Pro, making it the ideal model for artists and designers. Cupertino also offers a Smart Keyboard, which connects to the tablet through a Smart Connector only found on Pro-level iPads. Together with the high-performing tablet, these accessories give the iPad Pro a serious case to be a tablet that truly can replace your laptop.
iPad Pro, 9.7-inch
The most recent iPad to come out of Cupertino, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro gives business users a smaller – albeit equally as powerful – alternative to the massive original iPad Pro. While the two models share many of the same functions, there are a few key differences that set the two enterprise-level tablets apart. To begin with, the smaller iPad Pro costs $200 less than the 12.9-inch version at each configuration. The slightly newer 9.7-inch model also boasts an updated display and camera, capable of capturing and displaying higher-quality images.
Perhaps one of the biggest differentiators, however, does not come from Apple itself, but from Microsoft. Many business users will likely want to access and create documents in Microsoft's Office suite. One little-known nuance is that the software is available for free on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but not its 12.9-inch older brother. The difference comes out of Microsoft's definition of a "mobile experience" as one that takes place on a screen smaller than 10-inches. With these mobile devices allowed to download and use the software for free, that gives users of the smaller iPad Pro a chance to save on software costs.
iPad Air 2
Sitting just below the Pro models, the iPad Air 2 is the core of Apple's current tablet lineup. Starting at just $399, the Air 2 is far more affordable than the Pro models, making it the ideal choice for business users who may not need the fancy new technology of Apple's highest-end tablets. But don't get us wrong, the Air 2 is a powerful machine nonetheless. Packed full of some of Apple's most advanced mobile hardware, the year-old Air 2 is even faster than this year's mini 4 model, according to MacWorld. With an A8 processor and 2GB of RAM, the Air 2 is built for speed, making iOS 9 feel right at home on the larger device, even for users used to interacting with it on their iPhones. So, unless Split View or the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories seem essential, we recommend the iPad Air 2 as the most versatile iPad for its price point.
iPad mini 4
Starting at the same cost as the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4 is Apple's most portable tablet. Its 8-inch screen is slightly larger than the mini 2, but the device still manages to be Cupertino's lightest and thinnest iPad. Packed into that 8-inch screen are the same number of pixels as the 9.7-inch Air 2, giving its non-glare screen an incredible vibrancy. Plus, although it is slightly slower than the Air 2, MacWorld reports the difference isn't large, which is impressive for such a small form factor. The mini 4 can also run Split View, which the Air 2 cannot. That being said, the feature's multitasking capabilities are nowhere near as effective on such a small screen. All things considered, the iPad mini 4 offers a beautiful, fast experience for users that value portability over screen size.
iPad mini 2
As the entry-level iPad, the iPad mini 2 doesn't offer much much the others cannot – except for price. Starting at just $269, the mini 2 is more than $100 less than the mini 4. Practically speaking, this puts the cellular-capable mini 2 at the same price point as the Wi-Fi-only mini 4 or Air 2, making it a cost-effective option for businesses that require their teams to have connectivity wherever they are in the field. If your organization only needs iPads for basic functions, such as enabling a mobile point-of-sale system or running a single, custom application in the field, the iPad mini 2 could be enough to get the job done without stretching your budget.