SAN FRANCISCO - Apple unveiled new iPads Tuesday as the technology giant tries to beat back rising competition from Google, Samsung and Amazon.com in the fast-growing tablet market.
Apple executive Phil Schiller introduced a new 9.7-inch tablet called iPad Air. It weighs one pound - 28% lighter than the previous mode - and is 20% thinner.
The tablet has Apple's faster A7 chip, a new camera, dual microphones and comes in silver or space grey. The 16GB Wi-Fi version costs $499 in the U.S., while versions with a cellular connection start at $629. The iPad Air will be available Nov. 1 in about 40 countries. China will be included in the initial launch for the first time.
The new iPad mini gets the crisper Retina display and the new A7 chip. It costs $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, while a cellular version starts at $529. The new iPad mini will be available later in November, Apple said, without being more specific.
Apple's announcements confirmed that the company is sticking to its high-price strategy, says Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. Apple raised the entry price for the latest iPad mini to $399 from $329, he noted.
Apple is keeping the older iPad mini and will drop the price to $299 for the entry model. It's also keeping the larger iPad 2, which will sell for $399 for the base model. However, there are a slew of cheaper, mostly Android-based tablets out there, such as Google's Nexus 7 which costs $229 with a high-resolution display.
Apple shares slipped 0.3% to close at $519.87 following the new product announcements.
"These new devices are not cheap," said Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group. "They are not going after the low end of the tablet market, which means good margins for the company."
Still, Marshall said buyers may gravitate to the lower end of Apple's new iPad range, going for 16GB Wi-Fi models rather than 64GB cellular versions.
Apple's share of the tablet market has been sliding as cheaper tablets running Google's Android operating system become more popular.
Android will have 49.6% of the worldwide tablet sector this year, while Apple will have 48.6% - making 2013 the first year Android will lead, according to Gartner estimates. In 2011, Apple's share was almost two-thirds, and Android was below 30%.
Still, there's a lot to fight for. Tablet shipments are expected to surge 43% to more than 263 million units in 2014, making it almost as big a market as PCs, Gartner estimates.
A revived iPad line is crucial for Apple, because Wall Street has begun to think of the company as a "one product" story again, Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes, wrote in a recent note to investors.
Apple unveiled new iPhones in September and the smartphones account for the largest part of the company's profit.