At an education-focused event in Chicago, Apple has announced its latest tablet: a new, low-cost 9.-7-inch iPad, with added support for the Apple Pencil. At the same time, it's updating its Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps for iPad to work with stylus input as well.

Before today, Apple was selling four iPads – the high-end iPad Pro, in either a 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch size, the standard 9.7-inch iPad, and the largely forgotten 7.9-inch iPad mini. Besides the sizes, the Pro models differed from the standard iPads in terms of the quality of their displays, and their support for the Apple Pencil.

Now at least one of those distinctions is gone. The new 9.7-inch iPad unveiled today features the A10 Fusion chip, an 8 MP rear camera, and 10 hours of battery life (according to Apple), so while the processor gets a bump over last year's version, the other internal specs are largely the same.

Touch ID and the Home button remain in place, as do the blocky bezels, so there's no Face ID here – we might have to wait for the next iPad Pro refresh for that.

At today's event Apple also made much of the augmented reality capabilities now built into iOS and how they could be used in educational apps. With Chromebooks making significant inroads into the education market, Apple must feel it's time to step up its game.

As for the iWork updates, these are "coming soon" Apple says. One of the tricks supported by the new apps and the Apple Pencil will be "Smart Annotations," where teachers can mark up changes in real-time while students continue to make notes.

More software is on the way to help teachers on students, Apple also announced today. There's Schoolwork, for helping teachers assign and track projects, and give out handouts, and Apple Teacher, a learning program for teachers available online. Students are being given an iCloud boost too – they now get 200 GB of storage free, rather than the regular 5 GB given to everyone else.

The price of this new entry-level iPad hasn't changed from last year: schools can pick them up for a starting price of US$299 each, while the rest of us will pay $329 and up. The Apple Pencil is still a separate buy, costing $89 (a $10 reduction) for schools, though Apple did reveal that alternative third-party styluses are also on the way. The refreshed iPad is available now, direct from Apple.

View gallery - 5 images