Apple has revealed UK pricing for the iPad Air, the fifth iteration of its tablet device.
Available in 'space grey' and silver, pricing for the tablet starts at £399 for the 16GB wi-fi only model, rising to £479 for the 32GB version, £559 for the 64GB device and £639 for its highest capacity 128GB iPad Air version.
The 9.7-inch Retina display device (2,048x1,536 pixels) is thinner and lighter than the previous model, includes Apple's 64-bit A7 chip and M6 motion coprocessor which the company claims will mean some apps will run as much as five times faster. An improved battery means it should last 10 hours between charges.
UK buyers will need to add another £100 onto all models to get both wi-fi and mobile connectivity onboard — meaning the range tops out at £739 for the 128GB version, not including the additional cost of any mobile data plan. Three, for example, will be offering a £15 for 10GB a month on its SIM only one-month rolling plans.
Meanwhile, Apple is continuing to sell its older iPad 2: the 16GB iPad 2 will retail for £329, rising to £429 for the wi-fi plus 3G model.
The new iPad mini with Retina display, which Apple said will be available in November, starts at £319 for the 16GB wi-fi model, £399 for the 32GB, £479 for the 64GB device and £559 for the 128GB model.
Adding mobile connectivity again adds another £100 to each model, plus the cost of the mobile data plan. The older iPad mini also remains available, at £249 for the 16GB model and £349 for the wi-fi plus cellular model.
All of this means that Apple's product and pricing strategy remains firmly wedded to the high end, despite a profusion of cheaper Android tablets on the market — with even supermarkets getting in on the slate act now.
In contrast the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, a 10.1-inch 16GB tablet with wi-fi which can be picked up for £299, Microsoft's Windows RT powered Surface 2 starts at £359 for the 32GB model, rising to £439 for the 64GB model.
In terms of iPad mini rivals, Samsung's Tab 3 8-inch 16GB tablet is retailing at £249, while Google's Nexus 7 costs £199.
As Richard Holway, chairman of analyst TechMarketView, noted the dilemma "that Apple has is that it has steadfastly refused to produce cheaper, mass market versions of any its products. I think this is right. Stick to the high margin 'envy' high ground."
But he warned that it will "undoubtedly" mean that Apple will continue to lose market share and so developers will choose to develop apps for the Android mass market. "Over time, the real advantages that Apple still has will disappear."
Also, ZDNet's Eileen Yu points out that the premium pricing stratgy might not go down too well with price sensitive shoppers in emerging Asia Pacific markets. It's how Android players like Samsung were able to catch up to the iPhone in the smartphone market, and there are already indications the same is happening in the tablet space, she notes.