Meanwhile the iPad Pro's price no longer feels like such a stretch, as the feature walk from entry-level tablet to premium is far clearer.
The new iPad mini is now Apple Pencil compatible.
The announcements Monday come a week before the company rolls out a media and entertainment bundle created to compete with Netflix Inc.
The new 7.9-inch iPad mini is a major upgrade and also comes with Apple Pencil support - a big addition to the tiny tablet - and the A12 Bionic chip, delivering three times the performance and nine times faster graphics.
In addition to Apple Pencil support, it packs a larger 10.5-inch display.
The iPad mini, a device that some consumers have been seeking an upgrade for, continues to use a 7.9-inch screen.
The new iPad Air keeps the 10.5-inch display but gets a speed bump with Apple's A12 Bionic chip with Apple's Neural Engine. For instance, the iPad Air has a home button with a fingerprint sensor, while the latest Pro ditches that to make more room for the screen. While thin and light (1 pound, 6.1 millimeters thick), the new Air looks more like the previous model than the iPad Pros released a year ago, and the device has kept the standard 3.5mm analog headphone port instead of going USB-C. Availability of models and colors depends upon region. They both have the option of Silver, Space Grey and Gold.
In the year ended September 2018, Apple made about $19 billion in revenue from iPad sales, a very small portion compared with the almost $167 billion it generated from the sale of iPhones. Apple's most compact iPad is now available for pre-order, and already selling like hotcakes before its release in stores next week.
Apple Inc, in a surprise move on Monday, launched a new 10.5-inch iPad Air and updated its iPad Mini ahead of a March 25 event where it is expected to launch a television and video service. It's also planning to announce the next major iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV software updates on June 3.
No luck on a USB-C port, however, as the Mini and Air are still using Apple's proprietary Lightning port.
So with the iPad Air, you're now getting nearly everything the impressive iPad Pro 10.5 offered for a lot less - and if you need the raw power as well as a top-end screen then the higher-end iPad Pro range still exists for you to sample. It typically updates the cheaper versions in March and the Pro models in the second half of the year.
Alongside these new devices, Apple has released a Smart Cover and Leather Smart Cover for the iPad Air, and a Smart Cover for the iPad mini.