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Tablet Tuesday: New Apple iPads vs. Nokia Lumia 2520 vs. Microsoft Surface 2

**Editor’s Note: More interested in handsets than tablets? Click here for our list of September’s hottest selling smartphones or here for our top 10 list of best smartphones in 2013 (so far).**

If you’ve waited to get at tablet for your business or just for fun at home your options increased quite a bit on Tuesday.

Apple’s new iPads will steal the most headlines. The Silicon Valley giant unveiled its new flagship tablet, which it’s calling iPad Air. The 9.7-inch device has a faster processor and better camera than last year’s model. Most significantly, the Air lives up to its name, tipping the scales at just one pound nearly 30 percent lighter than the 2012 version. It’s also 20 percent thinner. You can get it in silver and space grey.

You’ll pay $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad Air; those compatible with cellular networks start at $629. If you want 32GB of storage, you’ll pay an extra $100. You can get as much as 128GB if you want to shell out $799 (Wi-Fi-only) or $929 (cellular-connected). The Air is available in 40 countries beginning Nov. 1.

iPad created an entirely new mobile computing experience, and the new iPad Air is another big leap ahead. It is so thin, light and powerful, once you hold one in your hand you will understand what a tremendous advancement this is,” said Philip Schiller, Apples senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

Apple also introduced its second iPad mini. This version of the 7.9-inch device comes with the company’s sharper Retina display and the upgraded processor. Prices start at $399 (Wi-Fi-only) and $529 (cellular). The new mini goes on sale sometime in November.

Apple is consolidating its tablet product line. Only the new iPads, the iPad 2 and the original iPad mini are available. The company cut $100 off the price of the old mini. The base model of the iPad 2 will go for $399.

This is the clearest statement Apple could have made that it is only interested in competing in the premium tablet space,” noted Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum. “The yawning gap between the specs of the cheaper iPad mini and iPad 2 and the new iPads signifies that it is only willing to compete at the lower price points with older models. This leaves a huge chunk of the tablet market unserved by Apple while others such as Google, Amazon and a raft of others aggressively target the sub-$400 market. This reinforces our view that Apple’s share in tablets will continue to fall as Android’s share rises over the coming years.”

Also new is something T-Mobile USA customers will enjoy. Their carrier will offer iPads for the first time.

Not to be outdone, Nokia made news on Tuesday by unveiling its first Windows-based tablet, the Lumia 2520.

The 2520 comes with 4G LTE support and gives users a sizable 10.1-inch touchscreen, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Continuing Nokia’s tradition of solid cameras, its 6.7-inch, wide-angle, rear-facing lens is better than average when comparing tablets. It comes in a variety of colors, including cyan, red, black and white. It runs on Windows 8.1 RT, Microsoft’s most up-to-date tablet operating system. Perhaps most attractive is that it gives users access to the Microsoft Office suite. The 2520 is expected to cost you $499 without a subsidy.

Some analysts are concerned about the viability of the 2520 in a crowded marketplace, particularly considering that Nokia is not offering a Wi-Fi-only version. Throw in the fact that smartphones that are getting larger and tablets are shrinking in size, and you raise another concern.

” … operators could struggle to subsidize the Lumia 2520. Large form-factor tablets are often perceived as secondary devices by the consumer: Surveys show that owners of 10-inch tablets use them mostly in their homes and often leave them at home, with Wi-Fi as the preferred connectivity choice,” said Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “This behavior is largely associated with the tablets large form-factor, which doesnt always make them convenient for the user to carry.”

Also new from Nokia is the Lumia 1520, its first smartphone that truly fits into the “phablet” category. Coming in at six inches, the 1520 features a 20MP camera; a powerful, 2.2GHz, quad-core processor; 32GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Look for an unsubsidized price tag of $749 when it goes on sale later this fall.

Last, but not least, Microsoft has delivered on its promise with a new Surface tablet. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant unveiled the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, as well as an expanded portfolio of Surface accessories, now available at Microsoft retail stores, online and via third-party retailers.

Updates to the tablets include improvements to processing power and battery life, display and camera resolution, and the kickstand now featuring a second, wider angle so its more comfortable to use Surface on your lap or at your desk, Microsoft said.

Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB models, starting at $449.

“Microsoft’s U.S.$1 billion failure with the original Surface means a big question mark hangs over the Surface 2,” noted Yankee Group research VP Wally Swain, commenting specifically on a New York Times report, ahead of Tuesday’s announcements. “Nokia has eschewed larger formats until now, and the forthcoming purchase of the company’s device division by Microsoft raises questions about launching a device that will compete directly with the Surface 2 (including the question ‘Why?’).”

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