Apple to introduce new iPads amid challenges from all sides

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is hosting a media event at 1 p.m. Eastern Time today at its headquarters in Cupertino Calif., where it is expected to unveil new iPad tablets. The company already unintentionally leaked images of what appeared to be two new iPads--the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2--in an official guide to its iOS 8 software. The new iPads are reportedly going to be thinner, lighter and faster than their predecessors, and Apple will reportedly offer a new gold-colored variant. The tablets are also expected to incorporate Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner and Apple Pay, the company's recently announced mobile payments program.

A key question though, as the New York times notes, is whether that will be enough to revive Apple's growth in the tablet market. Although the iPad is still the best-selling tablet in the market, it has been losing share to lower-cost alternatives running Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android software. Analysts say some customers do not want to pay a premium for the iPad and are content with a "good-enough" tablet experience, especially if they are using it merely for media consumption. At the same time, the iPad, and especially the iPad mini, are being besieged by competition from phablets, which could be depressing iPad sales as customers choose one device instead of two. A more existential question, as the NYT notes, is whether Apple can revive interest in tablet apps and specific use cases for the iPad that consumers can't experience with a smartphone, phablet or laptop.

According to research firm IDC, the global tablet market grew 11 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2014, with shipments reaching 49.3 million units. However, while Apple still leads the market, it saw its market share slip year-over-year from 33 percent to 26.9 percent in the second quarter. Rival Samsung Electronics saw its market share fall too, from 18.8 percent to 17.2 percent. Meanwhile, lower-cost rivals Lenovo and Asus gained share.

Check back with FierceWireless this afternoon for news from Apple's iPad announcement.

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