Apple today announced the newest iPad, dubbed the iPad Air to, one imagines, the continued frustration of those who would just like some simply serializable numbers (iPad versions, for the record, go: “iPad”, “iPad 2”, “new iPad”, and “iPad Air.”). The iPad Air is, as far as we know now, basically an internals upgrade plus a diet, getting smaller in every dimension and dropping to 1 pound in mass.
In the least surprising move ever, the iPad Mini got a “retina” display (I don’t think we have any word on what resolution constitutes a “retina” this time, but in any case it’s the same resolution now as the larger iPads), and a pretty beefy internals upgrade.
Also, Apple left the iPad 2 (weirdly) and the old Mini still on the market, leading to an iPad lineup that looks like this:
old Mini ($299)
new Mini ($399)
iPad 2 ($399)
iPad Air ($499)
Plus, presumably, essentially infinite additional cost for more storage and cell connectivity.
Some comments here:
- The Mini continues to be the right form factor. I think. We’ll see if the lighter Air makes 9.7″ screens make sense, but I don’t think it probably does, because the basic problem with the 10″ tablets was their lack of pocketability, not their mass.
- The older products (the iPad2 and the old Mini) are fairly insultingly priced. Really, Apple? You want me to pay $300 for the Mini which was a pretty bad deal compared to a Nexus 7 when they both came out, and is now that much more obsolete? If you’re looking to spend less than $400, you should look at a Nexus 7 — it’s a ridiculously better tablet in the $200-$300 price range. The iPad2 doesn’t seem as bad, but why would you want it when you could get a new Mini for the same price? The new Mini has beefier internals and the same screen resolution. The smaller screen is an advantage, not a disadvantage.
- So we’re looking straight at the new Mini with its $400 price point, which is disappointingly higher than the earlier $320 price point for the old Mini right out of the gate.
- All this said, as Apple pointed out in their presentation, they own 80% of the tablet market — it seems likely that most tablet users either are committed to the iOS ecosystem (but why? We know that people aren’t that committed when it comes to smartphones), or are unaware that high-quality Android tablets exist, possibly due the the raft of low-quality Android tablets that originally tried unsuccessfully to compete with the iPad.
- Apple still hasn’t come up with anything compellingly novel in its gadget line-up since, basically, the original iPad. The iPad line-up still had more places logically to go (the Retina Mini being a particularly obvious lack), so it doesn’t feel as dusty as the iPhone, but nobody is trumpeting a market-defining feature here. iPads have always been great tablets, and they will continue to be great tablets, but they’re just evolving at this point. And Apple can not continue to be the company it was if it can’t dominate new markets.