iPad Models: What’s in a Name?

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The new iPad isn’t new anymore; in fact it’s not even on sale anymore. The newer new iPad is the iPad 4th generation. No wait, it’s the retina iPad. Those of us who bought its predecessor now own the old new iPad, or is it the retina iPad 3rd gen? No, that sounds absolutely wrong. How did the iPad naming convention get so crazy on us?

When Steve Jobs first unveiled Apple’s ‘magical, revolutionary’ tablet it had a simple, catchy little name: iPad. Despite all the jokes about other sorts of pads, the name was a great fit in the iDevices lineup and seemed to fit the device quite nicely.

A year later a new, improved model launched – and the name stayed simple: it was the iPad 2.

Then in March of this year, we saw the release of the latest, greatest iPad right on the annual release schedule – but the naming for the magical tablet went a bit off the rails, or perhaps in a new direction. I remember following  the announcement event for this one and I, like lots of others, kept thinking ‘when are they going to say the name of it?’. Because throughout the unveiling event they constantly referred to it as ‘the new iPad’ – not iPad 3 or iPad HD or any of the other names that had seemed like obvious choices for the 3rd gen iPad with the amazing new retina display. So we all thought they were holding back the new name for some odd reason.

The event ended and it was still just the new iPad, which seemed quite odd. For starters, if Apple carried on with a yearly release cycle, then in 2013 would we have ‘the newer iPad’? And would 2012’s model be the old new iPad, or the almost new iPad? Then of course these new iPads started shipping and the box they came in just said iPad, not ‘new’ iPad – and the consensus seemed to be that Apple would likely stick with just iPad. As with their Mac PCs, iPads wouldn’t need numbers anymore just as we don’t have a MacBook Pro 2 or an iMac 4. Fair enough.

And then … we had the surprising release of the another new standard sized iPad alongside the iPad mini earlier this month: the iPad 4th generation.

iPad 4th gen

Oops, no – it’s the iPad with Retina display on the Apple online site. This new iPad replaces the old new iPad released earlier in the year.

Many people think the release of the iPad 4th generation signals a new autumn release cycle for the iPad. Others reckon Apple may just be ramping up the number of releases per year for the iPad lineup. We’ll see how that pans out next year.

Maybe we’ll also see how the iPad naming convention is going to shape up during 2013. Perhaps we will start following similar conventions to those used with Macs – and talking of them as late 2012 iPad or similar.

Because right now the naming is more than a little strange in places. The original iPad, iPad 2, and iPad mini are straightforward enough and easy to identify. The two standard-sized iPads released this year are another story. I think I’m going to go with calling them the iPad 3 and iPad 4 from here on, just to try to keep it a little simpler – but they may also be referred to as the early 2012 iPad, late 2012 iPad, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, original retina iPad and so on.

What do you all think of iPad naming? What should next year’s model or models be called?

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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5 thoughts on “iPad Models: What’s in a Name?

  1. So my ‘New’ ipad was delivered last week, how do I know if I have received the 3rd or 4th generation?

    • Easiest way is to look at its connector port. If it has the long-time Apple standard 30-pin port then it is the iPad 3 released in March of this year (which you would have had to have ordered prior to 11/2). If it has the new, smaller Lightning port then it’s an iPad 4 / 4th gen.

  2. The ipad 3 may well be the last ipad I buy. I’ve enjoyed ipads 1 and 3, but really want flash, usb and sd card input.

    • For USB and sd reader buy the Camera Connection Kit. That is how you make the iPad’s use those components

  3. I think the next model in 2013 should be call the Brand New iPad. Consecutive releases can be called the Magical New iPad, the Revolutionary New iPad, or the Insanely Great New iPad. What’s in a name ;)