According to a DigiTimes article on Friday, Apple is planning to release a new 9.7″ iPad that will cost even less than last year’s new 9.7″ model. The target price that they give is $259, which is a full $70 below the current iPad’s price. While it may seem natural to assume that this article is talking about a simple price reduction, DigiTimes hammers home the fact that this device is “new” and aimed at the value tablet market.
The issue with this rumor is that it goes against just about everything we know about Apple. I’ll give you that last year’s 9.7″ was a departure from the norm. However, while it may be quite a bit less expensive than previous base model 9.7″ iPads at $329, it it was never meant to compete with cheap tablets from the likes of Samsung and Amazon. It was meant to provide a lower-cost option than the iPad Pro that was also more differentiated from the Pro line than the iPad Air 2 was. In my opinion, Apple was very successful on both counts, and the sales figures agree.
However, while the iPad was a departure from the norm, it still fit Apple’s strategy and it definitely delivered a solid profit margin. They already had to make noticeable tradeoffs in both features and size to get the price where it is now, but they kept enough to make it feel like a good quality device for those who would be upgrading to it. I find it unlikely that they would cut deeper into the feature set to drop an extra $70, and I think it’s even less likely that they will just drop the price to chase cheap tablets like the Kindle Fire line.
If you think about it, Apple has never really done this. Even when they joined in on the smaller tablet trend with the iPad Mini, they still did it at a higher price point. With last year’s new iPad, they just made enough trade-offs to create a more orderly lineup and spur more upgrades through a reasonable price break. I have a hard time believing that they will ever abandon their stance on staying out of the value device market. Why go against this philosophy now, when sales figures tell us that their new strategy for the iPad is working? With that being the case, I definitely have my doubts about this particular rumor of a $259 9.7″ iPad.
If you are looking for a good value on an Apple tablet, a better bet is to keep your eyes open through the holidays. There have been some good sales with the iPad showing up new between $50 and $70 off. Between sales and BestBuy Open Box (which still comes with an Apple warranty), you are more likely to find a great deal than a new cheaper iPad model any time soon.
What do you think of a potential $259 9.7″ iPad? Do you think this rumor has legs, or do you agree with me and think this news is probably DOA? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.