Well, my prediction early last month that the iPad Air line would be retired was half right. The name is now gone, but I thought at the time that Apple would shift to an all Pro iPad lineup this Spring. However, thanks in part to the comments of several users of non-Pro iPads, I came to see how short-sighted that opinion was, and how many potential users it would leave behind.
Thankfully, Apple is a lot smarter than I am. As such, a lower-cost tablet still endures, just with a different name and a little different shape. However, this wasn’t all that went down yesterday. Apple made a few interesting, if low key moves, and changing up the Air 2 was just one of them. Here are a few of the highlights and interesting details from yesterday’s news.
The End of the Air
All of the rumors the last few weeks indicated that Apple would keep a lower cost 9.7″ device in the lineup, so the “new” iPad that was released wasn’t a surprise. It also wasn’t a shock that this “announcement” was little more than an update to Apple’s online store and a few comments to key press outlets. However, despite the absence of fanfare, this new device is a unique departure from the norm for Apple. They gave the iPad a processor bump and a brighter screen, but also made it closer to the size of the original iPad Air and removed the screen lamination and outer coating. Also, while the rumors of the new iPad coming in at $299 were a little off, Apple did manage to get the price down to $329 in this feature trade-off.
The combo of adding size and weight and lowering the price of a newly released device is definitely a new direction for Apple. The only time the iPad has ever increased in size from model to model was the iPad 3, and that was to accommodate the Retina Display feature. Apple going bigger and heavier in the service of lowering the price is definitely worth noting, especially in light of three years of falling iPad sales. This may disappoint some, but most of the potential buyers who care about such features will likely prefer a Pro model, anyway. In all honesty, there previously wasn’t enough separation between the Air 2 and the iPad Pro line beyond Pencil support. Now we see two distinct iPad lineups forming, which should make marketing them easier and hopefully less confusing for customers.
The Mini 4 Gets Mightier
I’m not quite sure what to make of Apple’s positioning of the Mini, and what it means for the future of this size iPad. While the outdated Mini 2 exited stage left, as expected, the Mini 4 remains. That wouldn’t be remarkable news on its own, but instead of just lowering the price of the existing 32 GB model to that of the new iPad, Apple did away with that model, made the only storage option 128 GB, and kept the price at $399. I guess this is a discount of sorts (the 32 GB model was previously $399), but it seems odd that a smaller form factor device would cost more than its new 9.7″ cousin. While the positioning of the iPad seems to clarify Apple’s product catalogue, this move makes a little less obvious sense to me. I’m sure there is a reason for this move. I’m just not sure what that reason is, yet.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if the on-again, off-again rumors of an iPad Mini Pro come to fruition after this shift in the Mini 4 specs and pricing. Apple already has two differernt iPad models at the 9.7″ size, so I don’t think this release is reason to write off a potential Mini Pro, just yet. Stay tuned.
Enjoy these Clips
There had been some recent rumors of Apple getting involved in social media again, but thankfully reality is far better than rumor in this case. Rather than go back down the path of trying to create some kind of small-scale social network as they did with Ping and more recently, Connect, Apple will be releasing a video and photo editing and arrangement app called Clips sometime in the next month. Rather than attempt to re-create what makes Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media and messaging platforms unique and popular, Apple is leveraging its on-device photos and video experience and library, and delivering an app that works with the services you already use.
This is a smart move for Apple, as it is their best way to get involved in the creation of social media “stories,” without trying to beat established players at their own game. However, there will be some built-in advantages to sharing stories with others using one of Apple’s biggest lock-in features, iMessage. Apple struck a smart balance that plays to their strengths and minimizes weaknesses.
Other things to note about Clips are the mid-cycle release of the app, which will hopefully be a continuing trend with Apple. We had the late release of Portrait Mode for the iPhone 7 Plus Camera last year and now this app. Hopefully these releases point to an Apple that is a little more iterative, and less dependent and locked into three or four defined event windows.
I think it was also a savvy decision for Apple to release Clips as a stand-alone app, rather than try to shoehorn its features into either Camera or Photos. Both of those apps are simple and easy to use, which has always been a big selling point of the iOS experience. Apple has had issues coming up with the right balance of exposing new features without negatively impacting the interface in the now VERY crowded iMessage app. Many of the effects and App Store features that came in iOS 10 are difficult to find without instructions or guidance. By making Clips a free, but separate app and UI experience, Apple avoids the issue of its features either being buried and too hard to find for those who want them, or in the way for those who don’t.
The iPad Pro lineup was conspicuously absent from yesterday’s proceedings. I think it is obvious that a new device like the 10.5″ model that is rumored would warrant its own Apple Event, even if it is smaller, or the stage is shared with new Mac releases. However, after seeing Apple’s online Store go down for updates, I was curious whether the rumored spec bumps for the 12.9″ and 9.7″ Pros might be released yesterday, as well. It is likely that these updated Pros won’t offer anything more exciting than the lower-cost iPad did in terms of changes. However, with all of the different devices and accessories that were released or upgraded yesterday, it is likely that Apple just decided to pair the 12.9 and 9.7 with the new Pro model to space things out a little bit and keep the marketing and product messaging separate.
While a few media outlets chose to use yesterday’s modest release with little or no fanfare to make a statement about how boring tablets have become (I’m looking at you CNet and Fortune), I personally think that is overstating the issue a bit. With three of four more iPad Pro devices still to be announced, almost certainly at a staged event, I don’t think we can use a rollout of such modest upgrades to draw any sweeping conclusions. Even though iPad sales are obviously in decline at the moment, the fact that Apple will have at least five, and possibly six devices available after its upcoming event gives us ample proof that they are still committed to the platform. Apple’s aggressiveness and departure from their typical device marketing and design strategies with the lower-cost iPad also show me that they are listening to what the market is saying. Hopefully a combo of the iPad with new Pros will be enough to spur some upgrade sales and turn the tide back in the right direction.
What do you guys think of the new iPad? At $329, is this a device that you would upgrade to from an older iPad? Are any iPad Air 2 users feeling let down by the new iPad’s trade-offs? How about the Mini 4 with 128 GB for $399? Is this enough to get you existing Mini users to pull the upgrade trigger? Is anyone out there excited about Clips? Let us know in the comments section below, on Flipboard, or @iPadInsightBlog.