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iPad – 1 step away from brilliant

Last week, Apple didn’t have their best day at the office. Why are they so confused?

iPads confuse me
image courtesy of author

It could be special

iPad is over 10 years old now. Its history is that of a child pop-star, that went off the rails. When Steve Jobs first launched it, the initial shock of ‘it’s just a large iPhone’, was soon replaced with an excitement, that this could be the future of personal computing.

Potential customers, bought in to it, and clamoured to be part of this new wave of Apple devices. Apple responded by expanding the range, to meet with demand. Soon enough, we had mini, Air & Pro models added to the iPad range, and the future seemed rosy.

And then…

What went wrong?

I wrote last week about the confusion that is the current iPad line-up. In a word, it is bloated. The range, as it stands, is tripping over itself, and is crying out for someone to come in and give the iPad cupboard a clean sweep. It’s as if it almost needs a reset. Apple has always been adamant at keeping the Mac’s and iPads totally separate in their intended marketplace. Has that stance, eventually, caught up and hurt them?

At it’s core, iPad is essentially an, affordable, portable method of working, but the range now, is drifting from those core values. Last week’s ‘updates’, did nothing to help.

The supposed, new, base-level iPad, isn’t! That’s the first strike. It is the second-cheapest iPad. iPad 10 also took a pretty hefty hit on price, too – up $130 from iPad 9. But, what is there to entice buyers to spend that extra money?

A marginally larger screen, a newer chip, colours, USB-C, and 5G are the obvious, headlines. The display is the same spec, and brightness, all-be-it with, a marginally better resolution and iPad 10s screen is laminated. Other than that, though, it is just about like-for-like.

Too exclusive

But here, is where the pricing begins to get confusing. Adding the Magic Keyboard Folio to the price of the iPad itself, will weigh you in at $700. For that money, you could buy an iPad Air 5th Generation, or for a bit more yet, an 11-inch iPad Pro 4th Generation. Both of those iPads come with the M series chips inside, rather than the A series Bionic chips. And, with both of these iPads, you could use existing keyboards, if you already owned them.

The strange decision over the pencil continues to baffle one and all. The move to give iPad 10 a USB-C port was a welcome one, if somewhat forced by the upcoming, new EU legislation. But, what they gave with one hand, Apple swiftly took away with the other.

The only Apple Pencil that pairs with iPad 10 is the 1st Generation, which is charged and paired via lightning. If you buy a new Apple Pencil today, the USB-C to Apple Pencil Adapter will be included in the box. But, if already own one, then you will have to buy this adapter, which costs another $9. And, as I mentioned in Friday’s Appleviews round-up, it is already on back-order. And don’t think you could simply use one of your lightning cables as a work-around, as the adapter is a male to female adapter.

Undoubtedly, the best thing that happened to iPad 10, was that it finally has the camera placed where it should always have been – on the long edge. Oh, and that exclusive Folio keyboard offers up a full set of function keys too.

And the Pro?

Well, this was the smallest update seen in iPad that I can recall.

Those last two points, I made about iPad 10 – the camera and function keys, did not make their way to the iPad Pro.

Now, I get that the 10 will probably easily outsell the Pro. So, by putting those features on the more basic iPad, it will be delivering it to a much wider audience, but at the same time, it is almost turning it’s back on the higher spending, loyal Pro users. Confusing, right? I have heard the points made this weekend, that where the camera would sit on the Pro, is where the connector sits for it Apple Pencil Generation 2. But this is Apple. If the will existed, surely, they could have facilitated the move – even in a year when re-tooling was not an option.

But, the only changes to iPad Pro turned out to be an improved Wi-Fi connectivity and the M2 Chip. That was it. Oh, and the Hover feature for Apple Pencil, niche as it is, I guess that was an upgrade too. Yet, I am scraping the barrel here to bring you anything else. No MagSafe and no other design changes.

Many devout iPad users had hoped that this cycle would see the display on the 11-inch iPad Pro change to that of it’s bigger brother – the XDR mini LED panel, but nope, not this year sir! Even the brightness remains unchanged at 600 nits.

This year, the iPad Pro was just about overlooked, leaving existing owners little, or no reason to upgrade. And for those, like me, considering entering the world of iPad, there is little to tempt me.

The way forward

You see, what should have been a glittering, shiny future for Apple’s iPad, has been muddied, and confused.

There surely should be only one keyboard & pencil for all iPads (mini to one side). That would be a good starting place in sorting out this mess. Then, the range itself? Well, I mentioned in that same Appleviews last Friday, that, essentially, a three-tier range is the way forward –

  • iPad (just one model)
  • iPad mini
  • iPad Pro

By the time you start to add in Wi-Fi or cellular options, storage configs, and screen sizes for the Pro, that is still a huge array from which to choose.

Budgets would be covered as well, with prices, for base models then, ranging from $500 – $1200 for the Pro’s. Imagine, just for a moment, what a lovely, simple model line-up that could be? What was the Air, could now be swept up, with higher spec’d iPad 10th gen iPads.

The base 10 could start with the Bionic chip, so still suitable for kids and some students. Then, mid – higher priced 10s could have the M chips, with better screen and storage options available.

The mini would remain the king of the pure, content consumption iPads, perfect for what they are designed for.

The Pro’s could then receive all the latest and best spec’s, marking it out as the iPad for high end, creative challenges. If OLED is a serious consideration for iPad, then that would be one for the Pro’s first. A 14-inch Pro option? A nice and clear choice. You’d just know where you stand.

I guess, apart from that, the only other range that may need to be introduced down the line, could be a foldable range, if that ever becomes a reality.

Apple still seem resolute in not bringing Mac & iPad closer together. Although I see the point, that they could suffer in losing sales from those that buy both iPad & Mac, in reality, I don’t get that one, though. In fact, they could even gain sales if iPad were to, finally, be a clearly understood tablet. If the operating system were one that buyers know, and trust, more may be willing to stick with an Apple tablet, rather than look at Microsoft, or Samsung alternatives.

Stage Manager sounds almost doomed before it’s launched. Although it will still be shipped this week with macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16, internally, there seems little trust in it, or belief in its future. Multitasking and iPad remain an anathema.

Wrapping up

I really do hope that Apple get this issue with iPad sorted out.

I should be a perfect target for them, but even I can’t quite get my head around the range, or what iPad would suit my needs best.

Apple has a gem on their hands here. Rather than letting it languish for too much longer, let’s hope someone can come in, and be given free rein to shake things up.

iPad should be great – it’s a case of watch this space, I guess.

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