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iPad’s time to shine

With the promise of two new iPads coming soon is this the iPads time to make the headlines – at last

iPad Pro in grey

Writing this today is either good or bad timing as the new iPads may be announced in the next few hours – but then again they may not…such is the game that Apple leads us on.

But new iPads to one side for just a moment I wonder if now may not be the time to take a belt and braces look at the iPad range and see if we can’t sort it out and streamline it a bit.

When Steve Jobs originally sat down in the armchair and started to noodle on the first iPad it was clear what his intentions were. Back then in his mind, this was a consumer device made for easy use on the sofa in the evening to just browse and maybe email from.

A lot has changed since 2010 though…

Letting iPad be itself

The range of iPads has become confusing and bloated.

Did Jobs ever envisage a keyboard and a pencil for the iPad? Who knows but you have to wonder in its current guise is iPad trying to be what it should never be? Are we chasing the dragon of trying to make the iPad into a Mac replacement and if so – why?

The Mac will always be the heavy-lifter or the workhorse. Everything about Mac screams ‘work on me’. The size of the displays, the keyboards, the physical desktop and easy file management. Getting work done on a Mac – pretty much any in the range is a cinch.

I spend my day on Mac and the level of productivity is just ridiculous. The batteries go on and on and until someone mentioned fan noise to me earlier today, I’d forgotten all about that – working in silence and just being able to focus on the task at hand is bliss.

I’m writing this piece today on the latest addition to my lineup – the M3 15-inch MacBook Air with Stage Manager turned on – no distractions and just getting my work done. By the way, it’s the first time I’ve tried Stage Manager on here and it immediately makes sense.

macOS makes sense and we all know what to expect – and it’s pretty clear that Apple doesn’t want to morph macOS and iPadOS into one. They’ve had plenty of chances to go that route and have chosen not to take it at every opportunity. And I for one don’t want a touchscreen Mac – just so you know.

I guess being a Mac user is what has almost turned me away from iPads – I’ve felt nothing lacking or the need to explore any other options – the Mac answers all my demands.

I’m spoiled with choice – having an M1 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro, an M3 iMac and now this lovely 15-inch MacBook Air I have a Mac to suit all my work needs.

Tempted

Yet this year, the prospect of a new iPad has got me properly excited.

I’m not too sure why the bug has bitten me so hard over the past few weeks either. Historically when I’ve gone to my local Apple Store I’ve never taken a second look at iPads – but that’s changed.

Touching, holding and having a play on them has piqued my curiosity – have I been missing out all these years after all?

The speculation of a large 13-inch OLED iPad Pro with M3 Apple silicon caught my attention. If the rumours of the new ‘Pro’ Magic Keyboard turn out to be right then it will also make this new iPad Pro feel more like a workstation.

Supposedly the trackpad is getting bigger and it’s going to be aluminium too. Ok, it may not be what Jobs had in mind for the iPad – but making the Pro premium and aimed at those creatives wanting to carry out ‘proper’ work on it makes sense.

But the main thrust of this piece is to have a look at the iPad range as a whole and see if we can’t tidy it up a bit.

Diet time

With my newfound interest in iPads I’ve spent some time looking over the range – and the first thing that struck me is that it’s a bloody mess. iPads seem to be tripping over themselves – and the same is true for the accessories.

As it stands the range consists of the iPad mini, two iPads (9th and 10th Gen), an iPad Air and the two big boys – the iPad Pros. For someone like me that’s confusing enough but imagine trying to explain that to someone that simply wants to buy an iPad.

I think we can simplify things though.

First up we need to drop the 9th Gen iPad – yes it may make for a very appealing entry price point of £369 but it just doesn’t have much use being in the lineup.

So, my first shout would be to start the lineup simply with iPad which would be two devices only – the 8.3-inch mini as we now know it and the 10.9-inch iPad. Much like with iPhone and the iPad Pros you have different sizes sitting in one category. These two iPads would both have Liquid Retina Displays and both use the same A15 Bionic chip. Why the mini is £70 more than the larger 10.9-inch model I’m not so sure – maybe it’s the anti-reflective coating it has.

I think Apple needs to up the base storage though – there is no way 64 GB is enough even for light consumption – I think we should shoot for 128 GB and 256 GB options on these entry iPads.

For the Pencil – the 1st Gen Pencil should be dropped so that we just have the new Apple Pencil Gen 3 that’s coming and the much cheaper and basic option of the Apple Pencil USB-C and all we need for the keyboard is the Smart Keyboard Folio for these two iPads. I think we could afford to wave goodbye to the entry-level Smart Keyboard.

Nice and simple with prices starting from £499 for the 10.9-inch model and £569 for the 8.3-inch mini.

Air time

Next the Air – the rumours seem convinced that we’ll be getting a 12.9-inch iPad Air which if true would fit in nicely with this dream lineup. As per the iPad range, the Air range will now have two sizes – the existing 10.9-inch model and the new 12.9-inch one.

Again here the storage needs to be improved and as these Airs will be used for meaningful work perhaps we could add in a third tier – so we could go for a 256 GB model a 512 GB option and then a 1 TB model.

Apple will always want there to be a clear dividing line between this mid-range iPad and the Pro models and those changes will come about due to them only running the M2 chip (or always being the one behind the Pros) and the Airs will only use the Liquid Retina Displays.

The accessories will be the same options I just mentioned for the iPad range keeping everything slim, tight and simple.

Prices will start at £669 with the new 12.9-inch Air starting at £799 possibly.

One for the pros

And the Pros take care of themselves.

The 128 GB storage option needs to bite the dust but the addition of OLED, the larger 13-inch option and M3 silicon leaves these as the iPad undisputed king for those that need it. We can also leave the RAM options on iPad Pro too – the 8 GB and 16 GB options make sense.

It’s hard to be certain of how much extra Apple will need to charge for the OLED Pro iPads – I’ve heard all sorts of wild speculation from leaving prices unchanged to jumping by an enormous £500. Playing it safe maybe a conservative guess would be £150 on top – so £1050 and £1400…

iPad made simple

I think we’ve done it – what do you reckon?

Three model ranges – the iPad, Air and Pro with two screen sizes in each category.

All storage will start at 256 GB no matter what iPad you buy and you’ll still have options for cellular models if that takes your fancy. Hopefully, the cameras on all iPads can be moved to the landscape orientation too – as that’s where it should have always been anyway.

The pricing kind of makes sense now too with not too much tripping over themselves – the categories are clearly defined depending on what you are buying your iPad for and we’ve also cleaned up the iPad accessories as well – two options for the Pencil. We hear we are getting the Gen 3 soon – so we’d have that and the USB-C options and two keyboards – the Smart Keyboard Folio and the Magic Keyboard.

Wrapping up

I can’t wait to get my hands on the new iPad Pro and to find out what an iPad workflow is like.

The latest news is that the wait may be a little longer than I’d hoped though – stories are surfacing as I write this that we may not hear about the two new iPads for another week yet – Tuesday 26th March is the latest best guess.

Part of the delay is that the new models are designed to run on iPadOS 17.4 and that won’t be complete until the end of this month. By the time that OS gets sent to the factories to install it’s possible that it may even be mid-April before we can get our hands on the new hardware. 26th March announcement with models becoming available on Friday 13th April – assuming Apple are not superstitious!

The only good news is that there sounds little doubt that we are getting new iPads and accessories in the next few weeks.

Although it’ll be a bit like waiting for Christmas – the wait I’m sure will be worth it.

I’ve been going back and forth on what spec I’ll go for but I think it’ll be the 13-inch Pro with 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage.

I may be about to make a very expensive mistake – but if I’m in I want to embrace iPad life that model should future-proof me for years to come with no chance of buyer’s remorse.

And if it all goes wrong and I hate it then I could always trade it in…

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