Amongst the initial rumours and hearsay flying around the web surrounding Apple’s most recent keynote was no hint of a new, fully-fledged iPad 4th generation. Indeed, no one seems to have expected Apple to come out with a new iPad just over half a year after the 3rd generation iPad debuted with its retina display.
Strangely enough, the iPad 4th generation (sadly, it isn’t called the iPad 4) was almost totally glossed-over as the keynote approached unveiling the iPad Mini. Of course everyone was expecting the iPad Mini and with good reason. There had been leaks upon leaks and rumours flying around for months regarding the new tiny table. But one would have at least expected Apple to spend a bit of time outlining its new head-running slate. After all, the iPad 4th generation is set to inherit the throne of the tablet world.
The 4th generation iPad is a pretty strange release all-together. While it sports a faster A6X processor that doubles the CPU and graphics speeds of the 3rd generation iPad’s A5X processor, very few other differences seem to have been implemented.
The camera doesn’t looks like it’s really changed, nor has the resolution of the Retina Display (no surprise there). There is the new dual-band WiFi connectivity and further support for non-USA 4G LTE, which admittedly can be a big plus in some countries for consumers who opt for the cellular version. But other than that things seem pretty much the same. Even the design is totally identical to the 3rd generation iPad. It’s almost as if they took the iPad from 7 months back, threw in a new processor and dual-band WiFi and stamped a ‘Finished’ sticker on it.
We can’t help but think this might be some kind of reaction to the impending release of the Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows RT. MSFT is about to launch an entirely new product line and Apple’s next high-end tablet was almost half a year away. It was good timing on Microsoft’s part, until now. A New iPad could end up doing quite a bit of damage to Microsoft’s initial launch sales.
This could also be an indication of Apple settling in to seeing the iPad as just another device in the Apple line-up. Instead of the fanfare and press that surrounds each new iPhone release, Apple may feel comfortable enough with its huge tablet market-share that it can just release an iPad update whenever the next one is ready. After all Apple has stopped numbering them now, so a staggered release would seem less obvious than if you suddenly had an iPhone 5S just 7 months after the iPhone 5 hit the shelf. When all of your successive products are just called “iPad”, they can begin to blur together.
Also interestingly, while the iPad 2 still lives on as a cheaper full-sized iPad option, the 3rd generation iPad seems to have been completely scrapped. A look at the Apple store now shows the iPad Mini, iPad 2 and iPad with Retina Display (now the 4th generation iPad) all sitting next to each other. No 3rd generation is visible.
Despite cries of outrage from customers who have only just bought an iPad 3rd generation, we think we understand where Apple is going with this. It’s looking like Apple is aiming for a two or three-tier approach to tablets. On one end you have the Retina iPad; the crème de la crème. Then you take a step back in quality to another full-sized iPad, but this one has a slower processor, no Retina Display and starts at a lower price point. After that you have your iPad Mini; a smaller version targeted at both folks who are after a more portable experience and those who can’t justify spending $400 or more on a gadget.
It appears that within the next year or so we’ll either see the iPad 2 disappear completely, or be replaced with a new non-retina iPad with a yet-unrevealed name. After all the “2nd generation iPad 2” sounds pretty silly.
So, is the iPad 4th generation a good move by Apple? Probably. But it’s certainly understandable that more than a few 3rd generation customers are going to be a bit put out by having their tablet out-dated so quickly, especially folks outside the USA who got the 3G cellular version.