As 2023 is about to wrap up, we can definitely say it’s been a peculiar one for Apple’s iPad lineup. Why? Because there were zero new iPad releases this year, which is a bit … odd. This is the first time that Apple has not released a new product in the iPad lineup since it was introduced.
But a new report from Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter over the weekend seems to give us a look at what Apple’s iPad plans are for 2024. A few weeks ago, I talked about how the iPad lineup as a whole has gotten messy and convoluted. This new report takes both a step forward toward simplifying things while also featuring an interesting addition that I’m not sure who asked for.
One of the big factors contributing to an overly complicated iPad lineup has been that Apple has kept the 9th-generation standard iPad around despite also having the newer 10th-generation model. Having two different base model iPads is confusing, especially when they have different screen sizes, different charging ports, and one has a Home button while the other does not.
Usually, when Apple introduces a new generation of a product, it is meant to replace the previous one. This has been the case for many years for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and the Apple Watch. But when Apple decided to have the 9th-generation iPad stick around alongside the new one, it was a puzzling move that also put the 10th-generation iPad in an odd placement within the rest of the iPad lineup due to its features and price point.
Per Gurman’s report, Apple will reduce the base model iPad to just one new 11th-generation model next year. I believe this is what Apple should have done with the current generation because having the older 9th-generation model stick around with outdated features was just a weird choice.
Of course, this is still speculation, and we won’t know for sure until Apple actually announces it. But having just a single base model iPad is definitely the way to go, and it would be one step forward in making the iPad lineup less complicated than it needs to be.
I applaud Apple if it is going to just have a single base entry iPad in the lineup. But the rumor doesn’t stop there. Apparently, another possibility for the 2024 iPad lineup will include a 12.9-inch iPad Air model. This will be in addition to the 10.9-inch iPad Air size, as well as the 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
According to Gurman, Apple wants to alleviate the confusion between the iPad Air and iPad Pro by introducing OLED displays, a refreshed design, the M3 chip, and a revamped Magic Keyboard for the higher-end models, which would be the iPad Pro.
The iPad line has been a bit of a complex beast for a while now and needs simplification. But adding a larger iPad Air model just makes it even more confusing. Exactly who has asked for this?
From the looks of it, a 12.9-inch iPad Air would likely not have a ProMotion display. On a smaller screen, such as an iPhone 15, not having a 120Hz refresh rate is not super noticeable for most people. However, with a larger display, the difference can be much more noticeable, as scrolling and transitions won’t be as smooth compared with a 120Hz display.
The refresh rate can be an important factor for certain people, like artists, who need a screen that refreshes more each second (60 times a second versus 120 makes a big difference) for a smooth and precise experience. On top of that, artists and other creators value larger screen estate. When you take those factors into consideration, I don’t see why someone who wants an iPad with the largest screen also wants it to fall short by not having the absolute best display possible. It just doesn’t add up.
Even now, the current 11-inch iPad Pro feels like the ugly duckling, as it offers the same power as its larger sibling, but in a more portable package while also lacking the XDR display of the 12.9-inch model. If you add a 12.9-inch iPad Air to the mix, it just makes the whole lineup confusing once more. And again, are the people who want or need the absolute largest display going to want anything below 120Hz ProMotion? I don’t think so.
While we just talked about possible changes for the iPad product lineup, the accessories are also a mess. The Power On report also suggested that Apple could differentiate between a large iPad Air and iPad Pro with a new, redesigned Magic Keyboard that only works with the iPad Pro, not the iPad Air, with the Air potentially only being compatible with current Magic Keyboard accessories. Confused yet?
The entire iPad product category has been a mess for a while now, and they basically all do the same thing with iPadOS. I don’t believe that an iPad could ever beat the full desktop experience that you’d get with an actual computer, at least with the current state of iPadOS.
For the most part, you could do most of the things that you’d want to do on a top-of-the-line 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a cheaper model (unless you need the storage space). It just doesn’t make sense to add another size for the middle-tier model because it’s not needed and, again, who was asking for it? I certainly wasn’t.
The iPad started out simple when Steve Jobs introduced it back in 2010. Just a single iPad for everyone. Then we got the iPad mini, then the iPad Air, and finally the iPad Pro. It’s gotten out of hand at this point, and it’s time to clean it up again — not add another unnecessary new size for a midlevel model.
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