Apple Jumps on the ‘Fast Obsolescence’ Train!

Not long ago, I took Android makers HTC and Motorola to task for how they handle their customers – they quickly roll out and refresh new products and seldom keep the prior models up to date with OS updates.

In that post, I cited Apple (and more recently Samsung) as utilizing a more predictable annual refresh cycle that gave customers some comfort that they were getting a product that should be highly competitive for a year until the next version comes out (and honestly, it is only recently that the first generation iPad is showing its age around my house).

Well, that ended yesterday, as the ‘new iPad’ was obsoleted by the ‘new’ new iPad – ‘Just as stunning, twice as fast’.

Is it worth getting? Well, if you don’t have one yet – YES! The current iPad is excellent, and this update adds the faster A6 processor and a better FaceTime camera (and the Lightning connector).

But if you DO already have one, there is little reason to update. You get the changes noted and nothing else. Assuming you could sell your 3rd gen iPad for 50% value, that leaves the other 50% – and then you will need Lightning port adapters.

But more importantly: does introducing another new iPad 7 months after the last one and breaking the annual cycle screw existing customers? No.

If you go to any Apple forum, you will see thread after thread (after thread) complaining about …well, everything. But in particular the feeling of ‘betrayal’ at the 7 months the iPad was ‘top dog’ before the 4th gen came along.

I have some advice – get over it! Some Apple stores are allowing returns up to 30 days on recent iPad purchases to allow users to trade in, but everyone else is just suffering the typical feeling of ‘I bought something and now there is a better one’. First world problems.

Think about it – did you really expect Apple to go into the holidays with an iPad with a 30-pin connector? And did you expect them to update only the connector? The ‘bump’ Apple gave puts the iPad way out in front of the competition, where it will remain through the holidays – so it streamlines the product offerings while again leapfrogging the competition.

So here is the question – how do I compare this to what I wrote about before? Well, the first thing is that I am not opposed to a relatively rapid product update cycle. I think Apple was too slow with updates on some of the Powerbook and early Macbook Pro models several years ago, allowing models to become stale before updates. I certainly understand the frustration of those who waited a few months after the iPad came out this year to buy one, and now feel they should have waited a few months more … that is simply the way of technology advancements, we either ‘chase technology’ (but can never catch it), or we buy what we need and accept being left behind at times.

The difference for me is that I can still get cases and accessories and so on for my iPad; and when iOS 7 comes out next year, I have no doubt that my iPad 3 will get the full release with all functionality compatible with the hardware. Come iOS 8 I will likely see more limited coverage, and so on. In other words, I feel supported and appreciated as a customer. With my Android phones, once a new version comes out, no one will stock accessories, nothing new will come out, and it is not very likely that new OS updates will arrive – even if the purpose is security protection or serious bug fixes. In other words, with the iPad I feel my value continues after purchase, whereas with Android I do not (except to Verizon).

My 3rd gen iPad continues to provide me with tremendous capability, and that won’t change. I have no intention of getting the 4th gen, nor do I feel any anger towards Apple – I understand the frustration for some, but I do not share it.

But since I bought the fully tricked out 4G/LTE version, you can be certain I will be watching closely to see if this is a new annual cycle or the start of more rapid updates. Thus far the updates have made sense, with the latest release offering the most incremental shift. I will be looking for a more substantive change for my next upgrade …or the passage of enough time.

What do you think? Did Apple just screw iPad 3 owners? Are they adapting to more rapid product cycles? Let us know!

Categories: Editorials, News


18 replies

  1. Honestly, I don’t see the reason for complaint. They’re different devices for different market segments, in my view. It’s not “better” so much as “different”, due to the size. Or at least that’s how I see it.

    • Doug – this is about the 4th gen and 3rd gen iPad. I guess I wasn’t clear – Apple announced a new 10″ iPad version yesterday and retired the one from April.

    • How is the fourth generation iPad for a different market segment than the third generation iPad? And they’re the exact same size, even by listed weight, down to the gram!

  2. “Get over it.” I detest this statement/sentiment. If you want to argue that this is a trivial matter then quickly the only thing that matters are life and death issues and then what’s the purpose of this article, this site?

    • You’ve got to accentuate the positive
      Eliminate the negative
      Latch on to the affirmative
      Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

      You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
      Bring gloom down to the minimum
      Have faith or pandemonium
      Is liable to walk upon the scene

    • I appreciate what you are saying, and apologize for using such a dismissive expression.
      My point isn’t that it is ‘trivial’, but rather that it is the nature of the ultra-fast technology cycle. 7 months? That is longer than the entire viable lifespan of many products (Android phones are a great example). Laptops about 5-10 years ago would get updated on a cycle I would describe as ‘whenever’. Whenever Intel dumped new chips there would be a cycle, or if another new tech came along, or a new trend or whatever. And it could easily be 6 times a year for some of the Dell lines I remember.

      • Oh yeah…I have a Sandybridge laptop that is still pretty damn good….should I run out and get an Ivybridge one? I don’t think so. :-)

        • My point is that if you make a decision to ‘chase technology’ for whatever reason, should you really be surprised/upset when you miss the cycle by a couple of months every now and then?
          I agree with the sentiment of maximizing the useful life of a product wherever possible.

          • Exactly. It’s always going to be that way….more so with Android than with iOS. There’s always something new coming around the corner. You have to make a decision if what you have is good enough or not. Some will make the decision to do it and some won’t.

  3. “With my Android phones, once a new version comes out, no one will stock accessories, nothing new will come out, and it is not very likely that new OS updates will arrive”

    Nexus (true Nexus; Verizon, I’m looking at you) is still the way to go. The Nexus S is upgradeable to Jelly Bean AND it gets 99.9% of all the new features (iPhone 4, I’m looking at you); the only thing I can think of that’s missing is Face Unlock. It gets faster, too!

    • Nexus S is THE example … as you say, the Galaxy Nexus is NOT a good example. The Galaxy SIII seems like it is getting a decent array of accessories, and hopefully will get updated in a reasonable timeframe. But for 99% … I stick with my statement.

  4. The answer is….it depends. If your the me me me person and you got to have the newest then yeah it probably stings. However, the rest of the world gets over it.

    Actually rapid Android obsolescence isn’t bad either. I don’t invest a whole lot of cash after the purchase of any phone and I am willing to bet most of us don’t. We buy a phone, a case and maybe a charger or two. That’s it. I don’t buy stuff ad infinitum. I live with what I got. I still have my EeePad and if I get a Nexus 7 or a Kindle Fire HD I will probably keep it as it’s still good.

    • I’d have to disagree with this statement.

      Because I use my phone as my music device, an eBook reader, a clock, a business tool, a media device, and many other consolidated uses, and because I do have predominantly Apple products now, I have grown accustomed to purchasing more accessories (speaker systems, docks, bedside clock/speaker systems, etc) for the iPhone and iPad based on the fact that most can fit either device and they all (used to) use the same sync/charge port. Because there is usually a year in between upgrade cycles, I have also been able to justify buying nicer cases or keyboards.

      The new connector did put a minor kink in things, but so far it has been manageable due to the Apple adaptor. Other than a speakerbox that I got for the original Zune (back in the day), I have never bothered getting higher end or more accessories for Android or Windows Phone devices (since the Pocket PC days) because they do change so rapidly and they are seldom available anyway.

      Because Apple products usually last for many years when handled gently, and they are also OS upgradable for at least a few more generations, I am able to get even more life out of my purchases than I even could with WP or Android devices. I can use them myself in different applications (e.g, using an older iphone as a universale remote control), or I can pass them on to friends and family; I also find that I get much better prices for them on eBay when I go that route. You have to take those things into consideration, too.

  5. Oh and as for accessories ..there actually has to BE some to get some. Other than batteries and a paltry selection of cases there isn’t much for my Galaxy Nexus (still being sold today and still every bit as good as it was on day one). The problem as of late seems to be getting the accessories I want….the pogo pin dock seems to be nonexistent here in the US.

    • I would argue that if there wasn’t such a fast turnover in device updates and if there weren’t so many configurations for the various products, then you would see more accessories for non-Apple devices from which to choose.

      If I were an accessory manufacturer, I would steer away from handling or offering accessories for products that would be “old” in less than 6 months.

      I’m not saying that people wouldn’t still be buying some of these devices and wanting accessories for them, but the demand must peak fairly quickly and then trickle down to nothing even more quickly.

      An example: if you walk into a cellphone store (any carrier), and you see the an older phone sitting next to the newer/better/faster/bigger version, unless there is a huge price incentive to stick with the older version, I think that most people would want and spring for the newest.

      If you are the accessory manufacturer, how do you keep up and make a profit — other than by offering a small collection of inexpensive (and often ugly/thick/klunky) accessories?

      • Yeah like with old school phones! :-)

        Yeah I am with ya on that! I think Google may be heading that way since the new LG Nexus that is rumored to be coming monday looks a lot like the current Galaxy Nexus. I think the Nexus line might just be that….or at least I hope so!

  6. I still think that having two iPads released in one year is a one-time thing, similar to the iPhone 4s last year, which was released several months after the normal iPhone annual upgrade time. March is not an ideal time for a new device like an iPad on an annual basis, nor was summer such a great time for phones, either. I think that there is a strong market for the iPad as a holiday gift purchase, so an annual release each fall will be better timing for Apple going forward.

    I own an iPad 3 and I am not at all upset. In fact, I have a ton of old 30 pin dock devices and cables, and I’m happier that my iPad will still work with that stuff and I won’t have to replace any of it for a while. I waited to buy an iPad until I could get one that would not require a computer to set up and activate, so that I can travel with an iPad as my only “computer”, and the iPad 3 gives me that – and will for many, many more months.

    I understand why people are disappointed over this, but many years ago I learned that one should just ignore any new items that come out after you have purchased something, or price reductions that come later, as getting upset about it does not help me at all.


  1. Winning At Obsolescence « Dr. Moot