10 Worst Things from the October Apple iPad Launch

This week Apple held its second product announcement meeting in as many months, this time focusing on the iPad and Mac and Mac OS X. While the September meeting featured the major announcements of large-screen iPhones and the Apple Watch, the October announcements were more subdued – but let’s focus on the disappointing Apple iPad announcements.

10 Worst Things from the October Apple iPad Launch

As I mentioned, the event was about more than the iPad. Here are a few highlights:
– OS X Yosemite was released into the wild. After using it for a day, I am totally in love.
– A new ‘Retina iMac’ was released, with a display technology Apple called ‘5K’, noting the advantages over 4K displays.
– An updated Mac Mini with Haswell processors and better pricing.
– The keynote was about 75 minutes, and it was more than 40 minutes before Apple stopped recapping the September event and introduced something new (which means about 30 minutes in total for the iPad, iMac and Mac Mini announcements).

I love my iPad Air – and I have bought an iPad after each announcement … but not this time. More on that later – let’s get right to the problems I have with the announcement:

1. There are FIVE Apple iPad Models for a total of 56 model Options!

Think about it for just a second – four years ago there was just iPad, with memory variants and WiFi / 3G options. Now we have iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Air and iPad Air 2! Now in three colors. Again with different memory variants and WiFi / 4G LTE options.

There are now 56 iPad SKUs. Yes … 56.

2. The iPad Mini 3 is the iPad Mini 2 … with Touch ID.

Seriously – the frame is the same, so is the camera, processor, screen, and everything else. And costs the same as the iPad Mini 2 did LAST year … which was the same year Touch ID was introduced.

3. The iPad Mini is grossly overpriced at $249

This year Amazon took the Kindle Fire HD and made it $99. I know Apple wouldn’t do THAT, but let me put it this way – a $149 iPad Mini 16GB would be the #1 Christmas gift. At $249 it is about the worst decision for a small tablet you could make.

4. The iPad Air still exists

In the past few years Apple has kept one item from last year’s lineup around to provide a low-cost option. It was a single SKU – single color, lowest memory and WiFi only. Instead we have 8 options – all of this costs money, and is very inefficient. And confusing for consumers.

5. The iPad Mini 2 still exists

Reason #1 NOT to buy the iPad Mini 3? The iPad Mini 2 sells for $100 and is identical except for Touch ID. And again we have 8 product models to choose from – way too many.

6. Apple did nothing to address the core iPad decline

Tim Cook talked about the 225 million iPads, which is a huge amount of products … but they didn’t talk about the sustained decline in unit sales since the tablet peaked in early 2013. I will discuss this later in specific as to how it relates to me personally … but it is troubling.

It is troubling because while Apple seems to have a pretty solid vision about phones and computers, for tablets right now they seem to believe that doing the same things they’ve done since 2010 or so but making the devices thinner, lighter and more powerful without adding any real core functionality is an acceptable path.

Declining sales show that they are wrong – this isn’t about price but value.

7. The dominance of old technology limits new horizons

When I got the first iPad Mini a couple of years ago and the iPad 2 hung around way too long, I realized something – the technology used for games and other products will be entirely dictated by the lowest performing iPad, not the highest.

Guess what – two years later and the iPad Mini (i.e. iPad 2) is STILL around! That means no one will release a game that doesn’t at least PLAY on the iPad Mini – that is simply how things are done in the Apple ecosystem. So while we have Metal graphics, the A8X CPU/GPU that offers massive power … it will go to waste.

8. The Weird iPad Camera Thing Remains Half-Done

OK, so perhaps the guy at the school concert blocking the view for a dozen people by taking iPad video has become a meme … but Apple actually spent time playing up the photo angle, adding a more capable sensor to the system. But they only went half-way. No flash still, and there are many of the advanced features from the iPhone 6/6+ missing.

Yes I know the goal here is to keep iPhones as the primary camera, but if they are pushing to legitimize taking iPad pictures … give us something to work with. My iPhone 5 from 2012 took MUCH better pictures than the 2013 iPad Air, so I will frequently use the iPhone to take pictures I plan to utilize on the iPad. Silly.

9. Lack of Multitasking / Split Screen

Maybe early next year we’ll see this happen with the rumored iPad Pro, but for now the iPad remains a ‘single-tasking’ machine for the most part … sure there is fast-switching, and for my music apps AudioBus allows for multiple apps to operate simultaneously to form a signal processing chain. But the bottom line is this – if I am writing something in two different books in Notebooks (my go-to text editor / database) and want to bring it into a Safari page, I need to:
– Copy text
– Close App
– Open Safari
– Hope the tab hasn’t reloaded, losing my existing entry
– Paste the new text

On a laptop, it is a drag & drop between apps. Same on my Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 (well, apps that support multi-window, which is way too few). The new iPad has tons of processing power and multiple cores and (purportedly) 2GB of RAM, there is no reason it couldn’t make me more efficient.

10. The disappearing need for tablets

Here is the ultimate thing – tablets are being squeezed from both sides. The AAPL Orchard has a great post talking about the ‘disappearing use case’ for the iPad (and particularly the Mini). In 2010 phones had screens <4″ that were slow and laggy and low-resolution. Laptops that were small and light were ‘netbooks’ which were about as powerful as Chromebooks (i.e. NOT!). In this environment the (relatively) fast and efficient iPad was small, light, and powerful. Need a keyboard? No problem, hook one up! You could also use a 3G connection without a subscription. It was awesome, and millions of us bought them … and the next couple of generations as they got much faster, thinner and lighter.

But at the end of 2014 the most popular phones in the world (iPhones and Samsung Galaxy) have screens with an average 5″ size and incredibly high-resolution – and the phones are multi-core power-beasts. The Macbook Air has gone from being a ‘compromise machine’ to being incredibly powerful for a small system thanks to processor advances from Intel. And they have gotten cheaper – a well-equipped Macbook Air is $899.

The question Apple needed to answer this week was: with an iPhone that has a 4.7/5.5″ screen, and an 11.6″ Macbook Air … WHY would I want to spend $729 to get an iPad Air 2 with 64GB storage and LTE?

Guess what? I never heard the answer to that question.

What Do You Think?

About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!
  • Drew Guttadore

    Michael, you’re absolutely right! I still have an ipad mini retina, that I use around the house and on long haul flights to watch videos with, but that’s about it.. I have the iPhone 6 and an 11.6 Macbook Air and I can’t imagine adding a new iPad..
    I am considering an iPhone 6+ for one of my countries, then I will the iPad mini to help fund it.. 🙂

  • I agree on most of your points, Michael. One thing that Apple used to excel in was limited choices: this or that iPhone; this or that iPod, etc. It reminded me of Honda’s early ad campaign: “We keep it simple”. Now it’s much more complex, and thus confusing to us poor consumer schmucks.

    I think you’re dead-on about the cost of the iPad mini. That’s insanity.

    I don’t know what the life of tablets as a category will be, but I do know that I’m seriously thinking of giving Sami my (less than year-old) iPad mini retina when my iPhone 6 plus comes in. I want to give it a few days and see what the functionality is like, web browsing, using WordPress, and so on, but even with the much smaller (than an iPad) form factor, I got tired of carrying two devices around. With a decent stand and my Bluetooth keyboard, my iPhone 5 is surprisingly useful remotely for many things, especially email, note-taking, and such. I have to imagine the 6+ even more so.

    Good thought here.

  • I agree that the iPad mini is in trouble thanks to the iPhone 6+ but don’t fully agree with your final comparison between the iPad and the MacBook air. The iPad has a retina display, amazing battery life and can come with internal lte connectivity. An iPad air 2 plus keyboard case will still be my “light and portable” computing choice. Once the MacBook air has a retina display or we see a 12″ touchscreen air I’ll change my tune but until then I think the high end iPad still has a significant place in the market.
    That said… Give me mouse support and split screen and I’ll be even happier.

    • Mitchell Oke

      Dan, I agree with you about the Air. Add integrated LTE and it’d be perfect. Wouldn’t mind it in my MBPr to be honest.

  • Haesslich

    I find that 5-6″ phones don’t do or for me reading wise, unless it’s just for a few minutes. They don’t replace the iPad, mini Retina or otherwise, for me. The Air isn’t a laptop replacement for me, but the Mini is enough of a replacement for the 9.7″ screen for most tasks.

    That being said, the “old” mini 2 is probably the best deal of the lot – the 3 is far too high-priced for me to want to upgrade to, given that it doesn’t offer any significant improvements over the Mini 2 outside of a new case color and Touch ID. If it had gotten the same processor upgrade as the Air 2, and they’d dropped the Mini 2 or Mini to simplify the line… but keeping the internals the sane and jumping up the price? Even the 4S and 5S got some upgrades internally.

    This isn’t a very Apple move to me – making the line more complex rather than making it simple.

    • Haesslich

      Also, that last reply was typed out on the new IOS 8 keyboard. I miss the IOS 7 keyboard.