Apple’s announcement of the iPad in 2010 heralded a new age for tablets, but that age was short-lived. Already consumers are tiring of tablets as sales decline. Even Apple is struggling to convince people to upgrade their tablets on a regular basis, and selling high-margin hardware is what keeps Apple running. The rumor mill currently points to a complete refresh of the iPad lineup with new features, new sizes, and more.
The latest leak comes from Japanese site Mac Otakara, which often nails Apple rumors months ahead of time. According to Mac Otakara (via MacRumors), Apple will hold an event this spring to announce its new iPad lineup. It will consist of a refresh for the 7.9 (Mini), 9.7 (Pro), and 12.9 (Pro) inch models. However, there will also be a new iPad variant clocking in at 10.5-inches. That seems questionable on the surface, as it’s basically the same size as the 9.7-inch model. However, it’s expected to pack the higher resolution of the larger iPad Pro, making it the crispest display available on an iPad.
The new Mini (although Apple may drop that name) is expected to be remade as a smaller iPad Pro. It will have a Smart Connector for accessories, a 12MP rear camera with flash, quad speakers, an auto-adjusting True Tone display, and (probably) Apple Pencil support. The improved camera and True Tone display are also expected to come to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which launched before those were debuted on the smaller model. The supposed 10.5-inch model might ship later than the rest due to the added challenges in manufacturing it. The bezel of the iPad will reportedly be scaled down to make the larger high-resolution screen fit in the same form factor as the smaller 9.7-inch model.
These changes to the lineup sound respectable, but do they change the essential nature of tablets? Probably not. Apple has seen falling iPad sales since early 2014, and shortly thereafter it started pushing new variants of the iPad, the Apple Pencil, and more accessories. This has not reversed the downward trend of tablet sales, which is probably causing some panic around Cupertino.
There are a few reasons for the drop in tablet sales. For one, tablets are primarily consumption devices. They don’t need to be the fastest to get that done, and we long ago hit the point of “good enough.” A lot of Apple users also just buy the iPhone Plus variant instead of getting a smaller iPhone and an iPad. The Pencil and keyboard dock are attempts to position the iPad as a productivity machine, but there these things called Chromebooks now. Google’s Chromebook platform has provided an inexpensive way to get work done efficiently, and they’ve become hugely popular.
Keep an eye out for Apple to send out invites to its spring iPad event. We should know in the next few weeks if the rumors are true.
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