I didn’t think Apple would do it. When rumors of a new iPad 4 started to spread around the Internet, I ignored them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t see Apple replacing a flagship product with another model in just seven months time. Yet that’s exactly what the company did when it announced the fourth generation iPad at its iPad mini event in Cupertino.
As the owner of a third-generation iPad (which I’ll call the iPad 3 from now on), I’m incensed. Back in March, I eagerly waited in line to get the latest and greatest iPad (a 64GB Verizon LTE beast). I sold my iPad 2 for the new device — even though I loved it — because the screen and the new features were just that good. Now, I can’t help but feel conned.
Look, I understand that technology cycles are getting shorter and shorter. I know that the latest and greatest won’t last forever. But I still feel cheated. I know I’m not alone.
Before announcing the fourth-generation iPad, Tim Cook remarked that the iPad 3 was “fastest-selling iPad of all time and the top-selling tablet in the world.” Apple doesn’t break down its iPad sales into models (i.e. the iPad 2 vs. the iPad 3), but it looks like Apple probably sold in the neighborhood of 30 million iPad 3 devices over the last seven months.
From my perspective, Apple just told 30 million customers to take a hike. This would be one thing if this was another company. Samsung frequently updates its product lines throughout the year. So do Asus, HTC and Motorola.
But this is Apple. Apple has never had aggressive upgrade cycles. Historically, Apple has updated its computer lineup about twice a year. In recent years, that’s slowed depending on the product. The Mac mini, for instance, wasn’t updated from August 2007 until March 2009. Before today’s update, the iMac hadn’t seen an update since May 2011.
Even the iPhone, Apple’s signature product, is updated once a year. Their iPhone 4S came out 15 months after the iPhone 4, but at least part of that delay was attributable to the tsunami in Japan that impacted the facility that made the iPhone 4S’s camera.
So why, after just seven months, is Apple replacing the iPad 3? Even more grating — the iPad 2 is still for sale. The iPad 3, meanwhile, was erased from history.
Not Just a Modest Spec Bump
Again, I understand that technology cycles are shortening. I also understand that as the tablet landscape is getting more competitive, Apple needs to keep pushing the boundaries more quickly.
I would almost understand a modest spec bump for the iPad 4. Sure, I’d still be annoyed, but if the change was just a slightly faster processor and more LTE support, I’d be OK. That’s not the case here.
We won’t know until we can get a review unit and test it with actual apps (as well as benchmark software), but it certainly looks like the iPad 4 is a big improvement over the iPad 3. The iPad 4 uses Apple’s A6X chip — a chip that’s even better than the one in the iPhone 5. That chip is twice as fast. More to the point, the GPU is reportedly twice as fast too.
In other words, the real high-end iPad games will target the new iPad and won’t work quite as well as on the iPad 3. Moreover, the one complaint I’ve had about my iPad 3 — much as I’ve enjoyed it — is that because of the resolution of the screen, some tasks haven’t seemed as snappy as they did on the iPad 2.
Plus, the new iPad has better Wi-Fi chips, which Apple says can be up to twice as fast, as well as a 720p FaceTime HD front-facing camera.
In many ways, this is the product Apple should have released as the iPad 3. I understand chips might not have been ready, pricing might not have been ideal — but seriously, this is clearly what the iPad 3 should have been.
As an early-adopter, tech enthusiast and serious gadget addict (the joke in the office is that I keep the Internet in business), these are the types of specs I’d normally really want to upgrade for — even mid-release cycle. Here too, however, Apple has made doing that more difficult.
Say Goodbye to Your High Resale Value
It’s expensive to be an early adopter. That’s why most of us sell our gently used gadgets as soon as the newest device hits the market. Although Apple devices tend to have higher price tags, they hold their value much better than anyone else in the industry.
Last month, I was shocked to see that buyback prices on the iPhone 4 were often considerably higher than the buyback price on a flagship Android device released three or four months earlier. The fact that I can resell my iPhone and iPad each year for a good price is the reason I upgrade each year.
Again, that’s going to change with the iPad 3. Before the event ended, Gazelle.com was willing to give me $550 for my 64GB Verizon LTE iPad 3. That’s nearly $300 less than I paid seven months ago. In a normal, yearly cycle, a $300 loss might be acceptable. After just seven months (I’m still within Apple’s original warranty period), it’s harder to stomach. Right before publishing this article, I decided to check Gazelle again. Now, the company is offering just $350 for a 64GB LTE iPad 3. I refuse to take a $500 loss to upgrade to a new device.
Moreover, what aftermarket actually exists for the iPad 3? The iPad 4 sells for the same price new. It also features enhanced specs, more LTE options and importantly, the new Lightning connector. Who would buy the iPad 3 over the iPad 4 unless there was a significant difference in price?
As angry as I am about the new iPad, I’m even angrier that I may even up buying the thing — if only to retain my resale value and keep from having to wait another year to upgrade to the iPad 5.
Keep in mind: I’m an early adopter. Most iPad 3 owners won’t consider doing anything with their iPad 3; they’ll keep using it until it stops working (or the new iPad 5 is released in six months), so I recognize this is a specific rant. Still, people like me are Apple’s most loyal customers. Eventually, this sort of thing tends to trickle down to everyone else.
Is This the Future?
Beyond the groans and moans of existing owners, there’s a bigger question in the iPad 4 announcement: Is this the future?
Android owners are familiar with a new device coming out and usurping the specs and features of a device released just months (or weeks) before. This is something very new for iOS users. I can’t help but wonder if this means Apple is going to shift into a more frequent product refresh cycle.
If the company does do this — I’m not sure it will work out as well as they think. The most frequently asked question I’m ever asked — be it the dentist, the eye doctor or even my hair stylist — is “When is the next iPhone or iPad coming out?” I’m asked that question because users want to know if it’s safe to buy now. No one wants to buy a new phone and see an updated model come out two months later. The same goes for a tablet.
Apple used to be easy — the refresh cycles tend to last about a year and that makes it easy for a person to decide if they are going to wait to buy something or go ahead and get it now. I firmly believe that Apple has benefited from this strategy because users tend to be willing to pull the trigger on upgrading their device more frequently than they might otherwise. Just knowing that the next new device won’t be out for six or seven months makes the decision to buy that product much easier.
If that upgrade cycle is compressed, however, I believe some consumers may just choose to continue waiting. Take iPad 2 owners, for example. Rather than running to upgrade to an iPad 4 this Christmas, I could see some owners choosing to wait. After all, what if Apple releases a new tablet in April? Or June? Why not just wait? Wait too long and you’re up against the next refresh cycle. Now Apple has missed recapturing that customer in a fiscal year. That’s a bad thing.
iPad 3 Owners, Vent Here
I’ve said my piece. I’m angry and frustrated with Apple’s new iPad. I’m equally perturbed that I’ll have a harder time selling my iPad 3 — should I even want to upgrade in the future.
iPad 3 owners — let us know what you think. Does this change the way you view Apple as a company? Are you OK with a new iPad or are you livid? Let loose in the comments.