As many of us speculated the night before, when Apple’s system status page was updated to show planned maintenance for their online store, Apple had some new product announcements early last week. A (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, storage updates to the iPad mini and iPhone SE, new Apple Watch bands, and iPhone 7 case colors. But the biggest announcement, by far, is the new entry-level 9.7-inch iPad.
Apple has discontinued the iPad Air 2 and dropped the silly naming convention with this new model — simply calling it “iPad”. The new tablet features the iPhone 6s-era A9 system-on-a-chip, a brighter display, 8-megapixel iSight camera, and a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera. It comes in two storage sizes, 32GB and 128GB for $329 and $429, respectively. It doesn’t include some of the fancier bells and whistles of the iPad Pro line — like the True Tone display, Apple Pencil support, and the Smart Connector — but this is an absolutely tremendous product.
This new iPad offers an incredible amount of performance for your money. So much so, that I question whether I was a bit too hasty when I proclaimed that a future version of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro would be my next iPad. I never would have expected Apple to get this aggressive with their pricing. At least not with iPads that feature such recent A-series chips.
I’m left wondering if I’ll ever end up owning an Apple product with the “Pro” moniker. My history with Apple has always been on the consumer side of their product grid — MacBook, iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini. With the release of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro last year, I thought it was finally my opportunity to dip my toe in the Pro device water.
I’ve always been a price-conscious buyer, but that wasn’t what kept me from buying pro devices. The primary reason I’ve stuck with Apple’s consumer-level products was my inclination for purchasing items with the best value. From a price for performance perspective, Apple’s consumer line has typically beaten their “pro” counterparts. It would be hard for me to justify paying nearly double the price for a 9.7-inch iPad Pro when its A9X will only get me an additional 25% or so in computing power over the new iPad. Sure, there are some additional features, but I don’t expect I’d miss most of them.
As of this moment, I can’t think of too many good reasons to purchase the 9.7-inch iPad Pro over this newer, inexpensive model. If you want something to draw on with the Apple Pencil or you’re interested in using the Smart Keyboard, then go for it. But I don’t think those are compelling enough reasons to shell out $599.
My expectation is that Apple will remedy this problem soon — this fall or earlier — by releasing a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro to replace the existing 9.7-inch Pro model entirely. This would greatly simplify the iPad lineup with the 7.9-inch iPad mini and 9.7-inch iPad occupying the consumer line while the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro — both with double the resolution and screen size of the consumer products — acting as the pro-level counterparts.
That 10.5-inch model sounds like something that would be very appealing to me. And the possibility of using a device that features a display with roughly twice the physical size and resolution of the iPad mini without having to add much heft beyond my existing 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 is an absolute dream. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what Apple has in store, but until that time, I don’t think I’d be able to recommend anyone purchase the 9.7-inch iPad Pro unless they have very specific reasons to. This new iPad is just too much of a good value.