The iPad Lineup is a Mess: It’s Time to Fix It

In their most recent financial results, Apple reported iPad revenue of $6.4 billion from the last quarter. That’s a lot of iPads, but that figure is 10% less than the one they posted in the same quarter last year.

New iPads often drive sales numbers, but for what looks to be the first time ever, Apple is about to go an entire calendar year without updating at least one of its many iPads. There have been no new iPads in 2023, and the last one Apple introduced was the 10th-generation iPad in October 2022.

There just doesn’t seem to be a clear strategy for the iPad anymore. Apple is launching iPads like Amazon launches Echos, and it has led to a very confusing iPad lineup. Something has to give.

Apple Brought Harmony to the Mac

Apple needs to give the iPad the same clarity that they just brought to the MacBook. There is a clear progression in that product line and consumers finally have a much clearer idea about the laptop options they have from Apple.

The M1 MacBook Air starts at $999 and frequently sells for much less on Amazon. But you can step up from that to the excellent M2 MacBook Air that is available in 13 and 15-inch configurations. Need more power? The M3 MacBook Pro starts at just a few hundred dollars more with a screen size of 14 or 16 inches.

That makes sense. There is a clear progression in features, price, and performance, just like there should be.

What Happened to the iPad?

Previously, when people asked me what iPad they should buy, it was easy for me to narrow down the best iPad for that person. Today, that is a much more challenging task.

The cheapest iPad you can buy is the 9th-generation iPad that Apple sells for $329. It has an A13 chip from four years ago and is the only iPad that uses a Lightning connector and a home button. This is clearly the budget pick, and can currently be bought for $249 on Amazon.

The newer, 10th generation iPad sports an A14, USB-C, and TouchID for $449. The 2021 iPad Mini is powered by the A15 processor and retails for a heady $499. After that, you step up to the M1 iPad Air, and the price increases to $599. And last but not least, the M2 iPad Pro is available to you as an 11 or 12.9-inch model starting at $799.

Which one is right for you? Nobody really knows.

iPad Accessories Are Also a Problem

Recently, Apple launched a new Apple Pencil for the iPad. There are now three Apple Pencils. Some work with some iPads but not with others, and there is no real rhyme or reason why that should be the case. But it’s true.

But if you think that is confusing, wait until you take a look at the keyboard options. The Smart Keyboard is $159 ($99 on Amazon) and works with the 9th-generation iPad. The Smart Keyboard Folio works with the iPad Air and the iPad Pro and can be yours for $179. The Magic Keyboard Folio is $249 and only works with the 10th-generation iPad. Then there is the Magic Keyboard, which starts at $299 ($229 on Amazon) and works with the iPad Air and the Pro.

Can you imagine walking into a BestBuy and seeing all those keyboards and having to work out which one works with the iPad you have? It’s madness.

What’s the Solution?

It’s not my place to offer trillion-dollar companies advice on how to align their products, but let’s pretend it is. I would start by eliminating the 9th-generation iPad from the lineup. It’s clearly the odd one out here. I know it’s still there because they can’t make the same margins on the 10th-generation iPad at that price point, but it has to go.

The iPad and the iPad Mini need to get on the same refresh schedule and share more of the same specs. They could exist as two sizes of the same base-level iPad and be priced accordingly. The iPad Air can stay as the next step up, and the Pros are there for anyone who wants the best iPad available.

The 1st-generation Apple Pencil needs to go away. Two is enough. They can have one for Pro and one for non-Pro iPads. That makes sense to me.

I would offer a similar solution for the keyboards. The Magic Keyboard Folio should work with the iPad and iPad Air, and the Magic Keyboard can be for the Pros. Oh, and both these keyboards should be at least $50 cheaper because they are too expensive for what they are.

I highly doubt Apple will do any of this soon because Apple is Apple, and they are still generating billions of dollars in revenue from their iPad line. But, there has to come a point when they take a serious look at that. I’m hoping that no new iPads in 2023 was a sign that they are taking some time to recalibrate. Time will tell.

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