Last week I decided to buy a new iPad.
There is nothing wrong with the sixth-generation iPad I currently have, except it’s heavier than I’d like. I just want to watch my silly dramas in bed and make it hurt less if I slap myself on the forehead as I drift away to sleep. It would be nice to have a faster tablet for odd tasks where my iPhone screen is too small and my laptop too big, especially on vacation. Plus, four years is a decent amount of time to wait when all you want is a slightly faster (and perhaps more colorful) version of what you already have.
I sauntered over to the Apple website. There was the ninth generation iPad and the 10th generation iPad. There was also the iPad Mini and the iPad Air. I’m not a Pro, but there were two: an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch model. I am a gadget reviewer. I know several other gadget reviewers and I knew what I wanted from a new iPad. You would think I could have solved this. But no.
As my colleague Monica Chin aptly put it, the new iPad makes no sense. At $449, it’s too expensive to be entry-level — especially when, as my editor Dan Seifert points out in his review, the Air is easy to find on sale. Plus, I don’t buy a fool USB-C to Lightning Pencil Adapter just to try and digitize my analog calligraphy hobby. And if I was really that concerned about the price, there was no way to justify an iPad Pro. Okay, whatever. I wanted a faster, lighter and much more colorful iPad. That left the Air or Mini. I’m in my purple era now – purple iPhone, purple Beats Fit Pro, purple backpack, purple water bottle and purple keyboard. A purple Air or Mini would work. Except that they’re both more expensive than the 10th-generation iPad, and the price was a major reason I looked at the colorful entry-level iPad in the first place. That left the ninth-generation iPad, which at the time didn’t feel like a big enough change from my sixth-generation iPad.
I ended up not buying anything.
I had the same problem when it came time to upgrade my iPhone this year. There were four iPhone 14 models. I zoomed and hooted. When I finally bought one, I felt nostalgia for the days when there was a iPhone. The only reason I don’t pull my hair out over the three Apple Watches that came out this year is that I have reviewed them all. (Plus, I’m doing some extra Ultra testing.)
I wouldn’t have had this problem 10 years ago
I wouldn’t have had this problem 10 years ago. There weren’t seven iPhones, six iPads, five MacBooks, three Apple Watches, three AirPods, and a HomePod in a pear tree. (Throw in a few Macs too). Android and Windows have always had many more choices. The whole appeal of Apple’s portfolio was its simplicity.
You could post almost any product we [make] on this table. I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two major iPhones. We have two iPads and we have a few Macs. That is it. And we argue and debate like crazy about what we’re going to do because we know we can only do a few things great. That means you’re not doing a lot of things that would be really good and a lot of fun.
That’s part of our basic principle, that we’ll only do a few things. And we only do things that we can make a significant contribution to.
That simplicity was why I bothered to switch to Apple products in the first place. I accepted the things I didn’t like because it streamlined my workflow and made my life easier — even if a big part of me was annoyed by Apple’s heavy-handedness. I didn’t have to do so much research every product season. The only question I had to ask myself was: should I upgrade or wait another year?
I don’t think Apple will shorten its catalog anytime soon. This means I’m either hitting this upgrade calculus or starting to introduce myself to life as a green bubble. In any case, I’m pretty sure you can’t put every Apple product on one table anymore. But seriously, if it left us with six iPad models, would it have killed Apple to make the 10th-generation iPad in purple?