Last week, I decided I was going to buy a new iPad.
There’s nothing wrong with the sixth-gen iPad I currently have, except it’s heavier than I’d like. All I want to do is watch my silly dramas in bed and for it to hurt less when I whack myself in the forehead while drifting off to sleep. It’d be nice to have a faster tablet for odd tasks where my iPhone screen is too small and my laptop is too large — especially on vacation. Besides, four years is a respectable amount of time to wait when all you want is a slightly faster (and perhaps more colorful) version of what you already got.
I moseyed on over to the Apple website. There was the ninth-gen iPad and the 10th-gen iPad. There was also the iPad Mini and the iPad Air. I’m not a Pro, but there were two of those — an 11-inch and a 12.9-inch model. I’m a gadget reviewer. I know several other gadget reviewers, and I knew what I wanted out of a new iPad. You’d think I’d have been able to suss this out. But no.
As my colleague Monica Chin aptly put it, the new iPad doesn’t make 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 can easily be found on sale. Plus, I’m not buying a silly USB-C to Lightning Pencil adapter just to try digitizing my analog calligraphy hobby. And if I were really that concerned about 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 right now — purple iPhone, purple Beats Fit Pro, purple backpack, purple water bottle, and purple keyboard. A purple Air or Mini would work. Except they’re both more expensive than the 10th-gen iPad, and price was a big reason I was looking at the colorful entry-level iPad to begin with. That left the ninth-gen iPad, which at that point, didn’t feel like a big enough change from my sixth-gen iPad.
In the end, I bought nothing.
I had the same issue when it came time to upgrade my iPhone this year. There were four iPhone 14 models. I hemmed and hawed. When I eventually bought one, I felt nostalgia for the days when there was one iPhone. The only reason I’m not tearing my hair out over the three Apple Watches that came out this year is that I reviewed all of them. (Plus, I’m still 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 a few Macs in there, too). Android and Windows have always had a hell of a lot more choices. The whole appeal of Apple’s portfolio was its simplicity.
In fact, Tim Cook said the same thing in a Bloomberg interview in 2012:
You could almost place every product that we [make] on this table. I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads, and we have a few Macs. That’s it. And we argue and debate like crazy about what we’re going to do, because we know that we can only do a few things great. That means not doing a bunch of things that would be really good and really fun.
That’s a part of our base principle, that we will only do a few things. And we’ll only do things where we can make a significant contribution.
That simplicity was why I bothered to switch to Apple products in the first place. I put up with the things I didn’t like because it streamlined my workflow and made my life easier — even if a big part of me bristled at Apple’s heavy-handedness. I didn’t have to do as much research every product season. The only question I had to ask myself was: do I upgrade or wait another year?
I don’t think Apple is likely to pare down its catalog anytime soon. This means I either get used to this upgrade calculus or start acquainting myself with life as a green bubble. In any case, I’m pretty sure you can’t fit every Apple product on a single table anymore. But seriously, if it was going to saddle us with six iPad models, would it have killed Apple to make the 10th-gen iPad in purple?