Nov 082018
 

The new thin bezeled 11″ and 12.9″ iPads with an older 9.7″ iPad on the right.

Apple’s iPad has always been a strange product.  Its original launch was accompanied by a level of hype perhaps never seen before or since, and the product appeared with outstanding specifications in terms of battery life, capabilities, screen size, weight, and even price.

Overnight, a totally new category of computing device was created, causing some commentators to predict the end of laptops entirely.

It took competitors a long time to catch up to Apple’s combination of sleek product design and long battery life.  But catch up they did, and not only catch up, but then overtake and streak ahead.  Apple came out with a smaller screen tablet, which gave the product range a new lease of life, but that was quickly eclipsed by products, most recently from Amazon, priced at way less than half the price of comparable iPads.

Meanwhile, Microsoft came out with a “cross-over” product range, its Surface family, that truly did blend more elements of laptops and tablets.  Apple largely ignored this concept, although it went through the motions of releasing a larger screened iPad, which it then promptly forgot about and never upgraded.

As is the case with pretty much every product Apple releases, their decision to keep a high price point saw their market share plunge, and for the last few years, the iPad has seemed to be very much unloved in Apple’s product range.

But now, at a release event curiously located in New York, and scheduled too early for the west coast, Apple is back with a major enhancement to their iPad product range – a new design that massively slims down the bezel around the screen, a bezel that was always thick since the first iPad came out, and which has seemed increasingly out of step with more modern designs from other manufacturers.

There are two new iPad Pro models.  One has an 11″ diagonal screen, and sort of supersedes the earlier 10.5″ screen model (which remains available), while being almost the same size, the other has a lovely large 12.9″ screen, the same as the model it replaces, but in a much smaller size that ends up filling 25% less volume than its predecessor (all three dimensions are reduced – length, breadth and thickness).

The 11″ screen is interesting because it has a different aspect ratio to the other iPads.  All other iPads have consistently been with a 1:1.33 ratio, but the 11″ screen now has a slightly stretched 1:1.43 ratio.  The 1.33 ratio mirrored the traditional aspect ratio of a television set, but with most video content these days having an aspect ratio of 1:1.67 or even greater (the HD spec countenances a standard ratio of 1080 x 1920 ie 1:1.78), the shift to a 1.43 ratio brings Apple’s increasingly old-fashioned screen ratio more in line with the video content that would often be played on it.

The new devices of course have more powerful processors, and better screens.  Surprisingly, Apple has abandoned its proprietary “Lightning” connector and now equips these iPads with industry-standard USB-C connectors.  But its iPhones still use Apple’s unique (and “unique” is not a good concept in this context) Lightning connector, meaning that chargers and other accessories can not be shared between iPhones and iPads.  Here’s a commentary on the connector mess Apple is creating.  Sadly, Apple has also gratuitously removed the headphone connector.

The new products also remove the familiar button, requiring you to learn new gestures on the screen to replace the concept of pressing the button.  This also means that the fingerprint reader on the button has gone, replaced instead by the facial ID reader like on the latest iPhone models.  Happily, though, this has not required cutting a notch out of the top of the screen display.

The entry-level units have 64GB of memory.  That should be enough for most of us, but if you want more (presumably to store a library of videos) it is a big jump from there to 256GB, then to 512GB, and now, there is also a fourth option, 1TB.

The 11″ version starts at $799, the 12.9″ version starts at $999.  They are now available.

As has always been the case, if you wish to add GPS functionality and/or cellular wireless data, you need to pay an extra cost for this.  Whereas formerly this has always been $130, the new price will be $150.

The total iPad line up now comprises five different screen size families (the distant echo of Steve Jobs and his claim that there was one only perfect size and therefore, the products would only be available in that one perfect size seems to have completely faded).

Model Screen Size/Weight Memory Price
iPad mini 4 7.9″ 326 ppi
1536 x 2048
5.3″ x 8.0″ x 0.24″
135 x 203 x 6.1 mm
0.65/0.67 lb  300/304 gm
128GB $399
+ $130 for cellular & GPS
iPad 9.7″ 264 ppi
1536 x 2048
6.6″ x 9.4″ x 0.29″
240 x 170 x 7.5 mm
1.03/1.05 lb  469/478 gm
32GB 128GB $329 or $429
+ $130 for cellular & GPS
iPad Pro 10.5″ 264 ppi
1668 x 2224
6.8″ x 9.8″ x 0.24″
174 x 251 x 6.1 mm
1.03/1.05 lb  469/477 gm
64GB 256GB 512GB $649 $799 $999
+ $130 for cellular & GPS
iPad Pro 11.0″ 264 ppi
1668 x 2388
7.0″ x 9.7″ x 0.23″
179 x 248 x 5.9 mm
1.03 lb 468 gm
64GB 256GB 512GB 1TB $799 $949 $1149 $1549
+ $150 for cellular & GPS
iPad Pro 12.9″ 264 ppi
2048 x 2732
8.5″ x 11.0″ x 0.23″
215 x 281 x 5.9 mm
1.39/1.40 lb 631/633 gm
64GB 256GB 512GB 1TB $999 $1149 $1349 $1749
+ $150 for cellular & GPS

Accessories

In addition to the inevitable range of protective covers (and we recommend you buy one – either an Apple official cover, or a third-party after-market cover that will cost very much less and work just as well), plus chargers, cables, and adapters, there are two distinctive accessories being offered.

The first is a keyboard, and the second is a stylus.  Both are expensive.  The keyboard, for the three Pro models, costs $159/179/199 depending on whether it is for a 10.5″, 11″ or 12.9″ Pro.  The stylus is $129.

We suggest you buy neither.  If you want to type a lot of text, perhaps you should have a laptop instead.  If you do want a keyboard, get a third-party one such as shown here.  You’ll spend massively less money for something that is close to identical in functionality.

The stylus is an interesting idea, but unless you are a graphic artist, the chances are you’ll end up losing it somewhere and not even realizing it has been lost for many months (that’s what happened to our daughter, who went from desperately “needing” a stylus to losing it, all within a few weeks).

Which (If Any) Model Should You Buy?

Although there are almost too many choices here (in total, 28 different combinations of screen, memory, and GPS/data), it is easy to slim your choices down to three primary choices, and a few secondary choices.

Also considered in this section is whether you should choose an iPad at all, or possibly instead choose a much more affordable Android tablet from companies such as Amazon.

Note that the balance of this section is offered to our kind and generous Travel Insider Supporters.  If you’d like to access this, and understand whether you should be paying as little as $329 or as much as $1899 for an Apple iPad (or potentially a quarter or even less for an Android tablet), and why, please consider joining us as a Supporter too.  Instant access to this and other premium content is granted as soon as you’ve joined.

But, as a quick “sneak peek” into the detailed 2750 word discussion and explanation that follows, many/most people might find the $80 bargain priced Amazon Fire HD 8 or the $150 bargain priced Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet to be an extreme good value and a better choice than any of the Apple iPad choices.

……..

Summary

After several years of neglect, Apple have done a good job in releasing new iPads.  Unfortunately, their response to plunging market share is to maximize the price and profit they get on the units they expect to still sell, rather than to bring out some well featured and well priced units.

If you already have an iPad or Android tablet that you’re happy with, you’ll probably not feel any need to upgrade now.  If you’ve never felt the need for a tablet in the past, there’s nothing in these new iPads that will now cause you to rush to buy one.

But if you have an old iPad that is no longer receiving OS updates, and which doesn’t have a higher resolution screen, perhaps one of the new extensive lineup of iPads might tempt you at this point as a valid upgrade.

If you don’t have any tablet at all, you have to ask yourself how and why it makes sense to pay such a huge price premium for an Apple iPad tablet compared to Amazon’s astonishingly bargain priced Fire HD tablets, or any of the other generic Android tablets out there.

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