best_designYesterday Apple held their highly anticipated media event where they talked about the new Mac lineup, OSX Mavericks, redesigned iWork and iLife app suites and finally the new iPads.

Unfortunately Apple wasted the lion’s share of the event (nearly 60 minutes of the total 90 minutes) on Mac related topics leaving very little time to cover the new iPads which felt like they were rushed through as an after thought, rather than the main event.

The only mobile highlights in this part were that Pages, Keynote, Numbers, Garage Band, iPhoto and iMovie have all gotten the iOS 7 upgrade treatment and will now all be available for FREE when you purchase a new iOS device.

So what does the iPad lineup look like post-event…

best_design_displayThe iPad with Retina Display (4th gen) is gone, replaced by the new iPad Air (dumb name, but will get to this a little later), which is 20% thinner and 28% lighter (just 1 lb compared to the 1.41 lbs of the previous model). It has a svelte new shape like that of the iPad mini with a reduced bezel, stereo speakers, the same A7 chip as is the iPhone 5S, the same camera that was in the iPad mini and better LTE and Wi-Fi coverage thanks to MIMO technology.

The existing capacities and pricing of the full-size iPad stays the same for the iPad Air with 16GBWi-Fi model available for $499, 32GB for $599, 64GB for $699 and 128GB for $799. I was hoping that Apple would have dropped the 16GB model and shifted the prices down for the other capacities, but NO DEAL. The iPad 2 sticks around for another year (Apple’s margins on this one must be really good) at only a 16GB model for $399 (Wi-Fi-Only). So much for the death of the 30-pin connector, first the iPhone 4S and now this.”

The iPad Air will be available for purchase online and in Apple Stores on November 1st…so once again Apple is sadly not allowing customers to pre-order their devices.

tab_hero_ipadminiOn the mini side of things, Apple has dropped the price of the existing by $30 and is now ONLY offering a 16GB Wi-Fi-only mini for $299 and for $130 more you can add cellular support. The all new iPad mini with Retina Display gets the same 64-bit A7 chip as the iPhone 5S and the iPad Air. As the name suggests it gets a Retina display with the same 2048-by-1536 resolution as the iPad Air, but with an increased 326 ppi (compared to the Air at 264 ppi) due to the smaller screen. It is 3.5 % thicker and 7.4% heaver than its predecessor and a significant $100 price bump, with the 16GB Wi-Fi-only Retina iPad mini costing $399 with other capacities costing incrementally $100 more, jut like the full-size line. Apple didn’t give a concrete release date for the retina mini, only saying that it will be available in later November. But rumor has it that these will be in really short supply, so the likelihood of snapping one of these up before next year could be pretty slim.

This feels like the most uniform lineup of iPad devices yet, with nice even spread of price points across the entire line. It also means that now for the first time ALL 3 of Apple’s highest end mobile offerings the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display will all be running with the exact same processor, the 64-bit A7 chip. Apple has made a really big deal about the full-size iPad having the step-up ‘X’ chip with the extra graphics capabilities needed to push the device’s higher resolution graphics. So what does it mean that all the devices (big and small) are running with the same chip. Either it is way more powerful than necessary for the iPhone 5S or underpowered (comparatively) for the full-sized iPad.

If you want a good spec/feature comparison between all 4 iPad models you should check this page on Apple’s site.

smart_gallery_white_cover_blueFirst by the brevity of the iPad coverage during the event, then by the glaring omissions, then by the lack of pre-orders and definitive release date for the retina iPad mini, I couldn’t help but feel let down by yesterday’s event. I have learned not to build these events up in my head because ever since Jobs’ passing they have been a bit lackluster and devoid of surprises.

Apple did succeed in surprising me this time, (in a negative way) by not featuring the new fingerprint sensor in any of the devices in the iPad lineup. There was also NO discussion of a new Apple TV model nor any mention of external game controllers, the support for which has already been added to quite a number of iOS games. So when will these controllers finally be released? It seems like Apple isn’t throwing their full weight behind these peripherals like they should to make them a big success. Another big missed opportunity was with Apple’s smart covers and cases, which stayed the course (overpriced compared to better third-party offerings) and offered no innovation like an integrated keyboard to take a direct swipe at Microsoft’s Surface.

Shifting away from the numbered naming could be a huge mistake and can only serve to cause confusion down the road. The iPad is a consumer technology adopted by technical and non-technical people alike. The numbered releases make it easy for consumers to tell if their device will support certain apps, features in and versions of iOS and more. Once you get several releases of the iPad simply called “iPad Air” this starts to get really confusing to the average Joe as to whether his iPad will or will not support something…I say stick with the numbering and keep it simple, like the iPad is meant to be.

answersShould You Upgrade or Not?

I can’t answer this as I’m still on the fence myself.

I’m left with more questions than answers as completely unsure as to what I’m going to do with regards to upgrading. The cynical part of me still feels burned by buying “the New iPad” only to see it replaced less than a year later. So needless to say I am hesitant about buying another ‘named’ iPad (the iPad Air).

I hadn’t planned on updating then going into the event I thought Apple would convince me for sure…now I’m not so certain. While I would love a lighter iPad I’m not feeling compelled to upgrade from my iPad 3 this year. Instead, I may upgrade the family iPad 2 to a mini with retina, since it is feeling pretty sluggish.

Apple’s new iPad is certainly an impressive piece of engineering, the lightest and fastest full-sized tablet it has ever offered, but all in-all I’d have to say the event let the wind out of my sails a bit and it was a bit of a let down for me. For whatever reason it seems like Apple is holding back a little on the full-size line up, which really should have gotten capacity bumps and the fingerprint sensor. Plus they are still holding onto the past with the iPad 2.

If you are so inclined, you can watch the complete media event on Apple’s website, though unless you are a Mac person, should should prob watch the first 10 minutes then skip up about 50 minutes.