Apple Announces Too Many iPads

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If you’re in the market to buy a new iPad, your choices just became dizzying. As expected, Apple announced new iPads this morning at its news conference in Cupertino, but it didn’t retire some of its older products to make way for the additions. How many iPad models can you choose from now? Five? And that’s not even counting the fact that each flavor comes with various storage sizes as well as Wi-Fi and cellular versions!

It’s a good thing the lines are long at the Apple stores on new product launch days, because you’ll probably have to spend that time trying to figure out which iPad you’re actually going to buy. (Unless, of course, you’re like a lot of us here – happily using our “old” iPad 2’s which seem to still manage to do everything we need them to.)

The latest iPads to join the flock are the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. The former is Apple’s new flagship tablet: a full-sized iPad now updated with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor (Apple Pay!), and as the name implies, a thinner body. It has a better camera, better CPU, better GPU, and several other specs that won’t matter to your non-technical parents and grandparents when they ask you if they should upgrade. (“Well, it comes in gold now,” you can say.)

You can also mention it has a barometer, which may eventually matter a little in terms of upcoming applications designed to take advantage of the new functionality – like detecting your altitude, suggests a private pilot discussing the launch on Hacker News.

But look at all the price points!

  • Wi-Fi model: $499, $599, or $699 for 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB, respectively
  • Wi-Fi + Cellular model: $629, $729, or $829 for 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB, respectively

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Meanwhile, the iPad mini 3 is an updated version of the purse-sized iPad, also now with support for the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and again slightly better specs than last year’s model – well, it has the old A7 processor, but the iSight camera is better. And oh, yeah, it comes in gold, too!

And the iPad mini 3 has a bunch of SKUs, including:

  • Wi-Fi model: $399, $499, or $599 for 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB, respectively
  • Wi-Fi + Cellular model: $529, $629, or $729 for 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB, respectively

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But wait, there’s more!

Apple is continuing to sell its older model iPads, including the original iPad mini, last year’s Retina model (the iPad mini 2), and the iPad Air. These start at $249, $299 and $399, respectively, for the Wi-Fi versions – lower prices than before, so that’s something.

That said, we don’t know what Apple has against offering a 32 GB version on the low-end instead of 16 GB. Why not throw that SKU in there as well while you’re at it, Apple? (But seriously, though, why is a 16 GB anything a reasonable mobile product offering these days? Have you seen the size of some of these games? Isn’t Apple letting consumers shoot in HD now?)

One could argue that Apple can’t drop the 16 GB price point because that’s the model that competes at the low-end of the market. This is critical for Apple’s larger global strategy where it has to go up against a wider range of competitive products, including entry-level Android tablets. Even the nicer Android tablets are fairly affordable: Google’s 16 GB Nexus 7, for example, is currently $229 and gets the job done. The forthcoming, brand-new Nexus 9 starts at $400.

Apple’s enterprise strategy may also require a range of lower-cost iPads for companies who buy in bulk and don’t need the very latest high-end specs the very minute they’re available.

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For consumers, however, Apple’s iPad line-up is starting to resemble that of rival Samsung’s. And for a company that likes to focus on simplicity, it’s odd to see what is frankly a confusing array of choices appear, even if the price points are competitive enough to attract new buyers who may have shied away previously because of Apple’s “premium” brand and associated pricing schemes.

So if you’re confused, too, and you need help deciding on which iPad to get, here’s the easiest way to figure it out: Big or Little? Good. Now, how much money do you have to spend? Yep, that amount works. Apple has one for you.

Image credits: Apple event, Darrell Etherington, Recsolu