If Apple is, indeed, holding an April event — as I still think they are — it seems like they had some stuff to get out of the way first. They launched some cool new Watch straps, added a vibrant-looking Product Red version of the iPhones 7 to the mix, and doubled the available storage configurations for the iPhone SE.
The biggest news is probably in the iPad department. While they haven’t updated the iPad Pro lineup, they cleaned up the other parts of the iPad line. The Mini 2 is gone, as is the iPad Air 2. In place of the latter is the new iPad — it’s just called “iPad”. Its full designation is actually “iPad (5th Generation)”, which makes it the successor — in name — to 2012‘s “iPad (4th Generation)”, which is a little bit weird. The renaming does follow the de-Air-ification of Apple’s product naming scheme.
The product itself is a curious blend of the two generations of the iPad Air, and the iPhone 6S. It has the A9 processor of the iPhone, the thickness and weight of the first-generation iPad Air, and the networking capabilities of the iPad Air 2. In a sense, you can think of it as an “iPad SE”. But it also has some limitations: the display is doesn’t have any of the advanced features or wide colour gamut of the iPads Pro — it isn’t even laminated — and it lacks support for the Pencil.
But it’s inexpensive. Really inexpensive. Prices start for 32 GB of storage at just $329 in the US, which is an astonishing deal for those hoping to deploy iPads in a classroom or corporate setting, or anyone who wants an inexpensive tablet with a big screen. It’s $399 for a 128 GB model, which is the same price as the 128 GB iPad Mini 4 — the only remaining variant of that device, as of today.1
So what about the rumoured iPad Pro updates? I’d be surprised if they wait until autumn to introduce new models; by then, the 12.9-inch model would be two years old and virtually untouched in that time. It’s not out of the question, but it seems like a bad guess to me. My best guess is that there’s still an April event planned, and this news dump was a way to refresh a few products without sacrificing stage time. Why announce them in advance of an assumed event? I think it’s a good way to give these products their own space the news cycle2 and help emphasize any updates the iPad Pro line may get, even if it’s not the rumoured all-new 10.5-inch device.
That’s just a guess, though.