New iPad is terrific but won’t turn the tablet market

Rod ChesterThe West Australian

Apple announced a new iPad overnight with one big difference -- that difference being in the way it announced it, rather than the iPad itself.

Typically Apple unveils products in a mass event designed to whip fans into a frenzy. The exceptions, such as today, are when it quietly issues a press release on a product that is just a minor update rather a major step.

This is the first time Apple has unveiled an iPad outside of an event. Usually it unveils the iPad at another Apple event, although back in 2011 Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 at an event held just to honour the new tablet.

The tablet market in 2011 is much different to now -- although that iPad 2 that Jobs unveiled in 2011 is still one of the most popular iPads in Australian homes.

In not saying much today Apple has still said a good deal, including where it sees its iPad market as heading.

The family of iPads, from left - the iPad mini 4, the new iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch one, along with the Apple Pencil.
Camera IconThe family of iPads, from left - the iPad mini 4, the new iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch one, along with the Apple Pencil. Credit: AP

The new iPad today is called just that -- the iPad. It replaces the iPad Air 2 and sits below the two iPad Pro models.

If you’re looking to buy a "basic" iPad this is now your entry level model, although even a "basic" iPad is a very good tablet. Notably for the first time, the basic 9.7-inch iPad is cheaper than the smaller newest model iPad Mini. The starting price for the new iPad is $469 and it goes on pre-order on Friday, while the starting price for the iPad Mini 4 is $579.

Apple in quandary on the future of the iPad

Analyst Jan Dawson, of Jackdaw Research, sums up Apple’s latest tablet in this way: "This new iPad is effectively the equivalent of the iPhone SE, taking older innards and wrapping them in new branding to bring the price down to a new level, and I suspect that -- like the iPhone SE -- it will indeed bring the device to new people."

The trouble Apple faces with the iPad market is that it peaked in 2014 and for the past 12 quarters iPad sales have dropped.

As Telsyte analyst Foad Fadaghi told News Corp Australia last week: "The challenge for Apple has been that its products simply don’t need replacing as fast as competitors’ products".

This new iPad has all the specs of a terrific tablet but that won’t be enough to turnaround the tablet market -- that will probably take a significant change in hardware and possibly software and time, with all those iPad 2 owners eventually finding the need to upgraded.

The new iPad today is powered by an A9 chip, and it replaces the iPad Air 2 which was powered by an A8X chip. The two high-end iPad Pro models use a A9X chip that is a step up again.

This will probably not be the last iPad Apple releases this year, with rumours of a 10.5-inch iPad and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro due for an upgrade.

Along with releasing a new iPad, the other hardware released by Apple overnight is a new iPhone -- although to be more correct it is the old iPhone in a new colour.

For ten years, Apple has had a program of releasing red products to raise money for AIDS research.

The Red special edition iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will be available in 128GB and 256GB models from $1229, with pre-orders from Saturday March 25. Apple also announced new models of the iPhone SE with more storage with 32GB and 128GB models replacing the 16GB and 64GB models currently available. There are also six new iPhone case colours.

The new red iPhone.
Camera IconThe new red iPhone. Credit: Apple\ Washington Post \ Bloomberg

The Apple Watch also gets a refresh, with new sports, woven nylon and classic bands released in new colours, Nike Sports bands in new colours and new Hermes bands.

Apple also released a new video editing app called Clips aimed at the Snapchat generation, which simplifies video editing and adds filters and fun editing elements popular in messaging and social media apps.

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