Thoughts on the iPad Lineup, Part 3

Nick Punt
Nick Punt
Mar 22, 2016 · 4 min read

Where yesterday’s announcement leaves the 12.9" iPad Pro. See also Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4.

I got thinking more about yesterday’s launch of the 9.7” iPad Pro, and how some things about the 12.9” iPad Pro now don’t make much sense. Like how it can edit 3 simultaneous 4K streams, but can’t record them. Or that it doesn’t have a DCI-P3 gamut or true-tone display, despite clearly being the most display-oriented iPad. Or even that its LTE modem is last-gen. This is stuff that a smaller, non-flagship iPad Pro shouldn’t have a leg up with, and the leapfrogging is likely off-putting to discerning Pro customers.

Sorting out the iPad Pros history

Had the A8X iPad Pro launched last March, the marketing would have probably been that it edits several 1080p streams / one 4K stream. Cool, but not that amazing given it would have the same A8X as the recently launched iPad Air 2. Everyone would be more excited about the display and Pencil, and it’d be a relatively low volume first-gen launch geared at graphics/drawing and Office use. Its highly unlikely the Air 2 would have been delayed til March and rechristened as a 9.7” iPad Pro, because that relies on a lot of forewarning of iPad Pro delays to make the call in time for the Air 2 to gear up for an October launch, and a change in the Air 2 display to support the Pencil.

Why March is iPad Pro Season

A major benefit to launching in March is reducing cost and risk of components, which iPhones generally have first dibs on. Remember that although the 12.9” iPad Pro was announced in September, it actually launched in November. The cause of the delay (component availability) may be a routine enough risk to just try to avoid altogether.

There’s also more feature divergence these days between iPhone and iPad. For instance, its hard to imagine the iPhone gets Pencil support, and at the iPads size, 3D touch is just tough to execute. I expect future features to follow suit. Due to the massive 12.9” iPad Pro, the AX in particular is going to remain a considerably beefier chip with more features than the A-series (e.g. we already see the A9X is 50% larger than the A9, whereas previous iPad chips were either iPhone chips or in the 25% range). Feature alignment suggests similar launch timeframes (less work), whereas feature divergence suggests the need for more spacing.

Its All About the Team

Historically, although the A8X was launched in October, it was on an iPad still marketed to general consumers and prior to the iPad Pro split. Frankly the iPad Air 2 revealed the main weakness of the ‘one iPad’ phase - overpowered and overpriced for the general market, not Pro enough for the Pros. Meanwhile we know the A9X was rushed to meet that time, strongly suggesting the above change in approach is already set in motion.


If indeed the 12.9” iPad Pro moves to a March cadence, the Apple calendar should look roughly like this:

  • iPad Pro = March
  • Mac = June (dependent on Intel, grumble grumble)
  • iPhone = September
  • iPad = October

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

This was a quick update to more in-depth speculation of iPad product & marketing presented in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. It is followed by Part 4.

Nick Punt

Written by

Nick Punt

Entrepreneur & Product Designer. Design/UX @OneSignal, founder @EdSurge, hiking enthusiast.