iPad Needs Help
I mean, really, it doesn’t. Apple is doing very well with iPad (which is how Apple wants you to refer to it, without a the before the name). But I and many other power users would like to see it get better. iPad is sort of a weird product line. It’s great for recommending to users who just need to get basic things done, but it also has a product line for those who expect more from their devices, and at the prices they are asking, it just doesn’t make the most sense to choose them.
Let’s start with the plain old iPads, the 9th generation and the new 10th generation. For years, the basic iPad has had the same look: a border with thicker sides at the top and bottom, a screen with squared off corners, and the classic home button with Finger ID. And last year’s 9th generation was no different. At $329, you don’t get the latest processor, but it’s fast enough, and if you want a keyboard, Apple will sell you an overpriced but decent keyboard for $159. All in, it’s around $500 for a mid-range computing experience that will get basic stuff done with good battery life.
But now, the 10th generation gets a fresh design more like iPad Air and iPad Pro with rounded corners on the screen and sides, no home button, and more colors. At first, I was impressed, until I saw the new price. $449. Now, it does have a newer processor, an A14 that my 12 Pro Max has, an upgrade from the 9th generation’s A13. It also has a better camera, a larger screen, USB-C, and the same battery life as the 9th generation. But $449 is inching very close to the iPad Air, a product that has a much faster processor, the same screen size but with a nicer coating, lamination, and color, the same camera, battery life, and USB-C connection for not that much more. iPad Air can be found on sale from its normal $599 price, ranging from $500 to $550. Couple that with the 10th generation’s new keyboard priced at $250, and we’re now talking $700 for an old processor, and an almost identical iPad Air design without the nicer Air display. Who is this for?
And at $700, there’s some serious competition from traditional PCs and even refurbished and pre-owned MacBooks. The 10th generation and the iPad Air’s price point also carry a lot of expectations. Especially at the iPad Pro price. Now, I am not one of those people who doesn’t believe iPad is a “real computer,” but I am very much a believer in the traditional desktop environment being the best for getting work done. Which was my hope for Stage Manager, but in execution, it’s just odd. Apple already has a fantastic desktop experience called MacOS, and I have no idea why they won’t just admit it would be great on an iPad. Couple that with the fact that apps for the longest time have had to work within RAM limitations and the lack of a full file system, it just makes it difficult to work using iPad.
Apple needs to decide what iPad is. Is it for those who want a larger iPhone for basic tasks? Or is it a device worthy of the M1 and M2 of the Air and Pro, respectively? And it totally makes sense for the standard iPad to be basic. But the Air and the Pro at their price points should deliver more than what Stage Manager limits its users to. The file system needs to be more robust. And when you look across the fence at what Surface and Samsung DeX can do, it proves that iPad can be more than what it is. Of course, that would likely limit Mac sales, but it’s better than seeing customers just abandon iPad altogether.