Could An iPad Pro Max End The Need For iPad Air?

The naming scheme of Apple’s tablet line is in need of another refresh, and the MacBook range could be next

Rob Sturgeon
Nov 3, 2020 · 5 min read
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Image by William Iven from Pixabay

Apple’s product names are getting pretty confusing.

My first iPad was the original iPad Air, which was released in 2013. It’s hard to believe now but at the time this was the flagship of the iPad range. After numbering the first few, this iPad was considered to be so thin that it deserved the Air moniker, which had already been used for the MacBook Air. There was already a discrepancy from the beginning: the MacBook Air had not been like the MacBook Pro.

It wasn’t the best, but it was the thinnest.

Then came the iPad Air 2.

These were still the days when only the iPad mini was a different size from the main iPad Air product line. It seemed as if the Airs would go on for at least as long as the Air-less line that preceded it, and then came a surprise. In 2015 a 12.9-inch iPad was released, while the 11-inch MacBook Air was still in existence. The MacBook, a product whose name had been reintroduced that very year, was a mere 12 inches.

I was always fascinated by the selection of that 12.9-inch size.

Why wasn’t it 13 inches?

Does anyone notice a difference of 0.1 inches?

The likely answer is that all MacBooks less than 13-inches were later discontinued. An iPad would always have a smaller screen than a MacBook from that day forth. Apple thought it was a distinction so important that the iPad would never get that 0.1 inches in any future device. So for the second time, the iPad had borrowed a product naming convention from the MacBook world. The new device had double the RAM and a faster processor, but it also added an exclusive capability.

The Apple Pencil was born.

Now we have a distinction between two non-mini iPad lines. The iPad Pro’s distinguishing feature had initially been a larger screen, but that was quickly rectified by the release of the first 9.7-inch iPad Pro a year later. The next iPad after the Air 2 in 2017 didn’t have Air in the name, and I thought that was the end of the line for my beloved first tablet. If the iPad Pro isn’t big, how is it different?

The Apple Pencil was exclusive to the line for 5 long years, before finally being introduced to the plain old iPad line in 2020.

The iPad Air had returned a year earlier and established itself as the mid-range option. It would include some of the features of the iPad Pro range, but not all of them.

It’s now more difficult than ever for Apple to explain why it needs so many kinds of iPad, although the future of the iPad mini remains uncertain.

When the iPhone X was released in 2017 alongside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, it was the first time that multiple price points of iPhone had been released without ‘Plus’ after the name. After experimenting with the budget XR when the XS and XS Max were released, Apple settled on not distinguishing the cheapest option with that ‘R’ (whatever it stood for).

The logical next step was the 11, the 11 Pro, and the 11 Pro Max.

Now it’s 2020, and the iPhone 12 mini has arrived. There were presumably many discussions at Apple that led to the eventual conclusion that there should be no iPhone Air. If there was an iPhone Air, there would be no need for the somewhat annoying ‘Pro Max’ name.

But this inconsistency has affected the iPad and MacBook lines.

Pro Max, whether we like it or not, is establishing itself as the best of the best.

In his review of the iPhone 12 Pro, Marques Brownlee states that anyone capable of affording the Pro should probably go for the Pro Max. The Pro is cheaper, but not by much. The Pro Max should be the goal of anyone who can afford it because it clearly has the best features. This positions the iPhone 12 Pro as a mid-range option, which compromises on some of the features that the Pro Max offers.

Kind of like the iPad Air range.

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Image by aixklusiv from Pixabay

It seems far less likely that the Air name will make its way to the iPhone range. There was a chance for that to happen, and Apple has clearly chosen a different direction. But many people are confused by what Air means these days. When the MacBook Air was introduced, it wasn’t the most powerful MacBook, it was just the thinnest. Now the MacBook Air range still exists, but the 2015 MacBook was 24% thinner. All MacBooks are pretty thin these days, so the distinction is pretty pointless.

In my opinion, the Pro Max signals a new direction for Apple. Pro used to signify the absolute maximum in performance and hardware, but now Pro is inferior to Pro Max. In the iPhone line, the first step you take above the standard offering is Pro, which has increased the accessibility of Pro to the average person. Now that you’ve taken that step, you’re still left jealous.

You may be a certified Pro, but you’re not a Pro Max.

This could be a story about the impending death of Air, but it could also be seen as the rise of Pro Max. What are the limits of Pro Max? There is no way to beat it. The same upsell that convinces people to move up from the Pro to the Pro Max within the iPhone range can occur elsewhere.

Air doesn’t mean anything anymore, other than an air gap between the cheapest and the most expensive product.

So why keep it around?

I’m going to be perfectly honest.

Part of my willingness to believe this future comes from a desire for simplicity in the Apple naming landscape.

Imagine a world where every Apple product came in mini, regular, Pro and Pro Max.

What a simple world that would be.

The best stories for Apple owners and enthusiasts

Rob Sturgeon

Written by

An iOS developer who writes about gadgets, startups and cybersecurity. Swift programming tutorials and SwiftUI documentation too.

Mac O’Clock

The best stories for Apple owners and enthusiasts

Rob Sturgeon

Written by

An iOS developer who writes about gadgets, startups and cybersecurity. Swift programming tutorials and SwiftUI documentation too.

Mac O’Clock

The best stories for Apple owners and enthusiasts

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