Apple's new iPads: game changers or more of the same?

Credit: Source: Apple

So as expected, Apple announced new iPads yesterday. I watched the event, streaming on my Apple TV (which, it turns out, was NOT rendered obsolete. The curse is lifted!), and prepared myself to get all giddy with excitement. But that excitement never manifested.

A quick, non-specific recap: the latest full sized iPad is now branded as the iPad Air. It's faster (it has the same 64-bit A7 chip that the new iPhone has), lighter, smaller and thinner than the last iPad. More interestingly, to me at least, is that the new iPad Mini now has a retina display (and also gets an A7 chip).

I think Apple's problem is that the iPad has become a commodity of sorts. Every year we get a new iPad and as with any other computing device, we pretty much expect the new model to be smaller and faster. That's just not enough to get us excited.

I bought the original iPad at launch. I was really excited by it. I'd wanted a tablet computer for a long time and the iPad delivered exactly what I was looking for. Then when Apple added the Retina display on the 3rd generation iPad, that beautiful new screen excited me all over again. The huge bump in the quality of the screen made it worthy of an upgrade.

I never even considered a 4th generation iPad; I didn't feel like it was offering anything I needed.

Now we have the iPad Air, and to be sure it is significantly faster than my iPad 3rd gen. That would be compelling to me if I ever felt any frustration with my current iPad being too slow. But I really don't. As for thinner and smaller? I don't really care. I think there comes a time when these devices are thin-enough.

As far as the reduction in overall size (with no reduction in screen size) I'm not sure how much that matters. In fact I might argue that I prefer the wider bezels of the current model to the Air's super thin ones; I like to have some non-screen surface to grab onto. The reduction in weight (the Air weighs just a pound) is actually the iPad Air's most desirable feature to me. Lighter is always better.

I suppose at this point the iPad is just another computing device. I'll feel the desire to upgrade when my current iPad starts to feel slow and out of date. That won't happen until app developers start feeling comfortable designing for newer, faster iPads and leaving those of us using older models behind.

There's nothing wrong with this situation except for the fact that Apple continues holding these utterly pretentious events to roll out products that are expected rather than exciting. Watching the event streaming...there were moments when I felt like I was watching a late night talk show spoof of an Apple event.

And then there's the pricing. $500 for a 16 GB iPad Air. $600 for a 32 GB. Really Apple? $100 for 16 GB of storage space? Of course the jump from the 64 GB ($700) to the 128 GB ($800) models is also $100, so now $100 gets you 64 GB of storage space. It makes no sense. Then if you want an LTE radio that adds another $130 to the price.

Funny thing is, my first generation iPad is still working fine. We have it mounted to the refrigerator. Normally it acts as a clock but during meal prep it's a recipe book and/or a music device (thanks to a Bluetooth speaker that sits on the kitchen counter). That one does feel a little slow at this point, but it's still a very serviceable device. I'm hoping our 3rd generation upgrades will last us until the iPad Air 3 (or whatever Apple calls the 2015 iPad) comes out.

Am I just jaded and bitter? Was everyone else excited by the new iPads? I will admit that, if I didn't have a Nexus 7 already, the iPad Mini would be tempting now that it was that great Retina display. But I don't see myself shelling out $500 to upgrade to the iPad Air any time soon.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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