Why Apple's new iPads are irrelevant

Now that Apple offers the iPhone 6 Plus, a smartphone/tablet hybrid itself, what reason do people have to buy the new iPad models?

ipad mini 3 metal
Credit: Susie Ochs

Apple debuted a bunch of slick new iPads yesterday. They’re thinner and more powerful than any iPad that’s come before.

Who cares?

With the rise of the phablet, exemplified by the Apple’s own iPhone 6 Plus, not to mention the new Samsung Note 4 and Google’s Nexus 5, tablets are becoming increasingly irrelevant. And the smaller the tablet, the less sense it makes.

See also How smartphones won the tablet war

The new iPads have lots of cool features, and if you're considering buying one of them, they represent a real improvement compared to existing iPads. But that improvement is incremental, certainly not enough to prompt hordes of people to drop big bucks to replace their perfectly good iPad Airs and iPad minis with the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3.

But at this point in the history of tablets, that’s no longer the relevant question. The issue today is whether the latest tablets are better enough to carve out viable use cases compared to smartphones that keep getting and bigger.

Apart from price, the iPad mini has no reason to exist

For me, and for more and more people around the world, the answer is no way. That’s especially true for smaller tablets like the iPad mini. Apart from price, there’s simply no reason to own a mini instead of an iPad 6 Plus. The iPad mini is now a glorified iPod Touch, historically the entry-level mobile device for teenagers whose parents won’t spring for cell service. Heck, now that the original iPad mini can be had for $249, it’s only about $50 more than the actual iPod Touch, which somehow remains on the market. (Wags have been disparaging it as the iPad Nano for a while now.)

The question becomes a bit more open when we start talking about larger iPads. That’s one reason many observers were disappointed that Apple didn't announce the rumored "iPad Maxi," with a 12.9-inch screen. At that size, Apple would be able to make a good case that the iPad is doing something different and better than a phablet.

The iPad Air 2, with its 9.7-inch display, falls right in the middle. It’s significantly bigger than an iPhone 6 Plus, but is it big enough to justify having both? That question remains of ongoing interest to me, as I prepare for life with a phablet but no tablet. I’ll let you know how it goes…

See also If Apple releases an iPhablet, I’m giving away my iPad

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