Apple clings to the past with the iPad 2

Apple clings to the past with the iPad 2
Given all of the leaks that we've seen, there really weren't any surprises in today's Apple announcement. We knew that the new iPad and iPad mini would have the same basic innards as the iPhone 5s. We knew what they would look like. There was a bit of ambiguity when it came to whether or not the new tablets would have the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, but it's not the biggest surprise that the premium feature is only available on the flagship iPhone. 

But, even if you don't pay much attention to Apple and its products, you probably know that there is something of a tradition with the company and its mobile products. Each year, the new version of each product fits into the highest price point, and the last year's model gets bumped down $100 to fit into the mid-range or lower-tier pricing. Except, this is not what Apple is doing with the iPad, and that's where the lone surprise comes in - 31 months after its initial release, and 19 months after it was dropped to $399, the iPad 2 is still in Apple's lineup and still selling for that same $399.

The iPad 2 was released in March of 2011, and in March of 2012 it was succeeded by the "new iPad" (for simplicity's sake, we'll just call it the iPad 3). At that time, the iPad 2 was dropped to the $399 price point; and, oddly, that is exactly where the tablet has stayed through the release of the iPad 4 and now the iPad Air (aka iPad 5). The iPad 3 had odd heat issues, and really the only improvements it offered over the iPad 2 were the Retina display, an upgraded camera, and a slightly upgraded processor (A5X vs A5). 

Under traditional circumstances, we would have expected the iPad 3 to have been bumped down, but the iPad 3 became something of a Honeycomb for Apple. It existed because it needed to exist at the time, but we really weren't expected to keep talking about it once it was replaced (with the iPad 4 in the Apple side of this analogy, and Ice Cream Sandwich in the Android side.) But, the iPad 3 was supplanted just 8 months after its release by the iPad 4, which was launched in November of 2012. At that time, it made some sense for Apple to leave the iPad 2 in the $399 slot, because it offered a more easily visible upgrade than the iPad 3. At least consumers would see the quality difference between displays, even if the outer design wasn't that different. 

That's part of the reason (we expect) why Apple introduced the iPhone 5c this year - it offers consumers a more easily discernible visual difference compared to the iPhone 5s than the iPhone 5 would have. But, that argument doesn't really follow between the iPad 4 and the iPad Air, because Apple has given the iPad a design overhaul with the newest version. Visually, there is no mistaking the iPad Air for the iPad 4. So, why is the iPad 2 still in Apple's lineup?

Why the iPad 2?

The obvious reason is the same as the other part of why Apple chose to go with the iPhone 5c: profit margin. The iPad 2 is still using the same components it launched with in March 2011, that includes a processor that is 4 generations behind, a display with half the resolution of Apple's highly marketed Retina displays, and a 0.7 megapixel rear camera. We need to repeat that last one: Apple's lower tier iPad has a rear camera that offers fewer megapixels than the original Android handset: the T-Mobile G1. Sure, megapixels are only part of the equation, but that's still pretty ridiculous. 

Add in the fact that the iPad 2 is still using the A5 chipset, which has since been eclipsed by the A5X (used in the iPad 3), the A6 (iPhone 5), the A6X (iPad 4), and the A7 (iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad mini 2), and the lower resolution display, and it is easy to see where Apple is getting the manufacturing savings. The iPad 2 likely costs quite a bit less than the iPad 3 or 4 would to build, meaning Apple will be making a much higher margin on every unit sold. 

The other reason that seems likely for keeping the iPad 2 on the market instead of replacing it with the iPad 3 or 4 is with Apple's other tablet - the iPad mini. The original iPad mini is essentially an iPad 2 with a smaller screen and better cameras. (Once again, the iPad 2 camera is awful.) A big reason why the iPad mini has the same display resolution as the iPad 2 is so developers wouldn't have to do any work to get their apps working on the new tablet (because Apple apparently hates responsive design, as we've talked about before). So, it seems like the only other viable reason why Apple would keep the iPad 2 on the market is because it is keeping the iPad mini on sale as well, and the iPad mini can't be the only non-Retina tablet being sold (although the reasoning there is escaping us right now). 


Ultimately, this feels like the will of Tim Cook, and his expertise in supply chain. Cook is always deeply concerned with lowering production costs, and stock on hand, and that leads to decisions like this. There is no arguing that Steve Jobs is gone now. While we can't say for sure, we get the feeling that if Steve were still in charge, instead of leaving the iPad 2 on the market to complement the iPad mini, he would have simply left the non-Retina tablets behind, and begun transitioning the ecosystem to being 100% Retina. That may have meant cutting the cord on the original iPad mini after just one year; or, it may have meant delaying the iPad mini one year and launching it with a Retina display. 

The original iPad mini obviously had a place in the market given how well it has sold; and, it can't be claimed that all of the iPad minis sold over the past year would have been iPad sales if the mini didn't exist. But, this seems to prove that the decision to release the iPad mini is actually holding back the iOS ecosystem more than it is helping to push it towards the next phase of its evolution. Had Apple waited one year, and released this iPad mini 2 as the first iPad mini, and cut the cord on the iPad 2, that would have made for a much more impressive offering. Coming out of the gate with a 7.9-inch Retina display would have made more of an impact. 

As is, the existence of the iPad 2 and the iPad mini don't really fulfill their duty of showing the big upgrades available in the higher-end iPad models, but instead show a company that is clinging to the past on cost reasons rather than forging ahead into the future. 



23. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Apple.overproduced the 2, hence its remaining.availability. Same with the 4s and why the 5 went the way of ipad4, gone after following.update.

20. willard12 unregistered

I'm holding out for the ipad pro.

19. vishu9

Posts: 252; Member since: Mar 03, 2011

Awesome article Michael.. Goes to show those trolls that the writers at PA can be unbiased when the s**t is this real..

15. alltechinside

Posts: 248; Member since: Apr 21, 2013

This is like a mockery to consumers. I can't believe Apple still sells the iPad 2 for $399!!! This is nearly a 3 year old device selling at a high-end cost. This costs the same as the 2012 Nexus 10!! Let's hope people aren't stupid to fall for it. Apple should just end the iPad 2 line already...

14. MrsPotatoHead

Posts: 48; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

Im confused --- are they rereleasing iPad 2 or are they continuing to sell iPad 2 and why especially since that iPhone 5C aint doing to good. I really want that iPad Air so I wouldn't waste my time with any of them other ones.

10. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

wow, the ipad 2 is still on sale, for 399$? Im guessing we will start seeing sales on these soon enough, retailers want the shelves to be stocked with the new tablets. They may have various incentives to sell off the remaining Ipad 2 inventories. I see the first of these probably for this christmas shopping season.

9. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

It's the same price as the iPad mini 2... Why would you get an old, outdated large tablet over a new, top of the line small tablet? I mean, if you were really THAT desperate for the extra screen space, I think you would be willing to hand out the extra $100 for the iPad Air.

8. Sauce unregistered

It's still a great tablet. Are there better options? Of course. Do you HAVE to buy the iPad 2? Nope. Whoever wants to buy it will buy it, because like always, that one special word is always right: Choice. Haters gonna' hate. Potatoes gonna' potate.

7. deathbydesigner

Posts: 10; Member since: Nov 28, 2012

I would hope consumers would be smart enough to see that the iPad 2 should not even be considered when shopping for a tablet but after working over 9 years in retail, people will still buy it because Apple said it's a bargain of a deal.

6. woodshop20

Posts: 459; Member since: Sep 14, 2013

Who would get the iPad 2 when you can get the Nexus 7 for a little over $200? Except for those who love to be imprisoned within within Apple's walled gardens, that is.

12. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Those who already are plus the disillusioned.

5. avasponge

Posts: 44; Member since: May 03, 2012

ipad mini 2 for $399 with better specs or iPad 2 for $399. Obviously the iPad 2

2. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

The iPad 2 at $399 is probably the worst "deal" of 2013

3. ocilfa

Posts: 334; Member since: Aug 03, 2012

2012 also, to be honest...

1. ocilfa

Posts: 334; Member since: Aug 03, 2012

What kind of moron would buy an iPad 2?

4. DaHarder

Posts: 177; Member since: Oct 10, 2009

They primarily sell them to those (unlearned customers) who just have to have an iPad and find the Mini to NOT be quite a 'real iPad'. They're also quite popular with the EDU market in some communities... for use as digital textbooks etc.

11. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

No, it is just a straight up strong arming tactic to force those stuck only with Apple's ecosystem to go with the more expensive offerings. There is no reason to keep it at the same price for 2 years and then some. Your comment would make sense if they reduced the cost but unfortunately the Apple of the good old innovating in tech days is gone and now innovation happens in the finance and legal departments.

18. micego

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 12, 2011

That's what I was thinking the whole time. It's just Apple adverting consumers away from the cheaper product because they could get the newer product for "only" $100 more. Surprised that wasn't mentioned in the article. At the same time Apple is genius with their marketing, so who knows what the full reasoning behind it was.

17. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

One question... if the iPAD 2 will continue, the iPAD 4 will be stopped ?

21. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Yes, buy it while it lasts if you really want one. It will likely be sold for iPad 2 prices until quantities run out.

22. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011


13. robocopvn

Posts: 504; Member since: Mar 10, 2010

in Vietnam, many chicks don't know anything and pay everything for the Apple product haha :))

16. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Tim Cook will not continue to make iPad 2 if nobody buy. Same price as the iPad mini 2 but a bigger screen. I wonder whether the Apple sales would push this as a bigger screen alternative and yet cheaper than iPad Air. Well, the consumer are happy and Apple are happy. ignorance is a bliss.

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