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Article: That Yearly Upgrade Cycle

by on March 8, 2012

After Apple’s iPad event yesterday, part of me is excited about the new features & technology and the direction the iPad is going, while the other part of me has a bit of a conundrum—do I replace my original iPad or hang on to it for a bit longer?

For many, the new iPad will be replacing an iPad 2. While this is great for Apple’s bottom line, I chose to sit the iPad 2 launch out, not because it wasn’t a great product, but for me, it wasn’t something I could justify spending a few hundred more and dealing with selling a greatly-depreciated iPad. When I found myself needing a laptop less and less, I faced a similar issue with the thought of selling my MacBook Pro and replacing it with an iMac or Mac mini. At the time, I would have lost a lot through depreciation, and gained little in performance.

I have an iPhone 4 and am awaiting the next iPhone, whatever it may be called, as an upgrade. As the 4S was a solid update, it didn’t offer much that really made me want to rush to get rid of my 4. I felt the same way with the iPad 2 compared to the original. Sure, it had cameras, more power, and a thinner profile, but for most apps I use on a regular basis, I could get by.

The major areas I did wish for an iPad 2 were web browsing—open a few tabs and you’re either stuck with refreshes or just plain running out of memory—and mirroring. Even now, if I keep my browsing a little more light-duty and revert to my Mac for lots-of-tabs-open sessions, and stick with presentations through Keynote or photo slides, my iPad is a mostly satisfying experience. Sure, the Smart Cover is still one of those things that I’m intrigued by and I hate that Apple puts false limitations on its apps (iMovie and iPhoto require a front-facing camera to run, even though I would never use the built-in cameras on any iPad to shoot footage—both apps run fine on my iPhone 4, which uses the same A4 chip, but has more RAM.)

Getting back to yesterday’s announcements—I’m glad the current Apple TV got the software update—I suspect most things Apple will release for it (c’mon—the new menu screams for more “apps”) will work on both models, just that the new one will be able to handle 1080p content and mine will not (but my TV won’t either, so who cares?) I think the iPad is a good update, but I might wait until I really need a new one, either because of software requirements changing or it eventually replacing a computer entirely.

Right now, Apple still supports the iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch with iOS 5. I’m guessing if we see iOS 6 this summer, those two models will drop off the supported list, but the iPhone 4, original iPad, and fourth-generation iPod touch (which also has 256MB RAM, like the original iPad) could be supported for another year. We might see more features held back or app developers creating limitations to restrict the apps to certain models.

Still, I suspect Apple has figured out that people may see the iPad more like a computer than a phone when it comes to longevity—many people will replace their phones every two years, due to wear & tear, age, or wanting new features and carriers encourage this with the “magical” upgrade dates. iPads, not being subsidized, are a different beast, as you are paying entirely up-front and a $500-$830 purchase every other year is still a large chunk of change.

At the end of the day, I may still cave and get one, but I don’t feel that I need to. It’s easy to get caught up in the newest technology, especially when you’re one who is covering things and gets excited about every shiny new feature. That’s not to say the new iPad isn’t impressive—it is, even when you just count the screen. I have to think that Apple is trying to really attract new iPad customers the most (especially with the $399 iPad 2), and keep current users happy until they feel they have squeezed the last little bit of toothpaste out of the tube.

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