Last week, I decided that I was going to buy a new iPad.
There’s nothing wrong with the sixth-generation iPad I currently own, except that it’s heavier than I’d like. All I want to do is watch my silly dramas in bed and have it hurt less when I hit my forehead while falling asleep. It would be nice to have a faster tablet for odd tasks where my iPhone screen is too small and my laptop is too big, especially on vacation. Besides, four years is a respectable amount of time to wait when all you want is a slightly faster (and perhaps more colorful) version of what you already have.
I scoured Apple’s website. There was the 9th generation iPad and the 10th generation iPad. There was also the iPad Mini and the iPad Air. I’m not a professional, but there were two of those: an 11-inch model and a 12.9-inch model. I’m a gadget critic. I know several other device reviewers and I knew what I wanted from a new iPad. One would think that he would have been able to figure this out. But not.
As my colleague Monica Chin rightly said, the new iPad doesn’t make sense. At $449, it’s too expensive to be the entry level, especially when, as my editor Dan Seifert points out in his review, the Air can easily be found on sale. Also, I’m not going to buy some dumb USB-C to Lightning Pencil adapter just to try to digitize my hobby of analog calligraphy. And if I really cared that much about price, there was no way I could justify an iPad Pro. Well, whatever. I wanted an iPad that was faster, lighter, and much more colorful. That came out of the Air or Mini. I’m in my purple era right now: purple iPhone, purple Beats Fit Pro, purple backpack, purple water bottle, and purple keyboard. A purple Air or Mini would work. Except they’re both more expensive than the 10th-gen iPad, and price was one of the main reasons I was looking at the basic colorful iPad to begin with. That left the 9th-gen iPad, which at the time didn’t seem like a big enough change from my 6th-gen iPad.
In the end I didn’t buy anything.
I had the same problem when it came time to upgrade my iPhone this year. There were four iPhone 14 models. I hesitated and hesitated. When I finally bought one, I was nostalgic for the days when there was only one iPhone. The only reason I’m not pulling my hair out over the three Apple Watches that came out this year is because I’ve reviewed them all. (Also, I’m still doing some additional Ultra testing.)
I would not have had this problem 10 years ago. There weren’t seven iPhones, six iPads, five MacBooks, three Apple Watches, three AirPods, and one HomePod in a pear tree. (Add some Macs in there too.) Android and Windows have always had a lot more options. The whole appeal of the Apple portfolio was its simplicity.
In fact, Tim Cook said the same thing in a Bloomberg interview in 2012:
I could almost put all the products that [make] on this table I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads and some Macs. That’s it. And we argue and debate like crazy about what we’re going to do, because we know we can only do a few great things. That means not doing a lot of things that would be really good and fun.
That’s part of our basic principle, that we will only do a few things. And we will only do things where we can make a significant contribution.
That simplicity was the reason I bothered to switch to Apple products in the first place. I put up with the things I didn’t like because they streamlined my workflow and made my life easier, even if a big part of me bristled at Apple’s heavy-handedness. I didn’t have to do as much research each product season. The only question I had to ask myself was: do I upgrade or wait another year?
I don’t think Apple is going to reduce its catalog anytime soon. This means that I get used to this updated calculation or start to get acquainted with life as a green bubble. In any case, I’m pretty sure you can’t fit all Apple products on one table anymore. But seriously, if he was going to load us up with six iPad models, would he have killed Apple to make the 10th-gen iPad in purple?