The Best iPad

Before this year’s WWDC, and especially before the iPad Cheap was revealed, Apple’s lineup of iPads was super confusing. Which was the “best” depending very much on which iPad features you valued more than others, but it wasn’t clear at all if you went down the lineup.

New readers may notice that I round the prices of each iPad up because they are deceptively priced a dollar lower than the actual pre-tax cost. Apple is nice enough to not do the penny-lower scam ($1.99) that almost everyone else does with their pricing, It would be good if Apple would also drop this bullshit that a $399 object is closer to $300 than $400, so I’ve gone ahead and fixed that for you.

Here were your options if you were trying to pick out an iPad in January:

  • iPad Air 2 at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128 GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 2 at 7.9″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A8 processor
    • 1GB RAM
    • 32GB ($270)  wifi only
    • 32GB ($400) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

There were other differences between the 9.7″ and 12.9 inch iPads that made the 12.9″ seem outdated as well. It was that true tone and wide color gamut that made the 9.7″ preferable in many respects to the 12.9. Except the 12.9″ also had twice as much memory as the 9.7″. Then, in March, Apple introduced the new iPad Cheap and eliminated the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, and a few memory configurations, from the lineup. This made the situation a little less confusing for the non-Pro models but was the first to do away with the notion that a bigger screen is more expensive.

Here’s the iPad lineup on March 31st:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

Anyone that bought a 12.9″ iPad Pro would have ended up with something missing features unless they waited until June for WWDC 2017 when the 9.7″ iPad Pro was discontinued in favor of an upgraded 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 12.9″ finally got display technology feature parity.

Here’s the roster of iPads today, post-WWDC:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($800) 256GB ($900) wifi only 512GB ($1100)
    • 64GB ($930) 256GB ($1030) and 512GB ($1230) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 10.5″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($750) 512GB ($950) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($880) 512GB ($1080) with cellular

All of the 32GB options were dismissed in the Pro line. Apple added 64GB and 512GB options to replace 32GB and 128GB, respectively. Prices were raised for the 10.5″ memory storage tiers versus the old 9.7″ iPad Pro. The final Pro storage tier jump goes from $100 to $200.

The 9.7″ iPad Pro also had half the RAM of the 10.5″ and 12.9″ models. The 12.9″ also had USB 3.0 transfer speeds over the lightning connector if you had the right adapter. The 10.5″ finally got that feature as well as the fast charging option from the 29 watt power adapter that is designed for USB-C MacBook laptops.

Both Pro’s also got upgraded A10X processors and that new ProMotion display technology that should be familiar to any gamer as Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s Freesync variable framerate technologies to reduce tearing in games. Tearing is when you’re playing a game with fast motion and you see the image split with a horizontal line for a very brief period of time because the computer couldn’t render the game fast enough. In Apple’s case these variable framerates now mean that movies look better in motion, animations throughout the operating system and apps are smoother and clearer, and drawing with Apple’s Pencil stylus can now get the display up to 120Hz, which should be super responsive. Apple is typically not very interested in appealing to game players or developers, and it still isn’t clear to me yet if there is any benefit to games with Apple’s ProMotion variable framerate solution.

If a regular person had been trying to figure out which iPad to purchase, and was trying to follow along with the news, they might have been extremely confused until after WWDC.

At this point it should be clear that the Pro line is “the best” in terms of computing power and display technology, and if you’re interested in replacing a laptop then you know to get a Pro.

One final issue that might put someone over the edge to the Pro is that both models have four speakers instead of the two on the iPad Cheap and Mini. Otherwise, it’s not as confusing anymore to pick a model of iPad out unless you’re interested in the iPad Cheap or the Mini 4. The Mini hasn’t been updated with new technology since 2015.

The good news, for almost every iPad that can run it, is that iOS 11 is going to be a huge update with big multitasking features for anyone trying to get work done.

I’m increasingly curious about how those new features will translate to my old 2nd generation iPad Mini, I suspect the answer will be almost not at all since it didn’t receive many of the split-view features that newer iPads have.

The New iPad Cheap

Photo via Apple

If you want to buy an iPad today, which is the best one to get?

If you want to replace a laptop, there’s the 12.9″ iPad Pro, that’s the one that hasn’t been updated since 2015. It has really outdated cameras front and back. The 12.9″ also has the largest screen, but it is missing features like true tone and the wide color gamut from the 9.7″ iPad Pro.

If you want to go small, there’s the 4th generation iPad Mini. Like it’s giant brother, the Mini hasn’t been updated in two years and has an A8 chip in it. I’ve got the 2nd generation Mini with an A7, so I don’t feel like that A8 would be an upgrade. At least it’s extremely portable, perfect for reading a virtual book or getting a little bit more work done than on an iPhone.

Maybe you’re looking for something sized in-between 12.9″ Pro and the 7.9″ Mini. Well that choice just got more confusing, too. Apple introduced a new 9.7″ iPad today.

Neither an Air nor a Pro, this model is slightly thicker than the last Air model (that it replaces) and the 9.7″ Pro (that isn’t going away). It will also have a brand-new outdated processor when it ships with an A9 system-on-a-chip next week. That’s two-bumps older than the iPhone 7‘s processor, and one step better than the iPad Air 2. The iPad Pro’s both have A9x chips which are a step up.

The new iPad display is going to be a bit worse off than the iPad Pros and the iPad Air 2, as well. Still missing true tone and other features, it is at least a little bit brighter than the old Air 2.

What else? The Pro models are still the only ones with the smart connector for accessories like keyboards (so they don’t need to do a bluetooth pairing dance) and support for Apple’s stylus, the Pencil.

So what on earth could justify this half-step model of iPad?

The price.

The new iPad minus Air and minus Pro is now $329 for the 32GB 9.7 inch base-model. That’s $70 less than yesterday’s base model of iPad Air 2.

To get 128GB on the new iPad you have to go up to $429. Yesterday’s 128GB iPad Air 2 was $499.

It gets more expensive if you’re interested in cellular data connectivity. On the new iPad, it’s $459 for cellular data and 32GB of storage, or $559 for a 128GB cellular iPad.

The 4th generation Pad Mini was also updated today with more storage (128GB vs 32GB) for the same $399 price it had yesterday. Yesterday you could get a 32GB gen 2 Mini (the first one with a retina screen) for $269. That option is gone.

One thing this price shuffling does is open up Apple to possibly update the iPad Mini later this year or next and charge more for a truly updated version of it than the new 9.7 iPad. It used to be that the price scaled down with the size of the device, this feels like Apple is telling us that was a mistake and is changing to meet the demand people have for smaller iPads.

This is the most confusing time to buy an iPad unless you are reasonably price sensitive, in which case it is now the best time to buy an iPad.

Pre-orders go up on Friday with general availability next week.

Goodbye iPad Air, hello iPad Cheap.

It’s an SE, As You May Have Heard

These were the hidden images of the Macintosh SE dev team hidden on the ROM

Here’s what happened in the final 1 infinite loop Apple Town Hall today, before everything moves to the new UFO campus next year:

Ufocampus

Apple opened with a short video about the 40th birthday of the company coming up on the 1st. Tim Cook Briefly spoke about the FBI’s misguided attempt at defeating personal security for everyone who uses an iPhone everywhere. Then moved on to former US EPA chief, now Apple enviro director, Lisa Jackson.

After discussing efforts to power stores and server farms with solar and wind farms, Jackson moved on to Apple’s upcycled recycling initiatives. Electronics recycling is great when people are actually motivated to do it. The new program is called Apple Renew and they’ll even help you ship your old devices in for free. Here’s where you can find it online. I love these exploded views:

Recycling

The FBI’s recycling initiative always seems to take a little bit longer while they lock themselves out of your phone for some reason that even they don’t quite seem to understand.

Jeff Williams spoke about Apple’s health initiatives which are fortunately missing  exploded views. Last year they released ResearchKit for people to participate in research studies. This year’s CareKit is a new tool for sharing information about your personal health issues with your doctor and your family through apps created with CareKit.

Nylon watch bands

Tim Cook came back to drop The Apple Watch starting price to $300 from $350. Some stores have been dancing around that price on sale for the past few months on and off. The Watch also got new a few new bands, the nylon ones look pretty cool but they’re almost not NATO-y enough. It also receives WatchOS 2.2 today, which is mainly about internationalization improvements and an update to Apple’s Maps on the device for finding nearby things like restaurants. Here’s what it looks like:

Nearby

Moving on to tvOS 9.2 software update available for the 4th generation Apple TV today. Split-screen NCAA march madness basketball so you can finally watch four teams at once get the least amount of education their basketball institutions can provide under bullshit NCAA rules. You can now enter usernames and passwords for logging into services with Siri dictation and (finally) bluetooth keyboards which had been supported in previous Apple TV generations. I like mine, just wish it were easier to side-load emulators without having to hook it up to Xcode on my laptop. 

Iphonese

Greg Jozwiak introduced the iPhone SE. Apple made four inches great again as was widely rumored with this exact name. I believe this is the first SE Apple product since the Macintosh SE when SE stood for System Expansion. This time the iPhone SE is not getting 3D touch and there is no announced initialism or other meaning behind the name. 3D Touch is the biggest feature of the 6s and 6s Plus missing in the iPhone SE. It still retains more of the squared-circle shape of the 4 and 5 series iPhones it is replacing, and that is honestly a design I preferred in my hand. It’ll be $400 for 16GB. Which is a capacity that very much still needs to go away. $500 for 64GB. Pre-orders are up on the 24th, it ships on the 31st.

After announcing the new 4 inch phone, Jozwiak moved on to reiterating new features of iOS 9.3 which is also out today but were announced in January. Night Shift is f.lux for iOS and is the most important new feature in there. I’ve been waiting for that so I don’t do as much damage to my eyes at night. Great update, wish they had credited or bought out the f.lux people who really popularized the notion.

The truetone display of the new 10 inch iPad Pro

Phil Schiller came up to introduce the new 10 inch iPad Pro that replaces the iPad Air for anyone interested in that size of device. Huge screen improvements compared to the Air, and it even has sensors to adjust the display so that the color balance and brightness of the display’s white balance adjusts based on the lighting of the environment you’re currently in. It’ll also have the speakers, pencil and keyboard add-ons, and other improvements that already work with the iPad Pro. Though the 13 inch Pro lacks some of the updates seen in the new 10 inch Pro, the 13 inch version still sounds preferable to me. The camera gets a big upgrade to iPhone quality , recognizing that many people are goofily taking pictures with huge tablets so why not.

Schiller calls the new 10 inch iPad Pro a PC replacement, I’m still waiting for Xcode for iPad to cede that. $600 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, $899 for the new 256GB tier on Wifi. Pre-orders go up on the 24th and it ships on the 31st. The 13 inch iPad gets the new 256GB model at the new high end wifi-only price of $1,100.

“What Happened in the Apple Event Today?”

Get Psyched

That’s a question I get asked, here’s the answer:

  • Apple Watch OS 2 got a release date, September 16th. That’s the one with the native apps instead of the apps running on the iPhone and displaying on the Apple Watch.
  • There are two new colors of Apple Watch, gold and rose gold.
  • The big iPad is real, it’s called iPad Pro, 12.9 inch screen, 2732×2048 resolution. 5.6 million pickles. New system-on-a-chip, A9X. 10 hours of battery life and Apple usually underestimates that figure. I can’t wait to draw and read comics on this thing. Better sound quality with four speakers, more volume. Weighs a little more than the original iPad despite being several inches larger across the screen. Silver, Gold, Space Grey. Price starts at $800. 32GB base model, thank goodness. Ships in November. $950 for the 128GB model. $1080 for 128GB with a cellular data radio built-in.
  • Keyboard cover for iPad Pro, looks a lot like the Surface’s. New connector for it, three pins on the side of the iPad Pro. $170. Ships in November. No mouse/trackpad input.
  • Apple Pencil, it’s the stylus. I really can’t wait to draw with this. Funny, I already have a stylus called the Pencil. Using the new stylus causes the iPad to go into some kind of faster-update mode. It has a lightning connector so that you can charge it in the iPad Pro. You can annotate documents directly in Mail with this. They even have a Microsoft employee on stage telling us how well it works in their Office programs. An Adobe employee came up to tell us how well it’ll work in their Photoshop programs. People are going to quote Jobs on the stylus, this won’t be the first time Apple has walked back a prior statement because they’ve finally figured out how to do a feature justice. $100. Ships in November.
  • iPad Mini 4, $399. iPad Air 2 guts. No new hardware to replace the iPad Air 2.
  • New Apple TV. Uses Siri for interaction as well as a new swipeable Siri remote. System-wide search across iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Showtime and more apps supporting it later on. Mark Gurman is right again. New screensavers with high-definition video of famous places, they actually look pretty great. Another detail that most of the bargain-basement TV sticks and boxes would ignore. Really smart search keywording with Siri, “What did she say?” skips back 15 seconds.
    “Show me that episode of Modern Family with Edward Norton.” does what you would expect.
    “Who stars in this?” displays the actors with icons.
    Other queries you’d expect like ones about weather with custom views that you can swipe up on the new remote and will pause whatever video is playing behind them.
  • New OS for the Apple TV, tvOS. Looks like this was really meant to be announced at WWDC earlier this year.
  • Games are coming to the Apple TV. Console games like Disney Infinity in addition to your mobile games like Crossy Road. Which now has multiplayer, other players use the iPhone or iPad. Harmonix folks come up to tell us about Beat Sports, a game for the Apple TV which has motion (wiimote-style) controls. Four players in this as well with other iOS devices. Third-party controllers will work, too.
  • Capitalism in its most traditional form of exchanging money for physical goods, Gilt is on the Apple TV so that you can shop at home. Where’s the knife show app?
  • MLB At Bat app has 60hz/FPS video, which they couldn’t do before, and the Mets are still the most terrible team in America next to the dispicable Yankees.
  • Apps are universal, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV. A8 system-on-a-chip. Siri remote is bluetooth. Controls your TV’s volume. Switches inputs via HDMI CEC. Lighting port on the remote for charging. 32GB Apple TV for $150. 64GB for $200. Death to 16GB! tvOS is available to developers today.
  • The old 1080p 3rd gen Apple TV is sticking around at $70.
  • New iPhone. 6s and 6s+. Rose gold option added to silver and space gray. A9 system-on-a-chip. New cases and docks available from Apple.
  • 3D Touch on the new iPhones is similar to Force Touch on the watch. Works on the home screen to show you shortcuts. Does all kinds of other cool things like letting you peek into an app to see some information with a gentle touch, or onto a link in a chat to look at a map without going to the maps app. Where’s my wireless 3D Touchpad for the Mac?
  • OS X El Capitan ships September 20th. This was hidden in a super-secret e-mail displayed on the big screen during the event.
  • You can go into the multi-tasking switcher from the side of the iPhone screen with 3D Touch instead of hitting the home button twice in quick succession.
  • Warhammer 40k: Warblade demo shows the improvements with the new A9 and 3D Touch. Framerate looks good.
  • Camera improvements in the 6s and 6s+. 12 megapickles on the back camera. 4k video recording. Panoramas are 63 megapickles. The front-facing Facetime camera is 5 megapickles and now uses the front-facing screen as a flash. That’s a pretty cool re-use of the stuff that was already there.
  • Live Photos. A 3D touch long-press changes your photos into short 1 or 2 second vine-style videos that capture just before and after your press. It’s the default now, but still toggle-able.
  • Up to 866 Mbps Wi-Fi in addition to LTE Advanced and other networking improvements.
  • New Android app helps you switch to the iPhone.
  • iPhone prices are the same. 5s is the new free phone on contract. 6 is $100 on contract. 16GB is sticking around on the iPhone 6s and 6s+ for a bit longer, boo.
  • New iPhone Upgrade program at Apple stores, unlocked phone, starts at $32/month for people who want to get away from subsidies.
  • iCloud storage prices are way, way, down and actually competitive with other storage services. 50GB for $1/month, 200GB for $3/month, 1TB for $10/month.
  • iOS 9 comes out on the 16th of September. New iPhones come out on September 25th. Pre-order goes up this saturday on the 12th.