There were a number of great upgrades launched at Apple’s event yesterday – Apple Pay comes on Monday, OS X Yosemite is out, the iMac got a Retina display, the iPad Air 2 got a smorgasbord of new features, and even the lowly Mac Mini got a performance boost.
The iPad Mini 3, however, got a footnote. Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, hurriedly tacked on a mention of the company’s latest revision to its 7-inch tablet line during his presentation yesterday. It’s clear why: the iPad Mini 3 starts at $399 and has one big new feature over its predecessor…Touch ID. That’s about it. No new camera, no chip upgrade (not even to the A8, which powers the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus), and no anti-glare coating on the screen.
Compare that to the iPad Air 2 which received a new A8X processor, a new front- and rear-facing camera, and a brand new display that’s thinner and reduces glare. The unit is also widely rumored to finally feature 2 GB of RAM, a first in the iPad line. Last year, the two tablets were at parity, with the same camera and same processor. What happened?
It’s entirely possible that Apple doesn’t have sufficient stock of the A8 to load up its miniature tablet. Or the company never really wanted keep parity between the iPad Mini and the iPad Air, and last year was just a fluke. Maybe we’ll see another mid-cycle performance bump like what the company did with the 4th generation iPad. Those are only a few possibilities, but one thing is clear: the iPad Mini 3 got passed over for a major promotion.
There are plenty of potential futures for the Mini, and it’s clear that Apple doesn’t want to ignore it like the iPod Touch. But this year’s model just isn’t a good buy, at least not on paper. People can pay $399 for a 16 GB Mini 3, or $299 for a 16 GB Mini 2.
For people who want to have the latest and greatest, the iPad Air 2 looks amazing. But people looking for a new small tablet are underserved by Apple’s decision to charge $100 for Touch ID.