Recommending an iPad used to be simpler. White or black? How much storage do you want? Those were the days. Tablets were a confusing space and the iPad brought clarity. Now, Apple sells five different iPads with two different connectors and two different Apple Pencils.
Which means clarity looks a little different. Of course, Apple still offers clear documentation to explain its every change, like which Apple Pencil works with which iPad model.
While the move does mean that every iPad is now compatible with an Apple Pencil of one sort or another, its brand-new iPad Air and iPad Mini weirdly only work with the first-generation Apple Pencil, not the newer version that elegantly attaches to the tablet’s side. If you’ve never charged the old model, here’s what you have to look forward to:
Today’s announcement of the refreshed iPad Mini and iPad Air shows Apple in rare form, bringing old ideas back to the forefront instead of courageously killing them like it did with the headphone jack, optical drive or 30-pin iPod connector. It’s nice to see that it’s willing to refresh older tablets with some modern hardware specs and features, but it highlights how messy and confusing the business of buying an iPad (and accessories for it) has become. This infamous tweet comes to mind:
Meanwhile, let’s consider the iPad Air. The Air was once the most premium model that Apple offered, and now its revival is being slotted somewhere in the middle of the pack, above the new iPad Mini, but below the iPad Pro. As Dieter posits below, what does ‘Air’ even mean anymore? It’s no longer the most powerful option, nor does it have the most dazzling design. It does have a headphone jack, though.
No matter which iPad you’re buying, you should know that buying the latest model doesn’t guarantee you’ll get all the features you want. Now, there are clear tradeoffs: the high-end iPad Pro uses USB-C and lacks a headphone jack, but the cheaper, sixth-generation iPad uses the Lightning connector found in all iPhones and has the beloved 3.5mm audio socket. Meanwhile, there’s the new iPad mini, which now has a faster processor but less storage than the outgoing iPad mini 4 at the same $400 price. You may want to check a comparison chart or, dare I say, wait for our reviews of the just-announced models before you buy.
The current lineup of iPads nods to both Apple’s past and future, which is cool if you’re an iPad super fan. But to everyone else, it may be unnecessarily complicated.