During its “Hello Again” keynote in Cupertino today, Apple debuted its newest MacBook Pro as well as an overhaul of Final Cut Pro X and an all-in-one video entertainment app simply titled, TV. But surprisingly, there was not a word spoken about iPads.
First, a quick recap: The iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 were both released in 2013. They then both received updates the following year with the release of the Air 2 and the tepidly received Mini 3. But in less than a year, Apple had already moved on to something newer, bigger and more expensive. The iPad Pro 12.9-inch dropped in September 2015, along with the iPad Mini 4, and was joined by a retina-enabled 9.7-inch Pro this past March.
That means we haven’t seen a new iPad Air in two years. And while the older models are still receiving OS updates, their A8 processors are decidedly pokey when facing the Pro’s A9x. In fact, benchmark tests indicate that the A9, which is really a desktop chip crammed into a tablet, performs nearly twice as well as the previous version.
So if Thursday’s event is any indication, it would appear that Apple is far more focused on its Pro models than the rest of its products. Just as today’s announcement of three new MacBook Pros — the base model of which offers similar specs to the existing MacBook Air at a slightly higher price — likely spells the eventual end of the MacBook Air line, Apple’s recent release of the 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros could be bad news for the older iPads.
This timing — release, update within a year, then nothing for the next two — does not bode well for the iPad Air line, especially with the more recent release of the Pros. What’s more, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro offers superior performance in the same form factor as the Air 2 for just $200 more. So why would Apple keep the Air 2 around when it could simply eliminate the model and force consumers to shell out an extra two bills for the Pro? Remember this is a company that recently eliminated the iPhone 7’s headphone jack in favor of selling us $180 wireless AirPods and just today rolled out a series of laptops that can’t connect to any peripheral you already own without an adapter.
In the end, there’s no way to confirm that this is the end of the line for the iPad Air. Apple is notoriously secretive when it comes to upcoming product announcements. There are some unsubstantiated rumors that the next Mini could be announced in the spring of 2017, and maybe the Air will be brought along, but we’ll have to wait for March to find out.