Apple has a handful of devices rumored to launch this year, such as the wrist-mounted iWatch and the notably larger version of its popular iPad brand, the so-called iPad Pro.
Reportedly, the iPad Pro will be a scaled-up version of the existing iPad Air with a 12.9-inch display. It’s rumored to come in two models: one 2K and the other 4K. There is also some speculation as to which of Apple’s operating systems the Pro tablet would run – Mac OS, iOS, or some crazy hybrid of both.
The tablet was expected to launch in the fall of 2014. But a more recent report from DigiTimes suggests the production of the larger tablet has been put on hold. Whether that’s an indefinite hold or simply a slight delay is unknown, but a late 2014 launch is now certainly looking less likely.
So why would Apple put the rumored iPad Pro on hold? The reasoning seems rather vague, but we have our own guesses as to why Apple may be putting its oversized tablet on low-priority status.
Developer and software support
The unofficial word from DigiTimes’ sources claim “large-size tablet projects face difficulties because of lack of support from related platform developers and ecosystems” as one of the possible reasons for the delay.
Apple is notorious for trying to avoid forcing developers to support new display resolutions. Adding 2K and 4K to the mix, while not nearly as dramatic as it would have been two years ago, is troublesome, especially for game developers. The Retina display was only brought to the iPad line in 2012, and now Apple would be bringing two new resolutions into the mix. Surely, developers wouldn’t put up too much of a fuss, but the larger display begs the question: what sort of gain do users get out of a 12.9-inch display over 9.7-inches? Is it worth all the trouble?
As neither a developer or hardware engineer, I can’t fully answer those questions. But I can say that, essentially, there is no benefit a significantly larger iPad running, say, iOS with no optimized applications. But that’s far from the only logical reason.
Popularity of smaller tablets
Apple introduced the iPad mini in 2012 and last fall launched the iPad mini with Retina display. Like many, I switched from a full-sized iPad to the mini (now Retina) a few months after it launched and never looked back. The 7.9-inch tablet is, in my opinion, a better balance between portability and usability.
It doesn’t take a lot of digging to find that I’m not alone in my take on miniature tablets. I’ve since adopted the iPad mini with Retina display and Nexus 7 as my personal tablets, and the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 was easily one of the most impressive tablets I’ve used to date. But Apple has reported more than once that its iPad mini has begun to cannibalize the sales of its full-sized iPads.
That’s not to say the sales of full-sized tablets have come to a grinding halt, but more pocket-friendly tablets have visibly closed the gap in market share. Whether that’s due to the cost savings, which are often passed down to consumers is unknown. The iPad mini, which bears almost the exact same specifications as the iPad Air, is $100 cheaper – $399 base price compared to the Air’s $499 starting price.
And that brings me to my next point.
Cost and pricing
Popularity aside, pricing and, likewise, costs matter. Apple had to lower its standards for average profit margin to make the iPad mini competitive. While its pricing is still on the upper end of the small tablet market, it’s still significantly cheaper than the similar iPad Air, and its extra slim and compact design, by nature, makes it more expensive to produce.
Producing a larger tablet also creates a bit of a cost and pricing conundrum. While there’s more space to work with, there are other hurdles to overcome. The larger, high-res display will call for a larger, more costly battery. The display itself will cost a lot more, as well, especially a 12.9-inch 4K display. I can’t imagine 2K will be affordable either. Those will inevitably drive prices up.
And judging by the scale of things, the very lowest price I can imagine Apple would ask for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro would be $599, just $50 under the base price of the Galaxy TabPRO 12.2. Assuming that, we could also presume the 4K version would be another $100 bump in price, or a $699 base price. The larger capacity models of these tablets, assuming the base models were merely 16GB, would stretch to upwards of $1,000.
That’s a best case scenario.
Rumor had it that the iPad Pros would also come with a keyboard peripheral, not unlike the Microsoft Surface’s Touch or Type Covers. What would those cost? Another $100? $150?
For that price, you can get yourself a MacBook Air with better specifications, a fully-fledged operating system, and a keyboard. I’d be willing to wager MacBook Air and netbook sales would be far superior to an overprice, oversized tablet, and DigiTimes seems to corroborate those assumptions with Samsung’s current netbook and tablet performance.
Should you be upset?
I can’t imagine too many are losing sleep over the fact that such a giant iPad is being put on hold indefinitely. All my 10-inch tablets over the years have gradually become couch tablets that never leave my apartment. While they’re nice, I’ve grown to prefer the ultra portability of the iPad mini paired with a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s compact, yet still large enough to provide a full tablet experience.
As intriguing as a 12.9-inch tablet may be, it’s not nearly as logical as it may at first seem. It will inevitably weigh more. How much more? The iPad Air is 138g or roughly 1.4 times heavier than the latest iPad mini. By a (very rough) approximation, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume the iPad Pro is also 1.4 times heavier than the Air. That would put it at nearly 665g, or just 15g shy of the weight of the original iPad. If you haven’t held and original iPad in a while, I challenge you to after using an Air for a few weeks. It’s a significant difference, one which will certainly give your arm muscles a workout after just a few minutes, comparatively speaking.
This, by no means, makes it unusable or not portable, but it’s certainly not ideal if the extra display real estate isn’t being properly utilized.
As awful as it may be for those who are actually waiting patiently, I’m a strong proponent of waiting for a better, more refined product. In a rare twist, I’d rather see the iPad Pro come later rather than sooner, without compromises or supply constraints in tow. That’s more the Jobs era Apple thing to do anyway.