Apple improves low-end iPad value, but is it enough?

The iPad 2 is finally gone, and in its place is an iPad that's a much better value.

While the iPhone 5c 8 GB model didn't merit even a peep from Apple's PR department, they certainly were happy to announce that the fourth-generationiPad has replaced the iPad 2 as the value-priced model in the lineup. Will the iPad with Retina display have the same sort of extraordinarily long run as the iPad 2?

One hell of a run

Let's toast the iPad 2. It had one hell of a good run for a device in as fast-moving a market as tablets. The second generation iPad was introduced in March, 2011 and lasted three years and one week. It was the first refresh of the iPad, a then still-novel tablet device that had come on the scene in April of 2010.

Apple trimmed the device, made it lighter, changing the shape of the back to make it easier to hold, putting inside a new, faster A5 processor and a rear-facing camera, which gave rise to the pheonomenon of iPad users blocking your view of special events by holding up their devices to record them.

The iPad 2 has remained around since then, surviving not one, not two but three refreshes to the 9.7 inch iPad line. The third and fourth-generation iPads sported Retina Displays and significantly better electronics inside the case, but kept the same case design. And then last fall Apple scrapped that form factor all together in favor of a totally redesigned full-sized iPad — the lightweight, nimble and incredibly powerful iPad Air.

Through all of it the iPad 2 stayed in production, a steady target for schools, institutional buyers and others interested in a lower-priced iPad device.

New (old) kid on the block

But that changed on Tuesday when Apple replaced the iPad 2 with the fourth-generation iPad as the value-priced model; it's available for the same price as its predecessor, but comes much better equipped.

The iPad with Retina display, as Apple calls it, touts a lot of other features besides just the higher-resolution display: It has an A6X chip, better iSight and FaceTime cameras and ups its cell offering with optional 4G LTE for another $130. Like its forebear, the new "old" iPad is limited to only one memory configuration — 16 GB, but that base model sets you back $399, $100 less than the iPad Air. You have a Lightning connector-equipped device so you don't have to jockey different charging/sync cables everywhere you travel.

What's more, you have a device that not only runs iOS 7, but runs it well. The iPad 2 was left out of video sharing via iCloud. AirDrop didn't work on the iPad 2. The iPad 2 didn't have Siri, either.

All told, this new value-priced iPad is a much better deal than the iPad 2, and certainly worth considering if you're in the market for a new laptop and haven't got the cake for a new iPad Air.

Low-end value improves

Just like before, the new low-end iPad is the same price as the entry-level iPad mini with Retina display. Comparing the iPad with Retina display to the iPad mini with Retina display, the mini clearly wins out on spec — it has a dramatically faster processor. It's thinner, more lightweight, a bit more future-proof.

But the iPad mini with Retina display is just that — mini. And that 9.7 inch screen is a popular choice for schools buying iPads for students, for corporate use and for people who just simply don't want a smaller 7.9 inch screen.

There's undoubtedly still a place at the table for the iPad with Retina display. Whether it'll stick around as long as its predecessor will depend on how many get sold and how the iPad itself and the iOS platform both develop. One thing's for certain: you're getting better bang for your buck today. Suddenly a low-end iPad is an attractive purchase.

At least until the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display get refreshed. Then all bets are off.

What do you think? Is the new low-end iPad a more attractive proposition? Are you considering picking one up to replace an older iPad? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 16 comments. Add yours.

ClassThink says:

This is great news for schools. The iPad 2 was getting a little long in the tooth, but the price point was still compelling. Now we have better hardware at the same price. Great!

nat750 says:

Yeah it's a smart move.

czhDavid says:

Well I was going to ditch my iPad 2 but after the update 7.1 there was huge upgrade in speed. So I think I can wait another year with this old fart :)

Mike Alessi says:

I think it's a smart move, but I can't say that I didn't see it coming. Apple is constantly driving the lowest end specs that they offer. That's part of what keeps them at an extremely high adoption rate for their OSs, and keeps the devs happy.

Bruins_CCH_4 says:

This should have happened last October. I don't understand the timing. I feel a bit bad for my mom who bought her first mobile device as the ipad 2 last summer because she couldn't justify spending the extra $100 on the 4th gen ipad even when I offered to pay the difference. Oh well, she loves her ipad 2 as it is and is blissfully unaware of what she is missing.

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Ahmad Zulfadhli says:

I agree with you... apple should have replaced ipad2 with ipad4, a long time ago... I dont understand why they want to wait 3 years... Such a lame move by apple... Sell to consumers, a 3year-old hardware, with premium price... Seriously, that's ridiculous...

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streamlined says:

I can't believe they didn't kill of the iPad 2 when the iPad Air was launched. The low memory and crappy camera should have shamed Apple into retiring it. The iPad 4 still rocks. The quad core graphics on the A6X is rather under appreciated in the Apple world because most people were too mad to upgrade their iPads again so soon. But in 3D Mark Ice Store unlimited my iPad 4 hit 11,000 compared to the A7's 14,000 which isn't too bad.

Ahmad Zulfadhli says:

I agree with you... I couldnt understand why Apple sell a 3 year-old hardware with premium price... It's ridiculous... Now i can see why so many people hate Apple.... They give you older devices for a higher price...

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Yodes says:

Yet people by them. The complaints you hear a from a small minority on the internet. Remember apple is a company all about getting the highest profit margin on their devices. So if they can sell a device with old tech (cheaper for them) at a premium price and people will buy it, you better believe they are going to do it.

And if that's not to your liking, well you can buy the new technology.

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razorpit says:

Would love to see a 32GB version for a little more, 16 is a little too small. Seems like I'm constantly fighting for storage on our iPad 2.

johncblandii says:

What they should've done from jump. All that silly excuse making when they laughed the 2 looks even sillier now and confirms my arguments against it then.

Anyways...enough with the chowder, I'm glad they finally stopped shafting users with dated tech.

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Ahmad Zulfadhli says:

Agreed... The reasons why apple still sell older hardware, is because they are too greedy... They dont give a shit about consumers... All they care about is profits..

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cardfan says:

It's not very hard to find the air discounted enough to still ignore the iPad 4 at this price point. But it's worthwhile to look at if you can find it for 349 or lower.

Is this a good move for apple? My feeling is no. Retailers are already filling that price point with sales on the air.

Lt_Solorna says:

What about that deal with Dish? I checked the fine-print on their most recent advert and it says iPad 2 16 WiFi model. I hope those that do the deal that they can get the iPad 4 in its stead.

Lt_Solorna says:

I also believe that they should just get rid of the 16gb high end model of the iPhone and leave that memory for the previous model. Then they have room for also the 128gb iPhone at the probable price-point of the 64gb model.

Redshirt says:

If I were Apple PR, I wouldn't be talking about the 8GB iPhone either. And I'd also be hoping people didn't ask why the heck we came out with it...