Well known supply chain analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, released an investor note today, saying that it is very possible that Apple has some new affordable iPads coming in the future. According to Kuo, Apple could be releasing a 10.8-inch iPad by the end of the year, as well as a new 8.5-9-inch iPad mini sometime in 2021, with the latter device not having a major redesign in several years.
It isn't clear if the larger, affordable iPad that Kuo is speaking of will replace the 7th-generation 10.2-inch iPad that retails for $329, or the 10.5-inch iPad Air that sells for $499. Either way, having new iPad sizes and different life cycles for each just highlights one thing: the iPad sizing scheme is all over the place from one year to the next.
There are too many different iPad sizes
Remember when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad back in 2010? These were simpler times because the iPad only came in one size back then: 9.7-inches. The original iPad size was a great middle-ground when you just want something bigger than your iPhone, but not something as big as a laptop. There was a yearly upgrade cycle for the iPad until the iPad 4, which debuted only months after the iPad 3, then it was pretty much replaced with the Air. It made a return in 2017 but moved to a 10.2-inch size in 2019 with the 7th-generation.
Then came the iPad mini with the smaller 7.9-inch screen. If one felt that the original 9.7-inch screen was too big for carrying around, then the 7.9-inch was perfect, and it was not too much bigger than a Plus-sized iPhone. The iPad mini has had five iterations, and for the most part, they mostly look the same — there has not been a big design change since it came out. The mini was also on a steady yearly cycle for the first four iterations, but after the 4th-generation in 2015, it took five years for the 5th-generation iPad mini.
After the iPad mini, Apple introduced the iPad Air, which started with a 9.7-inch size like the original iPad, but eventually, it moved to a 10.5-inch size. However, there was a five-year gap between the 2nd-generation 9.7-inch iPad Air and the 3rd-generation 10.5-inch iPad Air, which left many people wondering if the Air was just never coming back.
Finally, the iPad Pro debuted in 2015 with the 12.9-inch size, then a 9.7-inch size in 2016, then it moved to 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch sizes in 2017, and finally, the 11-inch size became a thing alongside the 12.9-inch in 2018 that we have now.
As you can see, the iPad started off as something so simple, but it eventually grew out of control. I know that offering choices for consumers is great, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, too. With so many different versions of iPads with different screen sizes, it just adds to customer confusion and research required when shopping for a new iPad, which used to be simple. And changing the sizes of the screens (or even removing them altogether) doesn't always help, because someone could have preferred a particular model because of that specific size.
So with Kuo's new rumor, adding a 10.8-inch iPad and an 8.5-9-inch iPad mini to the mix could just be confusing us even more. Don't we already have enough different iPad sizes?
The life cycles of iPads are not equal
While it's pretty much guaranteed that we get some kind of new iPad every year, the life cycles for each model are all over the place. The iPad started off yearly, then disappeared for a few years while the Air took its place, then it made a comeback several years after disappearing. The iPad mini was stale for five years before it got an upgrade to be a mini version of the 3rd-generation iPad Air. The iPad Pro, arguably the most powerful of all iPad models, skipped an entire year before getting another upgrade cycle.
Even though the iPhone lineup is its own mess, it's definitely more streamlined right now than the iPads. They're mostly numbered properly, at least, and you're guaranteed a new version every year, regardless. The iPhone doesn't skip a year (or five). I wish that the iPad lineup would have a more streamlined release and update schedule. None of them have been 100% consistent, and it's something that I'd like to see change.
I look forward to seeing new iPads, but new sizes just mean more generational differences for us to remember.