With the surprise update of the iPad mini at the California Streaming event, Apple’s tablet lineup now includes a variety of strong options across the board, from the entry-level ninth-generation iPad to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The high and low ends of the lineup have been firmly established: Nobody looking for a $329 iPad Pro is interested in the top-of-the-line iPad Pro, and vice versa. However, things get squishier in the middle, especially when it comes to the iPad Air.

Apple releases new versions of the iPhone and Apple Watch in the fall, just like clockwork. Sure, there are occasional out-of-cycle springs such as the iPhone SE or purple iPhone 12, but you can expect them in September (or rarely October) when it comes to fresh models.

The iPad has been more scattered, with its development more akin to that of the Mac.

They also have different refresh cycles, which is good.

The regular iPad models are updated at a different time than the Pro versions, which might cause the lineup to become out of sync.

When the fourth-generation iPad Air debuted last fall, it was in an odd place. With its A14 processor, it handily outperformed the A12Z in terms of then-state-of-the-art iPad Pro—and it was also cheaper.

The iPad mini has now found itself in the same bind as the iPad Air mini. It appears to want to be an iPad Air mini at its core, having gotten comparable features like second-generation Pencil integration, Touch ID on the home button, and a USB-C connection.

Even if the mini isn’t in bargain-basement territory, it’s still $100 less expensive than the Air that it outperforms.

The iPad Air’s longevity has been called into question. It appears to be positioned between the 9th-generation iPad and the iPad Pro, right in the middle of the range.

The iPad Air currently occupies an unusual position in the iPad lineup.

That’s for a paltry 64GB, the same as a 9th-generation iPad’s.

The iPad Air simply doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times. Long story short, the iPad Air appears to be out of touch and out of date. There are no reports of a redesign in 2018, suggesting that a new Air is likely to appear this spring.

With these staggered updates, Apple may be sentenced to keeping its tablet range chaotic at all times.


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