Comment: Apple’s latest budget iPad may not be right for education, but is a smart move for consumer sales

Our education specialist Bradley Chambers wrote a lengthy piece yesterday explaining the flaws in Apple’s iPad-centric education strategy. The whole piece is well worth a read, but he outlined three main barriers to the superficially attractive vision presented by Apple, even before you consider the purchase cost of the iPads themselves:

  • Books are tied to Apple IDs, so schools would have to re-purchase textbooks annually
  • Teachers simply don’t have time to create their own interactive books
  • Apple’s apps don’t integrate with the established IT systems used by schools

But while the new budget iPad may not be a great fit for most schools, it is a smart move for the consumer market …

On the face of it, adding Apple Pencil support to a $329 iPad could be seen as a risky move. For the average non-techy person, that’s probably the single most visible difference between the $329 entry-level iPad and the $649+ iPad Pro. The company seemingly risks a lot of iPad buyers opting for the far cheaper option.

But I think the reality is a little different. I don’t think many people are paying almost twice as much to get Pencil support. If you fork out the cash for an iPad Pro, that’s because you appreciate the differences that aren’t obvious at a quick glance but add up to a big difference in real-life use:

  • A seemingly small difference in screen size makes a big difference to the experience
  • ProMotion makes for a noticeably smoother & slicker experience
  • Wider color gamut (P3 on the Pro)
  • True Tone display for more accurate colors in real-life use
  • Anti-reflective coating, for more comfortable outdoor usage
  • The rear camera is much better (12MP/4K/f1.8/OIS/True Tone flash versus 8MP/1080p/f2.4/none)
  • Four speakers versus two for significantly better audio
  • Smart Connector makes for slicker keyboard connectivity
  • Bigger storage options

Plus the Pro is slimmer, faster and has more responsive Touch ID. And the next-generation iPad Pro will further widen the gap by replacing Touch ID with Face ID and offering slimmer bezels.

So, in practice, I don’t think many potential iPad Pro buyers are going to buy the cheaper model just because it now offers Apple Pencil support. But everyone buying the $329 model does now become a potential Apple Pencil buyer. So Apple has opened up a whole new revenue source for the Pencil without risking much real-life cannibalisation of its top-end iPads.

What’s your view? Am I right that there are still plenty of differentiators between the models, and that the gap will be greater still once the new Pro model gets Face ID? Or do you think Apple risks cannibalising its iPad Pro sales? As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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