3

Apple Releases New A12-Based iPad Air and iPad Mini

The best way to think of today’s new iPads is not as an updated iPad Air and updated iPad Mini. The new iPad Air isn’t based on the old iPad Air — it’s an update to the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. (It even works with the same cover and keyboard peripherals.) And the new Mini is really just a smaller version of the new iPad Air — they could have just called them both “iPad Air” and had one be mini-sized and one regular-sized, similar to how the two sizes of iPad Pro have the same product name. As far as I can see, there is no difference between the new iPad Air and iPad Mini other than size.

When it debuted in 2012, the iPad Mini was both the small iPad and the low-cost iPad. Today, the low-cost iPad is the $329 9.7-inch just-plain no-adjective iPad. The new iPad Mini is a full-fledged peer to the new iPad Air technically. It’s all about the size. (And there are no old iPad Minis hanging around in the product lineup at lower prices.)

Looking at tweets and reader emails today, it seems like the most confusing thing about these iPads is why they use the original Apple Pencil instead of the new Apple Pencil 2. It’s obviously not ideal, but I suspect the explanation is multi-factor:

  • The Pencil 2 requires an iPad with flat sides for the magnetic charging and pairing.
  • The flat sides of the newest iPad Pros go hand-in-hand, design-wise, with the edge-to-edge (or “edge-to-edge” if you prefer) round-corned displays, and Face ID instead of Touch ID. Those things all add to the price of iPad Pros.
  • In theory Apple could have given these new iPads flat sides just to support the new Pencil, sticking with the square-cornered display, larger chin and forehead, and Touch ID — but that’s not how Apple rolls. Such design elements are integrated with the whole.
  • Update, 19 March: And, I am reliably informed, the inductive charging data port for connecting Pencil 2 on the latest iPad Pros is expensive enough to be prohibitive for the new Air and Mini.

If Apple had wanted the new Pencil 2 to work on all new iPads, they would’ve had to put a Lightning plug on the new Pencil in addition to supporting conductive charging and pairing. But that’s really not how Apple rolls — that would have ruined one of the things that makes the new Pencil so much nicer than the old Pencil. Better to have a messy product lineup where some new iPads only support the new Pencil and others only support the old Pencil than to have a messy new Pencil.