On the iPad 3's lifespan

I ended up leaving the office early yesterday and spending the afternoon filing e-mail swaddled in blankets while nursing a rather annoying fever, so Halloween wasn’t that much fun.

But spending most of the day in blissful (if shivery) quiet and imbibing chicken soup turned out to be as good time as any to ponder a number of things I haven’t had time to write about, including the iPad 4 and the way it kicked its predecessor out of the limelight.

Now, I’m not particularly annoyed that Apple decided to shorten a product cycle and align it with the holiday season, or that they decided to deliver considerably more bang for the buck. They’ll likely sell bucket loads of them (if, I daresay, rather fewer than the iPad mini), and it was surely a very sound business decision for them.

However, buying a pretty expensive tablet is a conscious investment decision for me, and I’m one of those who would surely have waited for the new 4th gen model if there hadn’t been an earlier refresh (pretty much aligned with their original product cycle, to boot).

So I’m not annoyed that technology moved on, but rather that a considerable monetary investment has significantly devalued a scant few months after the fact.

For unlike most people writing about this topic (who are probably caught up in a series of first world problems like what SmartCover to buy for their new mini), I simply don’t have the kind of disposable income that allows me to buy an Eur.800 gadget every year, and I most surely have no way to sustain even bi-yearly upgrades for my hardware1.

I was expecting the 3rd gen model to last me 2-3 years or so, whereas now it’s probably down to one. That’s well worth being annoyed as far as I’m concerned.

In performance terms, I don’t really think I’ll have any issues for a while, especially given that I use it mostly to track news, read and write a fair bit, but also as a thin client - a use case that Apple doesn’t particularly care about, and that is more closely coupled to the GPU than anything else.

But in terms of CPU power and RAM, that’s another story. Software will inexorably bloat until it consumes all available resources, and the way I’m reading it, there’s a pretty decent possibility (given the other upgrades across the board) that the iPad 3 will barely get past the threshold for iOS 7 support.

All things considered, and rather ironically, the iPad 3 is therefore effectively on par with an Android tablet in terms of lifespan and overall value for money.

That comparison is the really annoying bit, and one Apple could surely do without.

  1. I’m typing this on a 2008-era unibody MacBook (a fluke in Apple’s earlier split between polycarbon for consumers and aluminium for professionals), and as you may well gather, the economy isn’t very kind to folk around these parts right now.