Apple Breaks Its 12 Month Cycle (And Hearts) With iPad 4

What’s that state of mind when your favourite tech company brings out a new, better revision of hardware a matter of months after you bought the last? Envy? Lust? Greed?

Nope. Buyer’s remorse.

The truth is that from the very first moment I bought my New iPad (and bear in mind this was only six months ago) that the (undeniably) amazing screen was really pushing the on-board circuitry beyond its means.

[drop2]This was concreted when certain games appeared that made the New iPad struggle – NOVA 3 from Gameloft was the notable title but there were a couple of others.

On the latest model, with that Retina display, the game was missing special visual effects and ran at a lower framerate. It was better, without question, on previous hardware, and this was a frustrating experience on the latest tech.

Gameloft later conceded and issued an update (another GB or so download, sadly) that effectively made the game run at the same resolution of the iPad 2, to get things moving.

But the fact remains: the A5X chip on the New iPad didn’t pack enough grunt.

And now, as of yesterday, this New iPad, is effectively outdated. Sure, it’ll still do the same job but those claiming that it still holds the same position might be missing the point: the new one is more powerful, and as we’ve seen over the years, developers love to push hardware.

This isn’t just tech envy (although there’s certainly some of that) – it’s about owning the most capable hardware. I adore the iPad and use it daily, and have done since the first one. The annual updates are easier to swallow financially because I tend to sell on the previous model, but an update after just six months? That’s a much tougher ask.

[drop]Take Real Racing 3, a game that was used to show off the iPhone 5. That’ll no doubt run on the New iPad, but it’s likely to run better on the latest model. A faster framerate, better graphical effects?

They don’t make a game, but it’s right to say they can enhance one.

“The new A6X chip inside iPad is our most powerful mobile chip yet,” says the blurb on Apple’s freshly updated website. “It delivers up to twice the CPU and graphics performance of the A5X chip. And it makes iPad feel faster and even more responsive.”

It’s not just gaming, too – Apple say that Apps launch faster, and the camera’s sharper.

The branding’s a little confusing too. This new model is no longer the New iPad, it’s “iPad with Retina Display”, presumably in order to distinguish it from the also announced iPad mini. I don’t really mind either way, of course, but with Apple’s shares dipping last night after the reveal, it’s tempting to think that this hasn’t been Apple’s smartest move.

A six monthly tech cycle’s just too rapid, in my opinion.



  1. 6 months cycle is far too early. I’m just going to wait for the iPad 5th gen. Happy with my iPad 2.

    Steve Jobs is who made Apple and without him, Apple are going downhill fast. Just look at iPhone 5, nothing new in iOS 6 and scuff gate. At least I get my iPhone 5 replaced in a few weeks.

  2. Dont care

    • Then why comment?

    • I feel the same but I think I can read between tc’s abrupt reply. We have regular updates and new Android phones throughout the year. We also see PC hardware updating and breakneck speed so we’re used to that. Was I gutted a few months later when something was probably released after my ATI 7950 was purchased? Nope. Not one bit. It’s the way it goes. It’ll devalue but never stop the value I’ve had from this.

      However, the biggest problem for me, is that Apple have almost managed to dilute themselves and ruin their own exclusivity. Then again, this might be a one off. Time will tell.

      Re: Alex’s comments about games not running supremely well. PS3 anyone? The PS3 continues (six years after launch) to get it in the next with certain titles. Hell, we’ve not even seen some DLC from Skyrim appear. The PS3 is still a wonderful machine. The iPad (3) as well. Just that some game makers didn’t make their games run smoothly on it. Big deal (meant nicely). It happens. It shouldn’t but it does. Surely, buyers will avoid such titles if they’re that bad. Devs will soon get the message.

      Finally, the price on the new mini. Effing ouch!!! Not good, Apple. Not good. It’ll sell very well but, wow, not good.

      • *neck

        Sorry! Typing way too quickly for my own good.

      • Your comparison is slightly lacking. Imagine Sony would release a PS3 that is twice as powerful as the version that came out 6 months ago for the same price and the new model also runs Skyrim and all DLCs without any lag, with more details and a higher, more stable framerate.

        I’d like to know how developers will be able to descern between the models app-wise. Will there be high end games that support the 4th Gen iPad and special lower specced versions for the 3rd Gen iPads out there to avoid performance problems on these devices?
        If they do not fragment the system that way they will have to deal with people complaining about games not runnign smoothly and 3rd Gen iPad owners might be put off from buying more games.
        Not sure this was Apples smartest move…

      • Twice as powerful isn’t a minuscule processor or memory capacity bump. It’s a generational change… it’s nothing like someone buying a PS3 next August then getting stiffed by a PS4 in October.

        Also some people buy into Apple, because as a rule, they don’t do this. Buyers know they can comfortably shell out the money they ask, which is usually a lot, but at least it will be excellent enough to last every other revision. With the way the iPad3 spec doesn’t match its resolution and the fact it’s discontinued and not ‘demoted’ iPad2/iPhone4(s) style people have got something that won’t last the reasonable amount of time they’ve come to expect from Apple… A situation adopters of the iPad mini may find themselves in too.

      • The PC community is fine with decent sized increases in the space of a year but that depends on the hardware. I do appreciate that this is multiple companies competing against each other, whereas, Apple seem to be competing with themselves, in a way. It sends out a muddied message. However, I’m not doubting what you both mention. Apple don’t so much as appear to be making outwardly-facing mistakes but shooting their own fans in the …well… you choose the part of the body they got shot in!

        I agree about the Apple ethos from fans and people who like their products but wouldn’t class themselves as fanboys (the latter being me). The very nature of a timely schedule means we can rely on certain things. That’s now out of the window.

      • The nice thing about a PC is that you can upgrade components separately. With tablets you have to buy the whole thing.
        I think they will just stick with the new schedule from now on which only affects owners of 3rd Gen iPads (like my brother :P )

      • I wish that were true, fella. I’ve had a PC for a majority of my life and nearly every upgrade leads to sensible upgrades of everything else.

        The only thing that doesn’t feel like it demands new “everything else” is the GFX card. Still with you on this one but it’s also a lot of bluster, for now. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a decent-sized misstep on Apple’s part. I’m not sure they know what’s happening half of the time. Especially as of recent.

      • Kind of off topic but that realyl depends. A good motherboard and decent PSU will probably survive one or two upgrade cycles and if you have a decent amount of fast RAM you will probably be good on that front too, so basically you “only” need to take a look at your CPU and GPU in regular intervals. The problem is, getting top of the line parts for your initial purchase can be quite pricey if you think about keeping them for a few upgrade cycles. Either way, maintaining a top end gaming rig is always a costly affair. It just comes down wether you get good parts in the beginning or upgrade mediocre ones more regularly.

  3. If I had bought the last iPad, I’d be pretty pissed off. From a selfish perspective though, hopefully this pushes the current iPad down in price. Would love a sexy-res tablet for my photography.

  4. LOL, so glad i haven’t been interested in anything apple have done!

    Still there are plenty of clowns out there who will buy this because they need to be seen with the latest apple product.

    This kotaku article from last night summed it up beautifully i thought…

  5. I’m never going to buy a first-gen Apple product again; as in the iPhone 4 and the new iPad, since things like the retina display and antennagate tend to get ironed out in the second gen of the third gen, if you see what I mean. I’ve had the iPhone 4 since launch and it now feels overtly weird to hold an iPhone 5 with just my right hand, not worrying about the signal. As for the iPad, a 6 month recurring cycle would just drive down sales to intelligent people, but here it probably did need an upgrade, since the hardware just wasn’t up to scratch for some. It’s not a nice event, but people should have seen it coming.

    • Yeah, when they launch something and do a massive hype building section in their keynote… just stand firm, ignore it & wait for the revision.

      I can’t see Apple moving to a 6 month cycle, they’ve basically just stiffed iPad3, I’m sure the iPad5 won’t be out until 12m after this iPad4… the mini with such obvious upgrade path in its specs may be a different matter altogether.

      • It actually makes you wonder if they already knew they had to spec bump the “New iPad” and didn’t call it an iPad 3 to avoid the 4S scenario. It’ll be interesting to see how they will call the next generation.

      • Well A6 & A6x would have been on the roadmap during iPad3’s development, Apple just don’t pluck this stuff out of thin air.

        They would have seen the power they need to push all those pixels around on that amazing display, so technically they probably did release the iPad3 knowing it was going to be pulled rather much sooner.

        Not really a problem, beyond feeling miffed that your £400-£600 purchase not only hasn’t been demoted down a product line, but has actually been thrown in the trash, flies in the face of what Apple have done & what people believe they’ve come to stand for.

  6. Everyone knows new tech comes out all the time, but it’s usually a fractionally different screen, or a new processor that beats the old by 10% or something, in the iPad3’s case the addition of the Lightning connector would have been expected.

    But a doubling of performance in such a short time is surprising and whilst it doesn’t diminish the original product, it will leave people who have spent £400-£600 in recent months with a sour taste in their mouths.

    and with the sub-standard gaming performance where they have to choose between resolution or other aspects of visual fidelity owners will be wondering of they should upgrade already.

    On the other hand, anyone waiting will find the iPad4 will presumably be an amazing bit of tech that will last & last to the iPad6/iOS8 & well beyond. If you’re in the market for a 10″ tablet there can’t be any better, regardless of how much the rumoured Google Nexus10 undercuts it by, thanks to its tablet ecosystem and undoubtedly (for now) far better developer support.

    Such a radical ditching of the recently ‘latest greatest thing’ will more likely make potential customers wonder just how long the iPad mini will last…

    A tablet launching with 512MB of ram at a time when phones are up to 2GB seems bizarre (even with Apple’s great memory use, 1GB is in their phones) and that’s not taking into account the low ppi screen (which Apple have spent a couple of years telling us is bad because you can see pixels whilst reading – a key use of a mini tablet) or the CPU/GPU combo which whilst capable has been in Apple tech for a couple of versions now. Following Apple’s iPad3 actions you’d probably think that’s going to have an equally dramatically short shelf-life, seeing as it’s launching with such obvious reasons to upgrade.

    and if Apple don’t refresh the mini in the previous iPad mini Spring update cycle, will it just last a year, 512MB or ram doesn’t sound a lot for iOS7 to play around with.

    Either way its spec is appalling for the price, with the 32GB at £349 Vs ~£189 for a 32GB Nexus7 – Seems like a huge mis-step by Apple, but I suppose with just how expensive the new iPod Touch’s are they don’t have much room to manoeuvre.

    • Dammit forgot to close my em tag after iPad mini

    • totally agree with this. The spec and price is ridiculous. Expected but I think people were hopeful they would price it better than it is.
      I was going to get one until I saw the price. I will be looking at the Nexus and Kindle Fire from now on. Shame.

    • The iPad Mini will get OS support for as long as the iPad 2, iPod Touch 5th gen and iPhone 4S do. Same processor, same ballpark of resolutions and same amount of RAM right across the board.

      They’ll all see iOS 7, just don’t expect any big new features. They might even see iOS 8, just as iOS 6 saw the 3GS get another stay of execution.

      • Releasing a brand new device ‘here & now’ practically the same as an 18m old tablet & a 12m old phone… and charging that much? Yeah, great.

      • They all might get iOS 10 for all we know but I’m pretty sure they will be stipped of most of the new features. From friends experiences (I only have an iPhone 4S from work) people usually stop updating after a certain point because a) the useful new features aren’t supported on the slightly older device and b) the newer OS only slows the system down.

        Apple is playing the update game smart. People always moan about Android phones or tablets not getting new updates but Apple is basically just updating the version number that’s displayed in the system settings to make people believe they are still getting new updates while most of the features were stripped from it.

      • @cc: Well they’re charging less than they are for that 18 month old tablet, and only £20 than their similarly specced iPod Touch. Of course, it’s also much cheaper than that 12 month old phone too.

        I’d have liked to see it cheaper too, and it’s much pricier than the competition, who have all admitted to basically selling at cost, but in Apple’s pricing scale it’s correct.

        @kerash: Well it depends on what these new features are, but yes, that’s what I said.
        They do still get access to all of the new APIs which Apple open up to developers. iOS 5 had a vastly improved font rendering engine, I believe, and plenty other new hooks for them to use.

    • “If you’re in the market for a 10″ tablet there can’t be any better, regardless of how much the rumoured Google Nexus10 undercuts it by, thanks to its tablet ecosystem and undoubtedly (for now) far better developer support.”

      I’m sorry but you are wrong.
      Different people want different things from their tablet. I for instance will never, ever buy a tablet that has a 4:3 aspect ration because it is simply defeating the purpose of it being a media consumption device. I don’t want massive black borders at the top and bottom of my screen and I definitely don’t want the sides of the video being cut off when I zoom in.
      Another thing is on the fly file management. I couldn’t stand the inability to manage files directly from the device.

      I really dislike people speaking on behalf of everyone else (which would include me) and your comment states that there is no better tablet in the 10″ market which clearly is wrong if you care about aspect ratio and the ability to manage the local filesystem (among many other things).

  7. I would have bought an iPad mini, until I saw the ridiculous price for the basic model. An update in 6 months on the Ipad is just ridiculous, obviously trying to keep up with competition but I do feel Apple are going to out do themselves here.

    They are in danger of releasing products that don’t matter and are already interfering with their sales of an already popular iPad. Odd.

  8. I got a Vita about 3 weeks ago, second hand with a few games & for a pretty good price, I went and got Uncharted Golden Abyss and the sheer difference between the iPad and the Vita is immense… I wouldn’t recommend gaming on an iPad, not because of the screen, but that the touch-only control concept whilst being easier to understand and become comfortable with over sticks and buttons, quickly loses its novelty, and actually becomes limiting.

    I have no buyers remorse for my 3rd gen iPad – The screen is clear and crisp and it works well for the reasons I bought it for, quick convenient browser access, looking up news, twitter that sort of thing, but for pure gaming?

    Tablet & touch interface, such that it currently is, just doesn’t cut it in the long run, but that’s as much a fault of game designers as it is the limited interaction options of the tablet itself.

  9. Can see that the specs of iPad 3 were struggling, but surely it could’ve lasted til march! Although the A6 chip probably wasn’t ready for iPad 3 launch they could’ve definitely stretched the life cycle for the sake of their customers.
    iPad mini will undoubtedly be upgraded in under 12 months. Wont be getting either and can stick with iPhone.

  10. New big ipad, meh.
    New ipad mini was interesting, and then that price with those specs. No apple, your doing it wrong.

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