New iPad Is No Big Deal

Is it just me, or have Apple’s recent product announcements gotten significantly less exciting than when Steve Jobs was around?

First there was the underwhelming announcement in October of the newest iPhone. Everyone expected an “iPhone 5,” but instead got the “4S”—which is really just a “4” with some upgraded hardware. The only genuinely exciting new feature was Siri, a surprisingly intelligent personal assistant program you could talk with in an almost natural way.

The March 7 announcement of the new iPad was even more lackluster. Again, people expected an “iPad 3,” but instead got just an “iPad”—not to be confused with the iPad 1, which is also simply called “iPad.” So, how should we distinguish this model? Call it the “new iPad”? “The iPad formerly known as 3”? Maybe we should just follow Apple’s lead and not distinguish it at all, because it’s not that different.

Apple’s site describes the iPad as “resolutionary,” which is fitting because its most exciting new feature is the increased screen resolution. Stop and consider that for a moment: If a device’s most exciting feature is its screen resolution, it’s seriously lacking in innovation. The new iPad does have upgraded hardware and 4G network connections on some models, but it didn’t even get Siri (it does apparently add voice dictation to some apps, but that’s not the same thing). It’s still a great tablet, and a fair value for the hardware it packs in, but it isn’t a significant upgrade.

The frustrating thing is that Apple easily could have added some great features but chose not to. How about supporting Flash in Web pages? The iPad doesn’t do that. Or what about a USB port, so you could plug in devices like generic external keyboards? Nope. Or a card reader, so you could easily transfer files? No. Could the new iPad at least include GPS as a standard feature in every model? No, only the high-end 4G models have GPS. I know these features aren’t expensive, because I recently picked up a 10-inch Android tablet for $350 that had every one. It has an ordinary screen and significantly less spiffy hardware, but for $150 less, I didn’t mind.

I still love Apple products, but I’m starting to worry. For years before Jobs’ death, I heard people speculating about whether the company would be able to keep the momentum of its decades of continuous innovation once he was gone. Unfortunately, I think we may be starting to see the answer.