After an amazing three-year run, Apple announced that it’s finally discontinuing the iPad 2. In its place, 2012′s fourth-generation iPad has returned to Apple’s line-up. With immensely superior internals, a retina display, and a lightning connector, the “iPad 4″ is a much improved device than the iPad 2. Even better, it’s being sold at the exact same $399 price point.
In a PR statement released earlier today, Apple unceremoniously announced the death of the long-lived iPad 2. Apple’s second tablet was released back in March of 2011, and remained a core part of Apple’s line-up until today. With its A5 SoC, 1024×768 resolution, and 30-pin dock connector, the iPad 2 really was a relic from another time. Even after the introduction of the cheaper iPad Mini, Apple couldn’t bring itself to discontinue the iPad 2 for the longest time.
While it is slightly saddening to see the iPad 2 go, the fourth-generation iPad is a much better device. It sports Apple’s A6X SoC, twice the RAM of the iPad 2, and a lightning connector. Those are all nice improvements for the $399 asking price, but the addition of the Retina display is by far the biggest jump forward. Four times the number of pixels are being shoved into the same area, and that makes a huge difference for the end user. When it comes to reading text and watching movies, budget-minded consumers will now finally get the benefit of a full Retina display.
Unfortunately, this shake-up doesn’t rid Apple of its legacy technology completely. The original iPad Mini is still being manufactured, and it’s stuck with an ugly non-Retina display. Even worse, the iPhone 4S is still being sold with an old-fashioned dock connector and a 3.5-inch screen. Hopefully, this year’s tablet and smartphone refreshes will put the legacy connectors and screen resolutions behind us. Keeping multiple cables around is a huge hassle for consumers and retailers, and many developers are eagerly awaiting the day that non-Retina resolutions are no longer supported. The sooner Apple drops its legacy baggage, the better.
The fourth-generation iPad isn’t as powerful or as flashy as the $499 iPad Air, but this puts Apple in a better place to compete with the $379 8.9-inch Kindle Fire and the $399 10-inch Nexus 10. Consumers in the market for a big-screen tablet now have a bevy of high-quality options in the $400 price range. More than anything, this is evidence that Apple is completely willing to wage war with Amazon and Google for ultimate tablet dominance.