The iPad 3 vs. the iPad 4: Another New iPad? No Thanks, Apple! Why You Should Skip This Upgrade

When I woke up this morning, I was expecting Apple to release the new iPad mini, along with the new iMac and the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. What I didn’t see coming was a new full-sized iPad, and I don’t think I was the only one blindsided by the announcement.

Since 2010, Apple has stuck to a once per year upgrade cycle. The original iPad came out in March, the iPad 2 came out in April, and the third generation (new) iPad also came out in March, so an iPad in October is entirely unprecedented.

In fact, Apple has never done a six or seven month release for one of its mobile devices. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod touch, the iPod nano, and the classic iPod have always had at least a year between updates.

This surprise move by Apple has not been to the delight of fans. In fact, I think most of us third generation iPad owners are peeved that there’s already an improved Apple device to purchase, when we just shelled out hundreds of dollars six months ago.

While I’m still a bit shocked that Apple would put out a second release after seven months, I’m also surprised that it’s been deemed the fourth generation iPad. That’s an entire iteration – a serious upgrade. Apple has been known to incrementally update its line of MacBooks on a bi-yearly basis, but it’s never brought about a name or generation change.

I knew when I purchased my third generation iPad that it would eventually be outdated, but what I didn’t expect was a seven-month life cycle. My “new” tablet is now retired, which is disappointing, to say the least. Is it worth it to shell out an additional $499 or more for the “newer” iPad?

Let’s take a look at what the fourth generation iPad brings to the table. It’s packing the new Apple-designed A6X chip with quad-core graphics, which is the chip we originally speculated would be in the third generation iPad. It’s also sporting a 5-megapixel iSight camera, a front-facing HD FaceTime camera, expanded LTE capabilities, a Lightning connector, and dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ Wi-Fi for improved speeds.

This afternoon, Phil Schiller promised that the A6X chip will deliver twice the performance of the A5X chip in the third generation iPad, which is clearly the biggest draw of the new tablet. The problem is, does the iPad need that much power? Are game and app makers able to utilize that processor?

The answer is no. While you may see an incremental improvement, developers are still going to create games and apps that will work with the internals of the iPad 2, the iPad mini, and the third generation iPad. We’ve had the third generation iPad for nearly seven months now, and I have yet to see a game that won’t run on the iPad 2. That processor doesn’t mean much when developers are limited to apps that function on multiple platforms.

Twice the performance sounds good on paper, but in reality, you’re not going to see the speed boost yet. When the fifth generation iPad comes out, and when older iPads are being retired, then you’ll see what an A6X chip gets you – longevity. Is any developer going to risk creating an iPad 4 only app that alienates iPad 2, iPad mini, and third generation iPad owners? Unlikely.

I know a 2X speed boost is enticing, but in my opinion, it’s not worth the cost of a whole new device. Even with Wi-Fi speed increases and an improved camera, it’s still not enough of an upgrade to justify going from the third generation iPad to the fourth generation iPad. The third generation iPad is still too good to make an upgrade worthwhile.

There’s no doubt that Apple’s fourth generation is going to fly off of store shelves, especially with the holiday season approaching. Apple is in the money making business, not the smile making business, so I understand the release.

As a third generation iPad owner, however, I’m still upset that the tablet I bought seven months ago is now half as slow as the current device, even if it won’t make much of a difference in use. It’s the principle. The fourth generation iPad doesn’t make the third generation iPad outdated, but it does put it one step closer to obsoletion.

I know others out there are upset with Apple’s decision as well, and there’s one thing you can do to show your displeasure – don’t buy the newest iPad. Not only is it not worth it, it’s also a way to vote with your wallet.

And do you want to know the main reason why you should forget about buying the fourth generation iPad? It’s only a matter of months before Apple releases an even newer tablet. Now that Apple’s thrown a cog in the update machine, we have no way of knowing when another iPad is coming.

At least us third generation tablet owners are now in possession of a limited edition iPad. Hang onto it, the Apple device that only lasted seven months might be worth some cash one day.

About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • ocomar

    Totally Agree. This is a rip off. Once again, They’re killing Steve jobs again since his passing away with every new Apple Event. What a pity. I’m sure now its time for Samsung to move at the top.

  • hjmoore420

    This is pretty much what got me banned, put this in Mac rumors:

    I emailed apple today to vent my frustration but I also called 800-275-2273 and spoke with customer care. He was somewhat helpful, but passed me to his supervisor, who passed me to some care specialist.

    It took about 20 mins, but it was my commute. I told this guy, Matt, that I was pretty ticked and a lot in the apple community seemed to be as well and I suggested a exchange program, that if you have apple care, and your product was in good shape for $100 you can upgrade. He thought it made sense and said he would pass it along. He also gave me a $100 coupon to use in the next 6 months, just in time for ipad 6.

    If everyone who is ticked off calls, they will probably do I am banned from apple forums.

  • jflipb

    The sole reason Apple did this, I believe, is to speed the adoption of the lightning connector. Sure, they bumped the specs because they would’ve gotten in trouble if the connector was the *only* thing they changed. This iteration brings all of their current iOfferings to the lightning connector. I’m not upgrading my 3 to the 4, but am very happy that 3rd party vendors are now more motivated to get on the lightning accessory bandwagon even faster.

  • stefn

    Love commenters who know more than Apple does about its business. Obviously they are used to Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, none of whom know how to make dollar number 1 off of hardware in this arena. Please, they could really use the advice.

  • Corey Smith

    My guess is that Apple is putting the iPad on the same schedule as the other computers (desktops/laptops). It seems they are trying to make the iPad feel more like a regular product and not a novelty product. By having it on it’s own schedule, it’s like it’s too special. By putting it on this schedule with the other devices, it makes it more mainstream.

    We’ll know if I’m right or not after some time. If I’m right, it will be a year before we see another.

  • Prakash kumar singh

    Yes I totally agree with you , in my case I brought it on 12th oct , just 10 days back , have they hinted at the release of iPad 4 I could have waited but , really too much frustrated at their release of iPad 4 :(

    • Robin Neibert

      My local Apple store is doing a free upgrade from the 3 to 4 if bought within 30 days of the new release. Call your store.

    • Silas Aqui

      You have up to 14 days to return it, some stores allow 30days. Your one of the lucky ones!

    • Prakash kumar singh

      But I don’t think I have option as I am in india and have purchased from New Delhi , and apple do not have any of their shops here in india of their own , they only have resellers who will not entertain this return (as after purchase they do not have any such return or exchange policy) , and when I asked them , their reply was that even iPhone 5 has not came to their stores till now , forget iPad 4 before jan 2013 , but is there any option if I contact apple directly will they entertain

  • Vexxa Stormbringer

    You have your facts wrong. Never say never, unless you checked first.

    “Since 2010, Apple has stuck to a once per year upgrade cycle”. So you are saying that this time-honored tradition has only been done… ONCE.

    “In fact, Apple has never done a six or seven month release for one of its mobile devices.” Of course not, because they are always LATE now… It was almost 2 years between the 4 and 4s. BUT>>> OMG, 9 months between 4s and 5… Wow, APPLE what are you DOING!!!

    “Now that Apple’s thrown a cog in the update machine, we have no way of knowing when another iPad is coming.” The cog is called the founding father pegging it… In every organization there is someone driving perfection. Apple lost that person. What you see now is a massive company floundering to stay on target. Your Apple is not-so-perfect after all….

    • Juli Clover

      I did check. Apple has released a new iPad twice. 2011 and 2012.

      The iPhone 4S was released on October 14th, 2011. The iPhone 5 was released on September 21, 2012. That’s over 11 months, close to a year, and I rounded up.

  • Silas Aqui

    Juli you made a pissed off 3rd generation almost new iPad owner feel a lot better! Thank you for writing this article, there are a lot of people like us out there that feel short changed. You made me get over it! Thank you!

    • Juli Clover

      Glad I could help! For the record, I skipped the fourth generation iPad. I’ll wait for the iPad 5 :)

  • Juli Clover

    You’ll love it!