Why Does Apple Keep Selling The iPad 2?

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Apple unveiled a couple of incredible new iPads on Tuesday, including the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the svelte, one-pound iPad Air. They even kept the low-res iPad mini for sale as an entry-level iPad at $299.

What, then, is Apple doing selling the iPad 2 still? At $399, it’s as expensive as a more powerful Retina iPad mini. It’s also less powerful than the $299 iPad mini Apple is selling at the price-tier below it. So why does Apple even bother selling them? It’s as simple as the fact that people keep buying the iPad 2.

According to data from market research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, the iPad 2 is actually still a huge seller for Apple. In fact, the second-gen iPad made up a whopping 22% of Apple’s tablet sales this quarter, and that’s after being down considerably from the June quarter, where more than one in three iPads sold were iPad 2s.

This is fascinating, and indicates a big problem with the iPad line-up compared to the iPhone. For most people, a two-year old iPad (or even the first iPad!) can still do most of what they want a tablet to do. They can browse, read and watch media on it, and that’s about all they want. The iPad’s more like a laptop, and can’t drive a yearly upgrade cycle the same way a phone can.

I’m personally going to buy myself a 128GB iPad mini with Retina Display the second it becomes available, but after that, I imagine it’ll be my last iPad for the next three or four years. Truthfully, if not for the low-res screen and my unfortunate decision to buy a low capacity model, I’m still very happy with my 16GB iPad mini, favoring it even over my 64GB iPad with Retina Display for most tasks. I think, in a few years, I’ll probably be one of these guys still happily plucking away on a comparatively ancient iPad mini, the same way I’m still typing these words on a 2009 iMac. What about you?

  • Gregory Wright

    Some adults are like kids at Christmas when it comes to their gadgets – gotta have something new every year.

  • Gregory Wright

    Some adults are like kids at Christmas when it comes to their gadgets – gotta have something new every year.

  • RavenTrading

    I do think that the iPad mini looks fantastic but I didn’t buy one because I just don’t think I’d use it. I still use the iPad2 and love it because of the screen size. I want to buy the new iPad Air, but that means recycling my iPad2… but I have two daughters, so I have to buy another iPad2 to avoid fights! That’s why Apple still sell the iPad2…. hand-me-down family harmony!

  • iamfawaz

    Hi John, I personally feel iPad 2 is around primarily because of its tech specs, making it easy to mass produce , and keep its margins. It has its A5 chip , which is used in the iPhone and iPod Touch so that means it can place a single chip design orders in mass quantities. We will never know what the true reason for its extended life, but all i can think is that it will be phased out, the moment a newer iPad Pro or something thats not mini or Air. Again, its a speculation, and Apple loves to keep us guessing!

  • welladriansays

    I would imagine that a school or business is in no hurry to replace all it’s charging stations from 30 pin.
    But for me it is all about the charging time. ipads are supposed to be mobile devices and grabbing a quick charge is possible with the 2, later models are too slow whether charging from flat or just using a lunchbreak to charge it enough to get through the afternoon.
    I have a 4 as well as a 2 and once they have the armoured case and screen protector on the value of “retina” is gone anyway, as is the value of being a millimetre or so thinner.
    – i’d also point out that i was given the 4, i didn’t see any reason to buy one – and i actually bought the two heavily discounted when the three was launched
    it’s a shame that the 2 is now only available in 16gb, as my “work machine” that might be a bit of a problem,

  • jblyric

    “It’s also less powerful than the $299 iPad mini Apple is selling at the price-tier below it.”

    John, how did you come to this conclusion? Both the iPad 2 and the iPad mini include the same A5 chip. Keeping the iPad 2 in the lineup, and packing an A7 in the mini retina establishes parity within the whole lineup.

  • mattbellia

    I may be wrong but isn’t the iPad 2 more powerful than the iPad 3 due to the fact that the 3 has the retina? Could be a reason why Apple decided to keep the 2 over the 3.

  • GamerJunk

    I think it is way too expensive still. I will get an iPad Air probably around tax time next year and trade in my iPad 3.

  • dpatrie

    The iPad2 still has a 30-pin connector, does it not? How many major iPad accessories out there still have 30 pin connectivity? I’m willing to bet the answer is “A crapton.”

  • Scott Townsend

    The iPad 2 has a bigger differentiation from the iPad Air (no retina display, slower CPU, 30-pin conn., etc.) than iPad 3 or 4. Hence why they happily sell it alongside the iPad Air as a lower tier option.

    I will buy the 128GB iPad Air LTE next Friday, mainly because I use my iPad 4 a ton and want (need) the higher performance.

    Mattbellia: iPad is faster than iPad 2 by enough that you notice it during normal use. I noticed a distinct step-up in snappiness when I went from the 2 to 3.

    Finally, I think the biggest reason the iPad 2 is still around instead of the 3 or 4 is purely the higher profit margin.

  • AppleLuv

    I have owned an iPad2 32GB since April of 2011 and i love it!! i have been tempted to buy the latest and greatest iPad in the past but i had no reason till’ now with the iPad Air. It’s true the iPad 2 is a hand me down to the family which everyone loves especially the kids with books and games and i see the iPad Air being the best with the weight comparison plus the Retina and storage of 128GB Merry Christmas To Me.

  • stewXM

    I believed, possibly wrong, that the iPad 3 was a bit more powerful than the iPad2, other than the retina display. I first upgraded my 3 to iOS7, and immediately, while I could, downgraded back to 6. Reason? It was slow and performance was horrible. So I have to ask. What is iOS7 performance like on a 2? If it was (and still is) horrible on a 3, why would Apple keep the 2 in the lineup if they are trying to move folks to iOS7 and the close integration with Mavericks? Business-Wise, one would think they are just trying to provoke you to buy the newer hardware. Sure, you could stick with iOS6, which worked like a charm, but then you start having other issues as apps upgrade to take advantage of iOS7. I found myself in a pickle, slowness, or my apps not upgrading right, and decided to put the iOS7 back on my 3. Now my apps upgrade OK, the app store is not all confused showing me upgrades and then pulling them as they are for 7, but my iPad3 is back to slow. Videos do not run well, web browsing is slower, typing is so very painful. Why would I expect better performance on a 2? Why would Apple even keep that hardware in the lineup?

  • Faslane

    I may be wrong but isn’t the iPad 2 more powerful than the iPad 3 due to the fact that the 3 has the retina? Could be a reason why Apple decided to keep the 2 over the 3.

    Not at ALL….A5 Versus A7 and non-retina screen etc. No, the iPad3 and iPad4 blow it away and it’s a very notice-able significance.

  • KevinReinert

    I think the iPad 2 is meant more for education. They don’t have to invest in newer connectors, etc.

  • KevinReinert

    I think the iPad 2 is meant more for education. They don’t have to invest in newer connectors, etc.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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