The Zombie iPad

Keeping around the old iPad mini represents an opportunity for everyone.

There have been a lot of arguments going around the web about why the original iPad mini is still being sold. The ‘zombie iPad’ they call it.

With Apple’s standard practice of not shafting iOS owners the year after they buy a device, it’s likely that iOS 9 will have to work on this iPad mini. And the problem, developers say, is that it is a bear to develop for such an old and slow device. The refrain seems to be that support for this iPad won’t be dropped until 2017 meaning we will have to endure, I don’t know what, until then.

Put all of this on top of the well accepted fact that it is hard to make money with iPad apps, and you see a market that seems to be getting squeezed harder than it needs to be.

But then you have to hang up your developer hat and look at the iPad market from a consumer standpoint: a $249 iPad competes well in the market. So well that it is harder to argue that you should get a Kindle Fire, or an Android tablet than ever before.

There is little doubt in my mind that Apple’s first motivation with keeping the iPad mini around is that it is profitable for them to do so. That’s the goal of any publicly traded company not called Amazon: to make money.

Secondly the iPad mini will increase the amount of users, and can only help with poor iPad app sales. To that argument comes the annoying “customer sat” retort. That such an old device will surely lead to poor customer satisfaction.

Ah, but let’s talk about that for a bit. Customer satisfaction is a really tricky beast. There is no one variable a company can control, and a large part of satisfaction is outside company control. My argument here, about the $249 iPad mini, is that most of the customers will be satisfied with the device, even if it runs less smooth than an iPad Air 2.

I think most writers look at the iPad mini from the perspective of someone who has used something faster. So going from an Air to a mini is pretty shitty feeling. However, the target for the iPad mini are two sectors:

  1. The general consumer who would have bought something else like the Kindle Fire or an Android tablet for a similar price. For these customers the iPad mini will be a breath of fresh air, and likely work better than what they would have bought, or are coming from. So they will be satisfied even if the experience is less than that of an Air 2, because their baseline for comparison is already very low. In other words you are taking someone out of a Camry and putting them in a BMW, but the BMW is 5 years old. They will still be happy.
  2. The corporate customer who might not have bought $500 iPads for their crews, but at half the price they don’t see any reason to not get the perceived top of the line tablet (iPad). And the company won’t really care about complaints from their staff because staff complains about anything you give them — especially technology. And IT won’t complain because they won’t be using the cheap iPads, they will all luck their way into iPad Air 2s. And really employees will just be happy to toss aside metal clipboards.

In other words there will be a large increase in market share, without a noticeable drop in “customer sat”. And think about the Christmas season. Imagine how many cheap iPads will be given as gifts just to make the life of the gift giver easier.

If I were a developer I’d be pretty happy about the iPad mini sticking around, even if it meant more work. Because at the very least this is a clear attempt to expand the size of the iPad market. And that matters when it appears the iPad upgrade cycle is longer, and usage is lower, than that of an iPhone. If you want to sell more apps on the iPad, you need more iPad users.

This all brings me to the apps themselves. iPad apps are all wrong. All wrong.

Lou Miranda touches on this really well in his post:

Think about that for a second. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote work exactly the same on iPhones as they do on iPads as they do on MacBook Airs as they do on Mac Pros.

Miranda’s argument is that there is no iPad or iPhone app, and increasingly there is no Mac versus iOS apps. It’s incredible to think about, but apps like Flare 2, Pixelmator, and the iWork suite are largely platform agnostic. Subtle differences and limitations, yes, but very similar.

And yet a lot of developers still look at them as independent apps. Yes, the designs are independent, but an iPhone really is no less functional than an iPad and that line of thinking is really harmful for everyone.

Moreover, I am increasingly of the belief that developers are targeting the wrong type of apps to the iPad. Too many power users apps, and not enough little helper apps.

We target iPhone apps for bit-sized use, that’s why Twitter is so good on the iPhone. Easy to look at in a line somewhere, as opposed to reading a novel.

On the iPad you need to target the couch. The American fucking couch.

I don’t know what exactly those apps are, but I know they are mostly what we don’t have now. Some that I currently have are simple games, news apps, and photo filter apps.

Those are easy to do in short 5-10 minute bursts while I lounge a ways away from the iPad screen. It’s these types of apps that will make for a better usage of iPads for the average user, and that’s going to become important when more and more iPad users become “average”.

If you can get average users to use iPads more, you can sell them more apps.

There is no zombie iPad, just an opportunity. It feels like those that think otherwise are projecting their feelings towards iPads a little too much.


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