Apple pulled off something unexpected at its iPad mini Special Event. It released the new 4th generation iPad, only a few months after it unveiled the third generation iPad with Retina Display. It also released the iPad mini, a 7.9 inch avatar of the iPad.
There have been a lot of theories going around as to why Apple chose to refresh the larger iPad during this event, ranging from axing the old 30-pin connector to adding a much better SoC to the device. The decision of course wouldn’t have been taken solely on the basis of a single factor, with many more such factors being taken into consideration in the process.
We explore one such angle that might have gone behind Apple’s decision to alter the iOS device refresh timeline, that is iPhones and iPods in September and iPads in October. (All the statements made below are based on the assumption that Apple sticks to the same refresh cycle.)
If you follow Apple’s software releases closely, you know that the company announces major upgrades to its software, including iOS and OS X, only during its annual developer conference, WWDC, held in June every year. You may also remember that the first three generations of the iPad released within the March – April timeframe, only a few months before a major iOS upgrade.
This meant that all the first three generations of the iPad released with an OS that was about to receive a major upgrade within the next few months. The iPad 1 ran iOS 3.2, the iPad 2 ran iOS 4.3 and the iPad 3 ran iOS 5.1, each of which was shortly followed by iOS 4, iOS 5 and iOS 6 respectively.
Compare this to the iPhone, which has consistently been released after a major iOS version update is announced, and has always shipped with iOS x.0, that is the first version of a major iOS release as opposed to the last iteration of a soon-to-be outdated version of iOS.
It’s always nice to have fresh software, right out of development, to complement new hardware releases. In certain cases like Siri, new software even demands the power and features brought along with new hardware. When the approach taken by a company is to tightly integrate software and hardware, releases of both these components going hand-in-hand is always much better than having products being released all around the year. The iPad’s launch timing always seemed like an exception, with devices being released right at the end of an iOS release cycle, and this change addresses this inconsistency.
We of course do not know if this was actually a reason behind the decision to move the iPad refresh to October, or just a nice, perhaps even unintended, consequence. Either way, it’s great to know that a product you’ve bought comes with the first release of a major iOS version right out of the box.