When Apple releases new iPhones and iPads, it typically keeps around a previous generous product. In the case of the recent iPhone launch, while Apple retired the iPhone 5 in favor of the 5C, the iPhone 4S stuck around in an 8GB version that's billed as a "free" iPhone with a two-year contract. That seems reasonable enough, though it's a shame you only get a measly 8GB of storage space (Apple previously didn't make an iPhone 4S in an 8GB version).
But in announcing the new iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina, what's one to make of Apple's decision to drop the iPad 4 from its line and keep the iPad 2 around at $399 for the 16GB version (which happens to be the only version you can get)? I can understand a $299 price point, but $399 seems rather absurd. Yes, the iPad 2 can be updated to iOS 7, but like the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2's older processor struggles a bit with iOS 7.
I'm not the only tech writer asking this question. For instance, Forbes contributor Ewan Spence suggests Apple is just offering the iPad 2 at that lower price to get people into Apple stores ("It's a common sales technique to have a low priced product to act as a gateway to an ecosystem") he says. Once in the door, they'll then be lured into buying the latest hardware -- either an iPad Mini Retina or iPad Air. "If they don't [buy the latest hardware], then I suspect the margins on the iPad 2 will be more than welcome in Cupertino," Spence adds.
As crazy as that all sounds, he may be right. The alternative would be to suggest that Apple thinks consumers are woefully ignorant and willing to grossly overpay for a 2.5-year-old product.
Then there's the "bulk" argument. Ryan Faas at CITEworld argues that the $100 savings adds up if you're a retail chain or a school district that's buying hundreds or thousands of units, but just needs the basics. OK, fine -- maybe there's an edge-case argument here.
But for individual consumers, the choice is clear. If you have any sort of urge to by a 16GB iPad 2 for $399, you should probably check yourself into a hospital and have your head examined. Or buy my 32GB iPad 2. I'll sell it to you for $250. Been in a case the whole time. Not a scratch on it. Mint condition. I swear.