Apple recently introduced the 10th-generation iPad with a new design and also a new higher price, which makes the product less appealing for schools and students. It seems the company knows that it fails to reach these consumers — Apple once considered releasing a plastic iPad with a keyboard to compete with Chromebooks. It never happened, but maybe it should have.
A plastic iPad bundled with a cheaper keyboard
According to a recent Bloomberg report, Apple has internally considered launching an iPad with a plastic back (which I assume would look like a giant iPhone 5c). But more than that, this iPad would also come with a plastic keyboard included in the box.
With this product, Apple wanted to compete in the Chromebook segment, which costs less than $200 depending on the model. The goal was to sell the plastic iPad plus keyboard for less than $500. This project never saw the light of day until now, and the report says that the idea was probably “abandoned” by Apple.
Still, it’s clear that Apple wants to compete with cheaper tablets and laptops in some way. It’s no wonder that the ninth-generation iPad remains in lineup for the same $329 as before, while the iPad 10 was released for $449. The company is quite aware that its new product is not exactly appealing to schools.
Where the iPad fails as an alternative for schools
To be fair, I don’t think the problem is the price of the iPad itself, although the new iPad 10 is quite expensive for what it offers. The $329 ninth-generation iPad certainly has more capable hardware than most Chromebooks in the same price category. But Apple definitely has a weak spot when it comes to iPad accessories.
Even Chromebooks that cost less than $200 are equipped with a keyboard and trackpad by default. On the other hand, Apple doesn’t ship any of the iPads with a keyboard.
Let’s take the new 10th-generation iPad as an example. It is priced at $449 for its 64GB Wi-Fi version, but many students will also want a keyboard to use it as a laptop. Apple’s new Smart Keyboard Folio, which is a full keyboard with a trackpad, costs $249. This puts the iPad 10 in the $700 price range, which is almost the price of an M1 MacBook Air.
For iPad 9, Apple still sells the original Smart Keyboard (with no trackpad) for $159. It is definitely cheaper than Apple’s fancier keyboards but still costs almost the same as an entire Chromebook. Together, iPad 9 plus Smart Keyboard cost at least $488. And, if you consider the Apple Pencil price, that’s $99 more.
Microsoft sells its own keyboard with built-in trackpad for the $399 Surface Go tablet for less than $100. At this point, the full iPad kit is much more expensive than its competitors. Regular consumers certainly don’t mind spending more for an iPad, but this is not the case for many schools and students.
How could Apple change this?
The idea of having a plastic iPad may not be the best way to push the iPad into the entry level tablet market. After all, the $329 iPad is made of aluminum. However, there are a few things the company could do to make the iPad more appealing to students.
Personally, I think Apple should focus on having only one entry-level model instead of two. A $399 price point would be a sweet spot for iPad 10. But more than that, Magic Keyboard Folio should cost much less than $249 – I’d suggest $159 at most. This way, consumers would have an iPad plus keyboard combo for under $560 that can compete even with mid-range laptops.
And if Apple really wants to keep selling its old iPads with a decade-old design like iPad 9, it should start at $299 with Smart Keyboard priced at $99. This combo would make the entry-level iPad more appealing particularly in emerging markets, where iPads can cost up to three times as much as entry-level Windows laptops.
What would you change in the iPad lineup to make it a better option for students? Let me know in the comments section below.
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