Apple just announced two new iPads. Contradicting some rumors, these new models do not sport Apple's new Touch I.D. fingerprint scanner. What gives?
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iPad’s missing Touch ID sensor


You can already hear the outcry. Apple’s new iPad Air and iPad mini are a total sham of an update because they lack the Touch I.D. sensor that was just introduced last month as a feature of the iPhone 5S. The same feature that was pooh-poohed by some as an unnecessary ornament and frivolous tech, will now undoubtedly complain that the the new iPads don’t have one as well. Such is the way that the media covers Apple announcements.

I think there are several logical reasons that the new iPads did not get the Touch I.D. sensor, the first of which comes down to product differentiation. With FaceTime audio calling, retinal displays and 64-bit architectures across the board, Apple, either intentionally or through natural evolution is beginning to blur the lines of their own products. That is, within Apple’s own ecosystem, a cellular iPad could now function as a phone. Bam, just like that Apple is in the “phablet” (I hate that word) market. But I digress.

What I am getting at is this- with this year’s updates, the iPad and iPhone lines look very similar when compared on hardware specs alone. The easiest way to differentiate them is with a standout feature such as Touch I.D. Since the iPhone has been leading Apple’s technology cycle for some time now (retina displays for instance started on the iPhone and made their way to other product lines over the years). I think this is also why the new iPads do not come in a gold color option as the iPhone 5S now does—differentiation.

The second, possibly more obvious reason, is cost. Let’s say that the Touch I.D. sensor is one of the more costly components. Apple can get away with putting such a component in their iPhones, because of the carrier subsidies of the price. That is, the end-user only pays so much for the phone, and the rest is cored by the carrier, the cost of which is dispersed through your phone bill over time. In short, Apple has greater margins to play with in regards to iPhone.

The iPad is different however. The end-consumer pays the whole price- no subsidies there. That means, Apple either had to increase the price and include the sensor, or leave it out until the price of the component comes down. Since this is an ultra-competitive market, and due to the fact that Apple wants to differentiate it’s products, they decided to leave it out. Next year, when the iPhone has an all new design, and new features that further differentiate it from the iPad, you’ll see the Touch I.D. sensor make its way into other products.

What evidence do I have for price being a big concern of Apple’s? Note how Apple has kept the iPad 2 around for two and a half years, just to meet the $399 price point. by the time we see a new iPad next year (if Apple maintains their current release cycle) that device will be three and a half years old. That leads me to think that an update will be available before then; who knows.

Additionally, Apple kept last year’s iPad mini around and lowered the price to $299. This was a pretty clever way for Apple to build in a retina display this year, while keeping overall prices down. See, it was speculated that the iPad mini wouldn’t get a retina display until next year, as the price of the component went down. Instead of waiting, Apple built one in, raised the price of the device, but lowered the cost of entry to the iPad mini by keeping last year’s model around and lowering the price.

As I mentioned in my previous piece, Apple is currently shuffling their products around, getting them ready for the future. New displays, new hardware architectures, and plenty of free, new software is a really good start for a bright new tomorrow.

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