Sayonara, iPad 2--you had a good run. On Tuesday, Apple announced that it's replacing the iPad 2 in its iPad line-up with the iPad with Retina display, finally retiring the 9.7-inch model first introduced in 2011.
Its successor, the fourth-generation iPad introduced in late 2012, boasts an A6X processor, a 5MP iSight camera, a FaceTime HD camera, support for LTE cellular networking (on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile), 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi support on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0, and--as the name suggests--a Retina display with 2048-by-1536 resolution. Available only in 16GB configurations with and without wireless networking, the Retina iPad retains the same $399/$529 price points as its predecessor, and provides much more bang for one's buck.
There are plenty of advantages to this upgrade for both consumers and Apple. Consumers get a faster product for the same price, as well as better support for iOS 7. Certain features unavailable on the iPad 2--AirDrop, Siri, video sharing, and more--will work just fine on the speedy fourth-generation iPad. And it also means there's now only a single iOS device without a Retina display--the iPad mini. That's no small thing when it comes to developers looking to target iOS software releases.
The elimination of the iPad 2 also standardizes a second line of iOS devices on the Lightning connector; the iPhone 4s is now the lone holdout in Apple's line-up. That gives accessory makers another reason to move away from the legacy 30-pin dock connector.
Perhaps the biggest question is how this shift will affect the bottom line for Apple's tablet offerings. The iPad 2 was, by many accounts, a popular selling chunk of the product line, and even coming in at $399, the three-year-old tablet was likely bringing in a decent profit margin. The fourth-generation iPad, on the other hand, is less than eighteen months from its launch, and though it's been superseded by last year's iPad Air, it's still probably a more expensive device to manufacture than the iPad 2 was.
That said, continuing to manufacture three-year-old technology does have its downsides, and the replacement of the iPad 2 helps bring users a newer product with a better experience.