The $329 iPad could be just the thing for the education market

This winter has been packed with speculation about the future directions of the iPad product line, but nobody guessed that 2017’s first iPad announcement would be what we saw on Tuesday: An unexpected return of the original iPad line and the discontinuation of the iPad Air. The move was hardly exciting in terms of technology, but it could prove to be a smart and strategic one for the iPad as a whole.

The curious case of the fifth-gen iPad

Lately Apple’s been keeping old products on its price list, at reduced prices, in order to reach customers who don’t want (or can’t afford) to pay top dollar for cutting-edge tech. An exception was last year’s iPhone SE, which rolled a bunch of modern tech into a new, low-priced iPhone.

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How the AirPods show Apple’s frustrating and delightful quest for simplicity

Making complex things simple: Perhaps more than any other trait, this is Apple’s superpower. When it’s at the height of its powers, Apple takes complex technologies and boils them down to simple products that delight their buyers.

Complexity is always in our faces, shouting, demanding more. Cutting-edge technology is fundamentally complex. Integrating a suite of technologies together into a single product adds further complexity.

We’re at fault, too, as users, and people like me who write about technology for a living are even worse. We frequently mark down products that are too simple and pine for added settings, more options, and extra complexity, without recognizing how much complexity can weigh down a product, robbing it of its essence.

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iOS

Accessibility features in macOS and iOS that everyone should try

If you’re someone who doesn’t have any specific reasons to go there, you may have never explored the Accessibility settings on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. While it’s true that those settings are there primarily for people who have special physical needs to modify how a device’s interface works, the fact is, many people who don’t consider themselves in need of any sort of accommodation can find something of value in these settings.

Accessibility has become a place where Apple buries some specific, nitpicky details about how its devices behave–and that’s why you should take a stroll through those settings sometime just to see if they solve problems you didn’t even realize were solvable. Here are some of my favorites:

iOS accessibility

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Should Apple dump Lightning from the iPhone 8? The cases for and against

On Tuesday a Wall Street Journal report reinforced rumors that there’s a very new iPhone coming this fall, with a flexible OLED screen. But along with that expected bit of information came an unexpected one:

Apple [will] introduce other updates including a USB-C port for the power cord and other peripheral devices, instead of the company’s original Lightning connector. The models would also do away with a physical home button.

As John Gruber noted at Daring Fireball, “this is a terribly written paragraph.” It adds a layer of parsing that is utterly unnecessary if the writer was clear on what was actually being planned–though it might be a bit more understandable if the information available to the Journal reporter was spotty and unclear and therefore required similarly unclear language. (I would argue that if that was the case, it would be better to not report on something than relay your uncertainty on to your readers. But I am not the Wall Street Journal.)

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iOS

For a bigger iPad to work, iOS needs some interface improvements

The future of iOS is bright. While I love my Mac and expect to be using the Mac for a long time yet, iOS is the Apple operating system for the next 30 years. As I described last week, there are many different directions iOS can go in, taking the platform beyond the size and shape of today’s iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

I believe that iOS’s future is big–and I mean that literally. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro I’m using to write this article is currently the largest iOS device in existence, but it seems inevitable that Apple will want to size up iOS even more, whether it’s in a 15- or 17-inch mega-tablet, or an even larger desktop iOS device similar to the style of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.

The problem is that iOS was originally designed for small phone screens. Even now, seven years after the debut of the iPad, there are areas of the iPad interface that feel barren. (Spaced-out apps on the home screen, I’m looking at you.)

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iOS

Imagining the next 9 iOS devices

What is now known as iOS first debuted as iPhone Software 1.0 almost 10 years ago. Given how huge the iPhone has become over the past decade, it’s pretty fun to go back to the way Apple explained the software that drove the iPhone way back then.

“It runs Mac OS X,” we wrote (and put on the cover!) at Macworld. Apple was showing that the iPhone was a real computer at its core, with the same underpinnings that ran the Mac. Of course, we know now that Apple’s two primary operating systems are pretty different, though they share a common core.

In the intervening years, iOS–as it was renamed when it became clear that this platform was going to extend beyond the iPhone–has grown and expanded. If we define the iOS family broadly, Apple currently sells five different classes of device with iOS inside: iPhones (and the iPod touch), iPads, the fourth-generation Apple TV (tvOS is a variant of iOS), Apple Watch (watchOS, likewise), and MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (the software that runs the Touch Bar is derived from iOS and watchOS).

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Reasons to be optimistic about the iPad’s future

With another quarter of falling iPad sales, there’s a lot of talk these days about what’s up with the iPad. While Apple still sells more than twice as many iPads per quarter as it does Macs, the Mac business generates more revenue and is more stable than the iPad, which has shown year-over-year sales declines for 14 of Apple’s latest 15 financial quarters.

Despite a larger installed base than the Mac, customer-satisfaction scores that are “through the roof” (to use Tim Cook’s phrase), dominance in the high-end tablet market, and increasing sales to first-time iPad buyers, the iPad’s lack of sales momentum leads to a lot of skepticism about its future.

I believe that the iPad, or something very much like it, will be a huge part of the future of how people use computing devices. Here are a few of the reasons why.

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