Given that its latest model is once again simply 'the iPad', it's a reasonable assumption that Apple's all-but-inevitable fourth-generation 2013 update will also stick with a subtitle rather than a distinct name. Based on Apple's history with the iPad to date, we can make a fairly good guess at what it will cost in Australia and when it will launch.
Picture by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The timing seems clear. The original iPad was announced in March 2010; its successor the iPad 2 in March 2011; the third-generation "retina screen" model in March 2012. As such, March 2013 looks like quite a safe bet for the next update.
Given that we've seen the gap between American and Australian release dates shift from two months in 2010 to a fortnight in 20111 to same day in 2012, it also looks likely that we'll get the same release date as the US next time around. If Apple tightens its supply chain even further, we might even see it go on sale the day of announcement or 24 hours later. Granted Apple's well-attested desire for secrecy, that is perhaps less unlikely; announcing a week in advance means factory leaks aren't such an issue. But it can't be dismissed entirely.
What about the cost? This chart shows the history of Apple's iPad release pricing in Australia, as well as how 'official' prices have been discounted when new generations are released one year on. Based on the clear patterns evident, we can make educated guesses as to what the next generation could cost, even though we don't know what it will feature.
In recent times, Apple has adopted a strategy of only keeping one lower-spec version of its older technology on sale. It has done that with both the iPhone, where the 3GS and 4 survive in 8GB models only; and the iPad 2, now only on sale via Apple in the entry-level 16GB configuration, while other retailers run out the older designs in other sizes. So we can't sensibly speculate on what will happen to anything other than the cheapest third-generation model in a year's time.
There are some clear patterns in this year's price changes. All the 2012 Wi-Fi models fell by $40 compared to 2011; 3G fell by $50. The table assumes this will happen again. The 2011 models were reduced by $110 in both configurations, so we've reproduced that as well. The price changes between 2010 and 2011 were rather more variable, so we've given greater credence to recent developments. (Since Apple updated app pricing as well last year, it also seems that it has a hedging strategy locked in that could keep prices stable for a while, something that wasn't evident when the price cuts hit early in 2011.)
Again, I'll say it: this is only guesswork. Apple might decide to finally introduce a 128GB model, or add a new form factor, or offer only SIM-based models with a proper range of supported protocols so that even Australians get 4G. But we don't know. Much of the speculation about this year's release (no button! haptics! Siri!) turned out to be inaccurate. Despite intense scrutiny, Apple keeps its secrets well.
While there could be variations of $10 or $20, the pricing data is all pointing in one direction. And even without the 2013 estimates, it serves to remind enthusiastic early adopters that there really is a price to pay for being first. Even if major currency shifts change Apple's approach, I can't see that changing.
It's worth pointing out though that this drop in pricing while specifications improve is far from a uniquely Apple phenomenon. It's equally evident in Android, where if anything prices fall even more quickly. If you wait for the cheapest-possible price, you'll never purchase at all.
But despite evidence that second-hand Apple devices hold their value well, after 12 months you can reasonably anticipate a major decline. If you enjoy the device over that time and you've got cash to spare, you probably won't care. But don't say you weren't warned.