Let's Just Agree to Call It the iPad 3

By Tom Davenport on at

"The new iPad." Apple, please.

You're essentially asking journalists to define it as "the third-generation iPad" every time we refer to more than one of your beaming tablets. You can take our overtime, but you can't take our word count.

Don't get me wrong. Dropping the suffix for just 'iPad' is a slick move, and well overdue. It reaffirms the iPad as a class of device, just as MacBook is Apple's laptop and iMac its desktop. The iPad has graduated, and Tim Cook has given it a fatherly slap on the back. He's taking the stabilisers off and pushing it out into the world like a champ.

But we don't want to say "the new iPad" every day, or "third gen iPad." And what do we call it next year? The old iPad? I'm running out of pixels to cry over.

So why did Apple bother with a number on the iPad 2? It could have made a big statement last year by skipping with the iPhone's traditional number convention. Instead, it stands alone as a branding faux-pas, but we don't blame it for trying. Those increments make it clear to consumers which device is newer, and makes reporting a hell of a lot easier.

It was all so simple in 2008 when Apple announced the iPhone 3G, an explicit description of its new network tech. Pundits began chasing their tails trying to guess what successive devices would be called -- would it follow with an iPhone 2, or jump to 4G? Nope, iPhone 3GS. Okay, what next? iPhone 4? That one was nice. We were happy to roll with that.

The iPhone 4S is where the rumour mill started to grind Apple down. The 4S was widely panned for being a "minor upgrade," despite a hefty internal revamp. Branding should never drag down a device, but Apple had finally painted itself into a corner with an apparent two year product cycle of design refresh then speed bump.

It's not surprising that the tech scene fumbled over the forthcoming iPad 3. It flung names at the wall like wet pasta, but nothing seemed to stick. On one hand, iPad HD would communicate a lot to buyers about the new display, but might do Apple's unique retina branding an injustice. Conversely, it would never live down iPad 2S after the lacklustre reaction to iPhone 4S.

It's a classic Apple trick; appear predictable enough that we can play armchair psychic each year, but retain enough mystery to keep us guessing. Naming it "the new iPad" was a simple nudge to remind the world that Apple does what it wants, maintaining this sense of mystery. It just looks feeble next to the assertive shove Steve Jobs would have given.

So lets just agree to call it iPad 3. Join us. Your SEO will thank you later.