The last time that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) released an update to the iPad Mini product line was in November 2015 with the introduction of the iPad Mini 4. It was certainly a competent product. Engadget's Chris Velazco praised the device in his review, saying that the iPad Mini 4's "entire package, from the still-snappy A8 chipset to the beautiful and almost-pocketable screen, to the incredibly sleek chassis, makes it worthy of your consideration."
Unfortunately, while Apple had released annual upgrades to the iPad Mini product line following the late-2012 launch of the original model, the iPad Mini 4 still represents the latest and greatest as far as the company's small-screened tablet line is concerned.
Earlier this year, at an education-focused event, the company introduced an updated version of its entry-level 9.7-inch iPad (branded simply as "iPad") with an A10 Fusion chip as well as support for the company's Apple Pencil accessory. Later this year -- perhaps as soon as this month -- the company is also expected to introduce updated versions of its high-end iPad Pro tablets.
I think that when Apple releases those new devices, it should finally discontinue the iPad Mini 4. Here's why.
It's a slowpoke
The iPad Mini 4 is powered by the company's A8 chip. As you may recall, Apple introduced the A8 chip as part of its iPhone 6-series smartphones in September 2014. When Apple launched the iPad Mini 4, the chip was already more than a year old, although it was still reasonably modern -- after all, Apple was still selling iPhones powered by that chip!
Here in the final quarter of 2018, though? The A8 is a dinosaur. It's already two generations behind the A10 Fusion chip that powers the company's 9.7-inch iPad (and it looks even worse compared with the A10X Fusion chip that powers the current iPad Pro models). And the new iPad Pro tablets that the company is expected to launch later this year should have a more powerful version of its recently announced A12 Bionic chip, which will likely be called the A12X Bionic.
If Apple isn't willing to bring the iPad Mini up to speed, it might make sense for the company to finally just leave it behind.
It's a poor value proposition
The iPad Mini 4 looks like an incredibly poor value relative to the company's 9.7-inch iPad. The iPad Mini 4 already looked bad compared with the 9.7-inch iPad that launched in March 2017: It had a smaller screen and was a generation behind in performance. On top of that, the iPad Mini 4 is offered in two configurations: Wi-Fi only with 128 GB of storage, or Wi-Fi + Cellular with 128 GB of storage. They're priced at $399 and $529, respectively.
Similarly configured versions of last year's 9.7-inch iPad went for $429 and $559, respectively -- $30 more for a faster A9 chip and a bigger screen.
That value proposition eroded further when Apple updated its 9.7-inch iPad last March. The current 9.7-inch iPad comes at the same price points as last year's models, but now incorporates the company's faster A10 Fusion chip as well as support for the company's Apple Pencil accessory.
Simply put, unless Apple substantially cuts pricing on the iPad Mini 4 or updates it with faster internals, it's just not suited for today, and that value proposition is only set to worsen over time. At some point, enough is enough, and the upcoming launch of Apple's latest iPad Pro tablets could be a good time to pull the plug on the iPad Mini 4.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.