I have recently posted a couple of times with regards the iPad in classrooms however I want to make it clear that I am not an Apple only person. In fact I spend most of my time working within a windows environment including actually typing this piece up on a Samsung ultrabook running Windows 10.
As part of my role as Director of IT I have recently been involved in re-examining the platform which we use as part of our mobile learning scheme. This is due to the current devices reaching that age where the need replacing. As I said I am not an Apple only person and therefore as part of this review myself and colleagues took on a review of the various options which were available to us at the time, some 6 months ago. You can see a summary of our findings here.
To us it was clear that the iPad represented our best option, made easier still by the fact that the new iPad rollout would be replacing our current fleet of aging iPads thereby reducing the difficulties associated with any change in devices.
Since our review the iPad Pro has became available which addresses one of the weaknesses which we did identified for the iPad in the lack of a keyboard. Personally in the 9.7” version I don’t actually like the keyboard finding the keys a little cramped so I am not sure I would actually go out and buy this direct connection keyboard option. The 9.7” version also brings with it the new Apple Pencil which from testing I found to be excellent for taking notes and also for sketch noting. My concern here is the cost of the pencil and the likelihood of loss especially where lots of users have one. Again I am not sure I would go out and buy one so overall these two new items would be unlikely to be purchased as part of the schools rollout meaning the initial review findings would still stand.
The question in hand at the moment is now iPad Air 2 versus iPad Pro 9.7”. The cost difference isn’t an awful lot however the two critical factors are life expectancy and memory. Taking memory first the Air 2 would be purchased with 64Gb, up from the 32Gb units currently in the school. The iPad Pro however, for a similar but slightly higher price would only have 32Gb, with the next option being the 128Gb unit as no 64Gb option exists. This would mean if we go with more memory we also have to pay significantly more. As to life expectancy, this relates to the iPad Air 2 which was launched in 2014. This makes it already a 2 year old device, and aside from the iPad 2, Apple iPad devices have only usually being manufactured for a period of 2 ½ years meaning the iPad Air 2 may become a discontinued device in around 6 months to a year. If we are investing on devices we hope to have for the next 3 to 4 years, it would be of concern if they were discontinued within the first ¼ of their intended lifespan. That said, we know that iOS is designed to keep working for a significant period even after the discontinuing of the device itself. Also, unless an Air 3 makes an appearance, which I doubt, the Air 2 would represent the end of the Air and traditional iPad lines so it may possibly have a life of longer than 2 ½ years like the iPad 2.
The overall question for myself and the school currently therefore is do we invest in the iPad Air 2 or in the new iPad Pro 9.7”. I liked the Pro 9.7” I tried although I think I have leanings towards the Air 2. A decision will need to be reached soon however for now further discussion is still required.