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Apple is going to make my new iPad obsolete. Again

Commentary: An expected new version of the 9.7-inch iPad means anyone who got an iPad Air 2 over the holidays should feel a little miffed.


It happened again.

Roughly four years ago, I excitedly snapped up my first iPad, the third-generation model, which featured the higher-resolution "Retina Display." Less than half a year later, however, my enthusiasm turned to remorse after Apple introduced an upgraded iPad, throwing our expectations for an annual upgrade for a loop and making my "new iPad" obsolete.

Guess what I got over the holidays? Yep, a new iPad Air 2.

So now, of course, Apple is expected to unveil an even newer 9.7-inch iPad just three months later. This iPad, which should be unveiled at the company's Monday event, is likely to add a connector for a keyboard like the larger and to feature other upgrades such as compatibility with its stylus, the Apple Pencil. All of a sudden, I've got iPad envy again.

I JUST got this thing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This rumored iPad raises the possibility of a worrisome trend. Apple may be looking at multiple versions of its marquee tablet throughout the year, forcing consumers to grapple with a more complex equation of when and which products they want to buy. That only feeds into the growing sense of buyer's remorse about missing out on the next, better thing.

Apple is also expected to unveil a new, smaller iPhone at the event. (For all the details as they're announced, tune into CNET's live coverage on Monday starting at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.) So you too might feel a pang of regret if you've recently bought a sizable iPhone 6S but would have preferred its features in a more petite package.

Apple declined to comment ahead of the event.

I'm by no means an opponent of progress. I understand that tech gadgets need to get faster and smarter and include more features over time. But Apple consumers have generally settled into a pattern in which the Cupertino, California, company debuts its new iPhones and iPads around September or October. That kind of predictability is one of the advantages that Apple has had over Android -- you generally know that you're going to have the latest and greatest product for a year if you get one over the holidays.

The iPad Air 2 is a slightly different case. That tablet debuted in fall 2014, so I get that it's a little long in the tooth. Yet when Apple's September 2015 event came and went without a refresh to its mainstay 9.7-inch product, I felt certain that there wouldn't be a significant upgrade anytime soon. I'll bet that there are many others who read the signals the same way.

It looks like I'm going to be proven wrong on Monday. Depending on how you look at it, the upgrade is coming either too soon or too late.

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Apple, after all, did unveil a new tablet in September. But the larger iPad Pro was designed more for business users and hasn't really appealed to mainstream consumers. Yes, size matters, and I wasn't ready for such an unwieldy tablet. Given the tablet sales numbers from Apple, I'm not alone there.

The company even bumped up the specifications for a new iPad Mini 4 in September, offering fans of the smaller tablet a fresh option. So you can't blame me for assuming no new 9.7-inch iPad when the event came and went with little mention of the iPad Air line.

This may be a blip in Apple's schedule of new products. Perhaps next year, the company will go back to unveiling its key products in the latter part of the year.

But for now, I'm wondering if I should be trading in my recently obtained iPad Air 2 for the newer model.