At $249, this iPad may be a great deal (or about to be discontinued)

What looks like an unusually good deal for an Apple product may also be an indicator that this iPad is at the end of the line. Even so, there are good reasons why you might want to snap it up.

Is Apple cutting corners in order to cut prices?

Apple sometimes has an odd relationship with pricing. For years, until this year's announcement of the new Mac Pro, Apple brazenly sold the "trash can" Mac Pro for full price, even though it was becoming more and more obsolete. It did the same with years-old Mac minis before the model got refreshed (finally) in 2018. For Macs, the company wasn't willing to budge on price, even as performance comparable to the rest of the market tanked.

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On the other hand, with phones, Apple has a relatively aggressive discounting practice for previous years' models. Even though the iPhone XS and XR are the current models, Apple is still selling iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 models as new. The difference between the old-model Mac pricing and the old-model iPhone pricing is that Apple has substantially reduced the price for its older model phones.

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So, full freight for older model Macs, and a predictable, yearly price-reduction program for iPhones. But what about iPads?

Here, Apple has been less consistent. Apple currently sells iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini models, all of which are running some variation of the current A12 chip. But while Apple is also selling the 2018 6th Generation iPad, which runs the older A10 chip, it's selling that model at the same $329 price it introduced the device at 16 months ago.

It's this iPad, which is also the lowest-cost iPad to support the Pencil, that is the subject of our discussion today. While the 32GB version sells on Apple's site (and in Apple Stores) for $329, it has recently been spotted on Amazon for the rather excellent price of $249. It's also listed on the Best Buy, Walmart, and Costco sites for $249, which indicates that this isn't just one distributor cutting prices, but is a channel-wide move down-price.

Now, let's be clear. This is not a refurb model. This is a new model from Apple, which ships and is sold by each of the major retailers. Even thought it uses the A10 chipset rather than the A12 of other iPad models, this $249 unit is no slouch. I have the 5th Generation A9 version of the same machine, which I use almost every day and very rarely run into any performance issues (with the possible exception of trying to edit 4K video).

So what should we think about this $249 price point? On one hand, it's one of the best prices we've ever seen for a currently-manufactured iPad. It's $80 less than the same model from Apple, $150 less than the base iPad mini, $250 less than the base iPad Air, and a whopping $550 less than the base 11-inch iPad Pro.

With iPadOS coming in September, this $249 iPad can be a very cost-effective, robust little tablet, verging on a laptop replacement. If you're looking for budget power, this may be the best choice you'll see in quite a while.

On the other hand, the reduced price from all these Apple channel partners may indicate that the model is being sold down though channels in preparation of discontinuance. Apple tends to announce new iPads in the spring, but that doesn't mean that this base unit won't soon get either a spec boost or simply be discontinued. In addition, Forbes is running some rumors that there will be substantial iPad redesigns issued this fall.

That said, even if this is a soon-to-be discontinued product, it may be the best price you're going to see for an entry-level iPad in a long time. Since it's still relatively new, you're probably going to have at least four years of valid iPadOS updates available for this machine.

If you're in the market for an iPad for yourself, a family member, or back-to-school, you owe it to yourself to give this inexpensive little workhorse a careful look.

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