Never buy an iPad in February

If you're in the market for an iPad Pro, now is not the time to buy. We expect new iPad Pros to be introduced in March, and we have the pretty charts to back up that assertion.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I've always been a big fan of aphorisms. They act like tiny little subroutines that help me guide my life. For example, there's "measure twice cut once," which I try to keep in mind when working in the shop. Another workshop phrase that works is "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." When it comes to my puppy, "give him an inch and he'll take a mile." It's winter, so remember to tell the kids, "don't eat yellow snow."

Then there are the nuggets of wisdom that Star Trek's Mr. Spock has shared over the years (which seem oddly prescient these days).

  • "Without followers, evil cannot spread."
  • "Insufficient facts always invite danger."
  • "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."

Over the years I've developed my own set of aphorisms, too. Six cups of coffee might be too much. And my favorite, especially for this time of year: Never buy an iPad in February.

Also: Which iPad model should you buy?

It never fails that one friend or another reaches out to me in February asking which iPad to buy. They didn't get one for Christmas. They're trying to plan out their new year and want to make some changes or upgrades. But February is a terrible time to buy an iPad, just like August is a terrible time to buy an iPhone. New ones are just around the corner.

The stats bear this out. The following charts tell the tale.

Take a look at this first chart. This represents all iPad announcements since the very first one was introduced in 2010. As you can see, most iPads have been announced in either October or March, with a slight lead in March. When I count iPads, I'm counting unique models (like an iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini), but not model variations (like ones that have cellular capability vs ones that don't).

Chart: ZDNet/David Gewirtz

What this chart tells us is that iPads are often announced in March. But the evidence for March announcements is even more compelling in this next chart.

Chart: ZDNet/David Gewirtz

Notice that over the years, the months when Apple has announced iPads have tended to be earlier in the year. For the past five years, there has always been a March announcement. For the past three years, Apple has also had a fall iPad announcement, as well.

When you think about it, it makes sense. Apple announces the base (less costly) models in October, just in time for holiday gift giving. Apple announces the Pro models in March, when annual corporate budget dollars are still relatively fresh, the silly season and resulting holiday spending hangover has passed, and the new hotness in terms of powerful Pro models is brought to life in an exciting spring event.

Just a few months ago, Apple announced the 8th generation iPad (in September) and the 4th generation iPad AIr (in October). But Apple has not yet updated its  Pro models.

The newest iPad Air (introduced in October) is running the same A14 Bionic CPU as the current iPhone 12 generation. Meanwhile, the latest two iPad Pro models (the 11-inch and 12.9-inch) are still running the A12z chip.

Given how much focus Apple has given to its iPad solution and iPadOS, it's a very fair assumption that Apple will update the iPad Pro models (and maybe, the iPad mini) to a variant of the A14 chip.

Given that Apple has made iPad introductions every March for the past five years, there's a pretty good chance that Apple will hold a March event -- most likely to announce the new iPad Pro models. Unless the pandemic throws it off for some reason, which is doubtful because Apple has knocked pandemic-limited Apple events out of the park three times now, we can be pretty confident they'll keep up their pattern this year as well.

So, as the aphorism goes, it's February. Don't buy an iPad in February, especially if you want a Pro model. Most likely new ones will be available in March.

What are you hoping for in a new iPad? Did you get one for the holidays or give one as a gift? Are you waiting to buy a new Pro model if they announce in March? Let us know in the comments below.

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