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iPads & education in Chicago, Alexa laughing, and the FBI pressing – Apple’s March 2018 in review

New iPads, Alexa laughing at us, and the FBI trying to get backdoors into iPhones —all of these things, and more, happened to Apple and technology in March 2018

Apple invites the press to its education launch

Apple invites the press to its education launch

It’s peculiar how well the events and talking points of one year will usually divide into months but there was an exception this time. March 2018 began with a follow-up news to a February report about employees walking into the glass walls of Apple Park.

Cupertino building official Albert Salvador told the San Francisco Chronicle that he and others had warned Apple about the problem some nine months before Apple Park opened.

“We did recognize that this is going to be an issue, especially when they clean the glass,” Salvador said. “When you clean the windows, you can’t even tell some of them are there.”

Glass in Apple Park

Glass in Apple Park

He also said that at the very time they were discussing the problem with a contractor on the site, another worker walked into one of the walls.

One thing that still hasn’t come out is whether the glass is bullet-proof. Your average office block doesn’t need this kind of protection, but Apple doesn’t have average anything —and in March 2018, the company was being shot at.

Pellet guns

Or more specifically, its shuttle buses were under fire from pellet guns. Many large companies run their own bus service between their various sites and between January and March 2018 there were 20 shooting incidents at these charter buses. No one had been injured, the shootings had so far caused dents and shattered glass.

Damage done to shuttles

Damage done to shuttles

Apple and Google were among the companies using the charter busses being hit and in March the California Highway Patrol introduced decoy vehicles. At the same time the FBI revealed that it was placing undercover officers on the shuttles.

Maybe just announcing this was enough to stop the problem because all these months on, there don’t appear to have been any more reported incidents. Equally, though, there’s been no official statement of anyone being apprehended, either.

Security

Few security issues in technology involve guns of any sort, and in March the bigger story was about MoviePass. This is the app and service that gets you an impossibly cheap way to watch a movie a day in theaters and of course it turned out that impossibly cheap means the app gathers information about you.

MoviePass app

MoviePass app

“We get an enormous amount of information,” Mitch Lowe, MoviePass CEO said at something called the Entertainment Finance Forum. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies. We watch where you go afterwards.”

“Netflix buys $8 billion of content a year, and believe me, they have to borrow the money to do it,” he continued. “Or companies like Facebook — it’s free, but they’re monetizing all the advertising and all the data about you. That’s exactly what we are [doing].”

If there wasn’t a crisis team in MoviePass before, there surely was now and it responded to a tsunami of complaints very quickly. “We will not be selling the data we gather,” he said. As if they would.

Perhaps the company just likes knowing that you got home safely from the movie theater. In the meantime, while they were looking out for us with location tracking, the FBI was trying to get public support for a completely sane idea.

The way to make iPhones and others safer is to break their encryption, said FBI Director Christopher Wray

FBI Headquarters

FBI Headquarters

“We need them to respond to lawfully issued court orders, in a way that is consistent with both the rule of law and strong cybersecurity,” said Wray, about Apple and Google. “We need to have both, and can have both. I just don’t buy the claim that it’s impossible.”

Seemingly at least one US police department agrees with him, too. Indiana State Police bought a forensic tool called GrayKey in order to hack into devices running iOS 11.

They spent $500 for the initial purchase plus $14,500 for a one-year licence that lets them unlock 300 iPhones. Hopefully they got their money’s worth in the first six months because AppleInsider reported that GrayKey exploited security problems in iOS 11 and you can presume Apple fixed those for iOS 12.

Although Apple was a bit tied up in other legal issues. That company is never out of court and this month it was a case about Siri.

Portal Communications, which appears to make nothing but money, filed suit against Apple for allegedly infringing three patents related to natural language voice systems. It wasn’t that Portal had just noticed you can speak to Siri, it was more that the company got the patents from its previous owner in January.

The wheels of justice don’t always grind slowly, though. Portal filed its original complaint at 20:19 on Thursday March 8 and then filed its intention to voluntarily dismiss the whole thing at 16:59 on the following Monday, March 12.

The court signed or shrugged or does whatever it does when a case is being withdrawn and declared that it was dismissed without prejudice on Tuesday March 13. That was at 16:12, if you’re wondering.

It’s not funny

Maybe it was the revolving-door speed of that case going away, but something caused Amazon’s Alexa to giggle at users in March 2018.

Amazon's logo is a smile, but Alexa laughing was a bit much

Amazon’s logo is a smile, but Alexa laughing was a bit much

After AppleInsider pressed the company, it admitted that it was investigating.

“In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are changing that phrase to be ‘Alexa, can you laugh?’,” said Amazon. “We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘sure, I can laugh’ followed by laughter.”

Just don’t ask why someone programmed this into Alexa in the first place. And definitely don’t ask why users who heard this mysterious, unbidden chuckle say that it sounded more evil and creepy than Alexa’s regular laugh.

To be fair, you can tell Siri to laugh too. It will respond with phrases like “LOL” or “Hee hee”. We checked so you don’t have to.

That said, at the same time Amazon was addressing Alexa’s plans for stroking cats and ruling the world, it was also significantly improving how you interact with your new emperor. Rather than having to prefix every sentence by calling out the name “Alexa”, a new Follow-Up Mode meant you should be able to issue multiple commands in a row.

Competition

Follow-Up Mode was one of Amazon’s efforts to keep Alexa competing with the likes of Apple and Google with their walled gardens. In March we could’ve learned just how hard it will be for Amazon to beat its rivals because a report said so.

The headline on a survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners claimed that Android is “beating iOS in smartphone loyalty“.

Just because it's a graph, it doesn't mean anything

Just because it’s a graph, it doesn’t mean anything

We’ve often suspected that people only read headlines but this time people who wrote about Android beating iOS even quoted evidence to prove the opposite. This CIRP group that you only hear about when they make claims about Apple, actually reported that “iOS gains more former Android users, than Android does former iOS users.”

AppleInsider did point out some statistical absurdities in the group’s methodology but maybe the truth is just that Android users are more fed up than iOS ones.

In March, we rounded up the reviews of the new flagship Samsung Galaxy S9 and if we’d done a word cloud, “predictable” and “safe” would be the biggest entries. There were comments about Samsung’s version of Apple’s Animoji feature were “creepy” but otherwise it was a release that didn’t seem to interest many.

You’ll notice that we make no mention of Samsung phones having previously caught fire. That’s partly because, weirdly, users don’t seem quite as bothered by the more than 100 events in just a few months as you’d expect. And because this time, Apple allegedly had a similar issue.

Fire sale

Remains of iPhone charging cable, from the Township of Langley Fire Department Field Report

Remains of iPhone charging cable, from the Township of Langley Fire Department Field Report

The fire was actually in 2016 and it became news now because the couple, Cathy and Ian Finley of Langley, B.C, had gone public. Having received $600,000 in insurance money, they were hoping to get Apple to pay as much again because they say the house burned down because of a charging cable plugged into an iPhone 6.

The cable was found in the wreckage of the house and an investigators’ report said that “it would appear that the phone or charger generated enough heat to ignite” a chair it was on.

After a year of talks with Apple, the couple launched a petition on change.org. “We are releasing every phone call, letter and email that has gone between us and Apple. There will be complete transparency. It’s ugly,” they say on the petition site. “There’s phone calls where you just hear us cry and eventually hang up. It’s extremely personal, embarrassing to share and not fun to listen to.”

There’s been no further news of what’s happened. The couple’s petition is still active, currently showing 2,537 signatures. It also includes links to their documentation but the last entry in that is to do with the decision to go public.

It’s not just consumers

The Finleys weren’t the only people unhappy with Apple in March this year. WiseWear, a San Antonio wearable device startup, filed for bankruptcy and blamed an Apple design decision.

WiseWear battery strap

WiseWear battery strap

The original Apple Watch included a diagnostic port which WiseWear used as a way to charge the Watch from what they called a Reserve Strap. This was a way of getting an extra battery band for the Apple Watch, like an external charger but permanently part of the strap.

WiseWear claimed in March that “Apple turned off the port through an operating system change” and that this action made their product unusable.

Speaking of the Watch

Apple launched a new Activity Challenge for Apple Watch users on International Women’s Day, March 8. To earn an achievement badge for this challenge, you had to double your regular move goal.

Women using iPads just like regular people

Women using iPads just like regular people

It wasn’t the first time that Apple has tied fitness to events but this time it was part of a wider move to acknowledge International Women’s Day. More than just a Watch challenge, Apple marked March 2018 by running events around the world including one that was focused on recruiting women to the company.

Hopefully this was a success but if you talk about Apple events in March 2018, none were bigger than the one that saw out the month.

Chicago

On March 27, Tim Cook to the stage in Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago to announce a renewed drive into education.

Detail from Apple's press invitation to its March education event

Detail from Apple’s press invitation to its March education event

“We know our products can help bring out the creative genius in every kid,” said Cook. “That’s why education is such a big part of who we are as a company, and has been for 40 years.”

He was followed by Susan Prescott, vice president of product marketing. “”We do know that the best products alone can’t create great learning experiences,” she said. “Teachers are the heart of the classroom, and we know it takes dedicated, passionate teachers to fuel students’ curiosity, and to guide them to their full creative potential.”

A nice A10 Fusion-powered iPad with Apple Pencil support and free iCloud storage increased to 200GB does help, though.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

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Fifth-generation iPad mini rumored for revival in early 2019

 

Apple may be preparing a new version of the iPad mini, a report from a Chinese newspaper claims, with a fifth-generation version of the pint-sized tablet allegedly on the way, coupled with other changes to the iPad lineup in 2019.

iPad mini 4

iPad mini 4

The iPad mini has not received an update since the announcement of the fourth-generation version in September 2015, with the lack of changes to the product in over three years suggesting the device line is probably on its way out, and faces removal from the iPad roster completely. While there has been little movement for the smaller iPad model in recent years, that may change in a few months.

China Business Times sources claim Apple will be launching two low-priced models of the iPad in 2019. It is alleged Apple is doing so because it saw “outstanding results” for the 2017 9.7-inch iPad followed by a sales decline, allegedly due to it not releasing a “new low-priced iPad” in 2018, though the launch of the 2018 iPad in March suggests this means the fiscal 2018 rather than calendar year.

A new low-priced model of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is slated to arrive in the first half of 2019, with the supply chain starting production for the model in late December. It is unknown if there will be any major changes to the device’s design, as observed for the iPad Pro.

A 2019 iPad is also planned, but according to the report, it will be undergoing a refresh that seems similar in many respects to the iPad Pro alterations. While still a low-priced option, the iPad will apparently have a larger screen that’s more than 10 inches in size, while also having a narrower frame.

The new iPad is said to be mass-produced sometime in 2019, for release in the second half of the year.

Along with introducing rumors, the publication also claims Apple is switching some of its sources for iPad display panels from Japanese producers to BOE, based in South Korea. It is claimed this is part of a cost-cutting measure for Apple.

While the China Business Times has a good track record with supply chain information, like the iPad display panel topic, it has a poor track record in predicting Apple’s future product plans.

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Apple says some 2018 iPad Pro units ship with bent chassis, not considered a defect

 

Apple on Wednesday confirmed “some” 2018 iPad Pro models ship out to consumers with a slightly bent chassis, though the company says the deformation does not degrade performance and is not considered a defect.

iPad Pro Bend

An 11-inch iPad Pro exhibits a bend out of the box. | Source: The Verge

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said the bend is a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Specifically, the warpage results from a cooling process affecting the tablet’s metal and plastic components.

Supporting Apple’s claims are photos of bent iPad Pro units that exhibit bends at or near the plastic antenna “lines” that trace their way around cellular-capable versions of the device. The company did not specify whether the issue is restricted to LTE models, but users of Wi-Fi only versions have posted complaints regarding similar bending to social media outlets.

Reports of curved or bent iPad Pro models began circulating online shortly after the device debuted in November. Some impacted users have claimed the bend slowly emerges after weeks of use, while others noticed an abnormal curvature out of the box.

According to Apple’s statement on the matter, affected iPad Pro units arrive bent from the factory. Indeed, The Verge sent a bent unit to Apple’s engineering team and received a brand new replacement that exhibited the same curve in its aluminum chassis.

Whether the tablets also bend, or bend further, over the course of daily use is unknown.

One of the first documented cases appeared on YouTube when JerryRigEverything destroyed an iPad Pro with what appeared to be minimal effort. As AppleInsider noted at the time, most modern devices are designed to be as thin as possible, making them susceptible to warping under severe stress. Apple reduces the chance of buckling through the use of high grade aluminum and internal support structures, though even its products cave when enough pressure is applied.

For its part, Apple told The Verge that concerns over the tablet’s structural integrity are unfounded.

The report notes owners who receive a bent unit from the factory should be able to replace it with little trouble. More severe warping due to accidental damage would necessitate an AppleCare+ claim or out-of-pocket fee for replacement. That said, Apple typically does not conduct free replacements beyond a customary two-week grace period, meaning owners who are just now noticing a bend in their iPad Pro might be out of luck.

Apple points out that its latest iPad Pro is seeing a normal return rate, suggesting most users have not observed or are not bothered by the manufacturing side effect. That could change in the coming weeks as today’s report circulates. Consumers who pay upwards of $800 for a tablet undoubtedly want a perfect device, one free from even the slightest aesthetic foible.

Apple has dealt with similar problems in the past, most notably the so-called “bendgate” controversy that afflicted iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones in 2014. The first of Apple’s phablet-sized handsets, the iPhone 6 series was for some users prone to bending during everyday use. Apple rectified the problem by utilizing stronger 7000 series aluminum in its devices starting with iPhone 6s in 2015.

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Amazon drops 2018 iPads down to $229 ($100 off) with free delivery by Christmas

 

In what is the lowest price we’ve seen to date on Apple’s 2018 9.7-inch iPad, Amazon has units in stock at just $229, a discount of $100 off MSRP. What’s more, these tablets ship for free with delivery by Christmas.

These iPad deals offer shoppers the lowest prices available with the 32GB Silver model qualifying for free delivery in time for Christmas. Supplies may be limited at the special prices, and these deals have a high likelihood to sell out quickly. For even more iPad discounts, including deals on 2018 iPad Pros, be sure to visit our full iPad Price Guide.

iPad deals

Accessories

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive promotions this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and accessories. These deals are as follows:

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iPad blowout deals: $330 off 12.9″ iPad Pros; $200 off 10.5″ iPad Pros; $50 off 9.7″ iPad

 

Fresh iPad markdowns have arrived at B&H just in time for the holidays with instant discounts of up to $330 off. Pick up a 2017 12.9″ iPad Pro for just $579 — or save $200 on a 10.5″ iPad Pro with 512GB of storage. Prices for the discounted tablets start at just $379.

Many of the iPad deals found below are valid for two days only with limited quantities available at the reduced prices. The discounted iPads and iPad Pros are also eligible for free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S. for fast delivery in time for the holidays. To further add to the savings, B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside AL, HI, IL, IN, KY, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, NJ, NY, ND, OK, VT, WA and WI (potentially saving many shoppers another $30 to $70 on average). According to our iPad Price Guide, these iPad Pro deals deliver the lowest prices available.

10.5″ iPad Pro

12.9″ iPad Pros

2017 9.7″ iPad

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive promotions this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and accessories. These deals are as follows:

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Flash deals: 2018 iPads from $285; up to $130 off 2017 iPads w/ cellular; $150 off upgraded Mac mini

 

For one day only, Woot is knocking up to $130 off 2017 iPads (Wi-Fi + Cellular) or up to $54 off 2018 models (Wi-Fi Only) with Apple Pencil support. The Amazon company also has an upgraded Mac mini on sale for $549.99 ($150 off) while supplies last.

Refurbished 2018 iPads on sale from $284.99

32GB 2018 9.7″ iPad (Wi-Fi Only) in Gold, Silver or Space Gray – Refurbished
On sale for $284.99
($44 off + free shipping for Prime members*)

128GB 2018 9.7″ iPad (Wi-Fi Only) in Gold, Silver or Space Gray – Refurbished
On sale for $374.99
($54 off + free shipping for Prime members*)
*Requires Amazon Prime membership for free shipping.

Today only, Woot is running flash deals on Apple’s 2018 9.7-inch iPads with Apple Pencil support, providing shoppers with discounts of up to $54 off MSRP. These refurbished models have a 90-day Woot limited warranty and generic accessories, but it’s an easy way to pick up an iPad for as low as $284.99 with free standard shipping for Amazon Prime members.

Current prices for the same iPads in new condition are as low as $319 from Apple authorized resellers, according to our 2018 iPad Price Guide, making this Woot deal at least $34 cheaper. This offer is valid for 24 hours only while supplies last.

2017 iPads with cellular as low as $375

32GB 2017 9.7″ iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular) in Silver, Space Gray or Gold
On sale for $374.99
($84 off + free shipping for Prime members*)

128GB 2017 9.7″ iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular) in Silver, Space Gray or Gold
On sale for $429.99
($130 off + free shipping for Prime members*)
*Requires Amazon Prime membership for free shipping.

Want the lowest price on an iPad with Wi-Fi plus cellular? Woot is also discounting 2017 9.7-inch iPads by up to $130 for 24 hours only. The 32GB model in your choice of Silver, Space Gray or Gold is on sale for $374.99, while the 128GB version is marked down to $429.99. Each iPad is an international model in new condition with a one-year Apple limited warranty. Although the tablets come with their original international power adapter, Woot is also including an international-to-USA plug adapter at no additional charge.

Like the deals highlighted above, these offers are valid today only while supplies last. To view current offers on remaining 2017 iPads from other Apple resellers, please visit our 2017 iPad Price Guide.

Upgraded Mac mini for $549.99

Mac mini (2.6GHz, 8GB, 1TB HDD)
On sale for $549.99
($150 off + free shipping for Prime members*)
*Requires Amazon Prime membership for free shipping.

For 24 hours only, Woot is also knocking $150 off Apple’s Mac mini with an upgraded 2.6GHz processor and 1TB of HDD storage (compared to the standard model’s 500GB). This configuration, which normally retails for $699.00, is currently marked down to $549.99 while supplies last.

These Mac minis are new and come with a one-year Apple limited warranty. To put the deal in perspective, it would cost at least $110 more to buy the same configuration from an Apple authorized reseller, according to our Mac mini Price Guide.

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive promotions this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and accessories. These deals are as follows:

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Renders reveal purported 2018 iPad Pro with edge-to-edge display, iPhone-like antenna lines

 

Computer renders based on leaked CAD images could offer a first look at Apple’s next-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, complete with edge-to-edge display, iPhone-esque antenna “lines” and an angular chassis reminiscent of the iPhone 4 series.

Shared by OnLeaks’ Steve Hemmerstoffer in a post to Twitter on Monday, the high-resolution renders, created in conjunction with tech blog MySmartPrice, claim to reveal a vastly redesigned iPad Pro model widely expected to debut this fall.

The images are polished versions of CAD schematics first aired by OnLeaks last week and show an iPad device that departs from Apple’s current aesthetic. Gone are the soft edges of iPad’s rounded chassis, replaced with an angular case design featuring chamfered edges and breaks along the circumference to accommodate radio-transparent material. A similar architecture defined the iPhone 4 in 2013.

As seen in a set of CAD images supposedly showing off an 11-inch iPad Pro last month, today’s renders feature two rows of speaker vents flanking a centrally-located Lightning port at the bottom of the device, a design mirrored on the tablet’s top edge. Two microphone ports are also in view up top, sitting above a TrueDepth camera system embedded in iPad’s bezel.

Button positioning appears to remain unchanged from existing iPad models, though the familiar home button has been removed to make way for more screen real estate. Also deprecated is iPad’s headphone jack, a modification that would bring the device family in line with iPhone.

More dubious is a repositioned Smart Connector that supposedly lives on the back of the tablet directly above its Lightning Connector. MySmartPrice believes the positioning is a concession for Face ID, incorrectly stating that Apple’s facial recognition feature is unlikely to work while iPad is in landscape mode. Code discovered in past iOS 12 beta versions have revealed Face ID will indeed accommodate landscape operation in future devices, with iPad thought to be a prime candidate for inclusion.

Whether the renders, and indeed the CAD from which they are based, are legitimate is unknown. Hemmerstoffer himself hedges on the renders’ veracity, saying in a tweet, “I can’t confirm this one is 100% accurate.”

Rumored for release this fall, Apple’s next-generation iPad Pro models are speculated to boast a smaller footprint while retaining screen dimensions thanks to the deletion of Touch ID. According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the shift to an edge-to-edge design will allow Apple to squeeze an 11-inch display into the existing form factor, initially designed to house a 10.5-inch screen. Apple is also anticipated to carry over the jumbo-size 12.9-inch model that ushered in “iPad Pro” branding in 2015.

Apple is scheduled to hold a special media event at its Apple Park headquarters on Sept. 12, where the company is widely expected to launch this year’s iPhone lineup. Whether the smartphones will share stage time with a revamped iPad Pro is unclear.

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Dutch Apple store evacuates after likely iPad battery incident

 

Apple’s Amsterdam store was briefly evacuated on Sunday afternoon following what appears to the overheating of an iPad battery.

Image Credit: AT5

Image Credit: AT5

After trouble began store staff immediately put the tablet in a bin with sand, which seemed to halt the situation, Dutch blog iCulture noted. By around 2:20 p.m. local time, the city’s fire department was on the scene. Though there was no obvious smoke, three people reported respiratory issues.

The incident moved quickly enough that by 3 p.m., workers and shoppers were allowed to come back in.

While normally safe, lithium-ion batteries are still volatile — they can potentially explode or catch fire if something like leakage isn’t dealt with immediately. This year alone Apple stores have seen multiple battery incidents/a>, including some fires.

This may be related to Apple’s discounted replacements, instituted to placate people upset about the company throttling iPhones with weakened batteries. While the company has since made it possible to toggle throttling, people with older iPhones have been flooding Apple stores looking to get battery replacements before they return to $79 from their current $29. More foot traffic may mean a higher likelihood of discovering faults.

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2018 Back to School Buyers Guide: Should you pick Apple’s iPad or Mac for college?

You’re going back to school this fall, and you need a new computer. If you’ve chosen Apple, you’ve got a few options for what to buy: You can get a Mac, or an iPad. AppleInsider discusses which is the right device for you.

All of those choices have advantages and disadvantages, but with either one, you’ll have the advantage of portability, as well as not needing to depend on a large, bulky desktop computer, as previous generations were.

Apple has attempted to dominate the education market for computers for most of its existence, and deals it made with elementary and secondary schools were a big part of the company’s growth in the early 1980s. When the Macintosh arrived, Apple reached agreements with numerous universities to get that product into college classrooms.

Apple, however, began losing its education advantage as time passed, and by 2017, had fallen to third place in the education marketplace behind Google and Microsoft, who offer cheaper devices.

The company, as of earlier this year, has begun a push to get back its mojo in that regard, starting with a March “Field Trip” event in Chicago, where it both emphasized its education efforts and introduced a new, $329 iPad aimed at the educational market.

[embedded content]

“For 40 years, Apple has helped teachers unleash the creative potential in every student,” Apple’s education website states. “And today, we do that in more ways than ever. Not only with powerful products, but also with tools, inspiration, and curricula to help you create magical learning experiences.”

This is the first full school year since Apple’s renewed education push, so let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

The case for iPad

The advantages of an iPad for educational use begin with portability, and cost.

You can, of course, carry an iPad with you everywhere you want, with relative ease, whether home or to class. The iPad, no matter what size, is light and doesn’t take up a lot of space.

The iPad starts at $329, for the new 2018 version, with Wi-Fi only and 32GB of storage. The iPad mini starts at $399 for the 128GB Wi-Fi version, while the least expensive, 10.5-inch iPad Pro starts at $649 for the 64GB Wi-Fi edition. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, also for 64GB.

However, with Apple’s student discounts, the iPad starts at $309, the iPad mini 4 at $379 and the iPad Pro at $629. The greatest savings, though, can be found at Apple authorized resellers thanks to cash discounts and tax incentives, regardless of whether you’re a student, teacher or staff member.

Apple’s latest 2018 iPad is periodically on sale for as low as $299, while the iPad Pro is routinely discounted by up to $250 off. Many resellers do not collect sales tax on most orders with free shipping as well. For a large number of students and parents, this can equate to an additional $25 to $100 in savings compared to buying from Apple.

If you’re using the iPad as your primary device, a keyboard is a must. All of the latest models work with Bluetooth keyboards, most of which run around $100, while both iPad Pro models are compatible with smart keyboards ($159 and $169, for the two sizes). Additionally, the new 2018 iPad is compatible with the Apple Pencil ($99), as well as with all apps that support that accessory.

Brydge Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple's 10.5


Brydge Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple’s 10.5″ iPad Pro

But beyond that, as time goes on, there are more and more things that students can do with iPads. At the March event, Apple unveiled an updated iWork suite, a new version of Garage Band and debuted the new Digital Books app.

It’s very clear that Apple is highly committed to pushing the iPad for education. On Apple’s education homepage, nearly every photo contains an iPad, and there are no photos included of any other Apple device. So if you’re going by Apple’s priorities, that’s a clue.

As demonstrated by this AppleInsider video from last August, the latest iPad Pro can be had for $1,167, if you choose the $799 256GB edition and toss in a $99 Apple Pencil and $169 Smart Keyboard — less than a 12-inch MacBook. It also marked the first iPad to ever beat out a MacBook in Geekbench benchmark performance:

[embedded content]

The Case for Mac

When it comes to the Mac, the advantage starts with power, and features. Macs, in most cases, offer a better processor, a bigger and higher-resolution screen, considerably more RAM and storage, and more ports.

For all that, though, you’ll be paying a lot more. The least expensive MacBook is the 13-inch MacBook Air, which starts at $999 MSRP, but can be found on sale for as low as $799. The standard MacBook starts at $1,299, as does the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the latter which offers a beefier dual-core 7th-generation processor and multiple USB-C ports. Both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro are on sale now, with the 13-inch Pro priced as low as $1,099 for a limited time. This makes it a better buy than the 12-inch MacBook at this point in the back-to-school shopping season.

As for desktop iMacs, the 21.5-inch model starts at $1,099, with the 27-inch model beginning at $1,799. The 27-inch version offers, in addition to the larger screen, a Retina 5K display, better processors and a Fusion Drive of up to 3TB. With back-to-school discounts in effect at Apple authorized resellers, students can get into a 2017 iMac for as low as $999.

The more expensive iMac Pro retails for much higher than the iMac HD and 5K, with a starting price of $4,999. Overall, iMacs sacrifice portability, but add a great deal of computing power in exchange. If you’re not going into a computationally demanding curriculum, it’s hard to recommend the iMac Pro for back to school. It is a lot of power, but it is also total overkill for 99 percent of Mac users. However, if you do need more than four cores, AppleInsider partner Adorama is offering AI readers up to $500 off every single iMac Pro with no interest financing when paid in full within 12 months.

Apple’s Mac Pro and Mac mini are also still available, but unless something changes dramatically, we can’t really recommend them to anybody for educational purposes. Neither the Mac mini nor the Mac Pro are current, and both haven’t seen an update in years.

How to save money as a student

With Apple’s student discounts, the cheapest MacBook Air begins at $849, with the MacBook and MacBook Pro at $1,249, the iMac at $1,049 and iMac Pro at $4,599.

According to Apple, student discounts are “available to current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers of all grade levels.”

However, as mentioned above, additional savings can be found at Apple authorized resellers —and the discounts are valid for everyone, not just college students and faculty. These retailers, which sell the same factory sealed systems as Apple, offer a variety of incentives from instant rebates to sales tax that’s collected in only a handful of states. It pays to shop around and compare prices in the AppleInsider Price Guide for deals on every current Mac and a variety of closeout configs. Supplies are growing increasingly limited on 2015 iMacs and 2016 MacBook Pros, but many configs still remain with discounts of up to $1,600 off. For students on a budget, this can free up cash for textbooks, tuition and more.

Conclusion

When it comes to deciding which is better for you, iPad or Mac, a lot of depends on what you most value. If you prefer power and features, the Mac is your best choice. If portability, and affordability is more important, than you’re better off choosing the iPad.

You can almost certainly do more with a Mac, but Apple’s latest iPad and iPad Pro are great for annotating and note-taking, especially when paired with the Apple Pencil.

Where to buy

If you’re shopping for a new Mac or iPad for high school or college, be sure to check out our Price Guides linked below to find the best deals and lowest prices on Apple hardware. Updated throughout the day, shoppers can redeem exclusive coupon discounts, as well as instant rebates on current and closeout models at Apple authorized resellers. Many retailers also only collect sales tax in a handful of states and tack on free expedited shipping to a number of products, further adding to the benefits of shopping online.

Need help redeeming an offer? Send us a note at priceguides@gmail.com and we will do our best to assist.

iPad Price Guides

MacBook Price Guides

iMac Price Guides