Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt notes that Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and MacMall have all announced iPad price cuts, reducing their 3rd-generation iPad and current iPad mini prices roughly 30% across the board.
Best Buy commemorated the iPad’s third birthday with a clearance sale on a variety of iPad models, including examples of the Retina third-generation iPad selling for less than some iPad Mini models. Elmer-DeWitt thinks the iPad price cuts are a pretty good sign that Apple is about to replace the current models with new or refreshed ones.
What appears to be an exceptional value is the the iPad 3 Wi-Fi 16GB model priced at $314.99, discounted from the usual price of $449.99.
Or is it that so great a deal? The third-generation iPad is a bit of an enigma. It added a Retina display, but uses Apple’s A5X system-on-chip, which tacks a quad-core graphics engine on the A5 SoC used in the iPad 2 (and iPad mini). The iPad 3′s added graphics muscle is pretty much absorbed in supporting the Retina display’s heavier hardware overhead, so iPad the third’ functional advantage over the iPad 2 is mainly the high-resolution panel (there is also a better camera) at a cost of increased weight, thickness, and heat generation, and 40+ percent longer battery recharge time, but no really substantial computing performance boost.
The current fourth-gen iPad replaced the iPad 3 just eight months later, adding Apple’s A6X SoC power (which reportedly roughly doubles the A5X’s processor performance for substantial value added) and Apple’s new proprietary Lightning dock connector interface, which some of us regard as a distinctly mixed blessing.
Consequently, some Apple commentariat observers are suggesting that resellers may just be clearing out some slow-selling old stock of an unpopular iPad model sitting in store stockrooms, although anticipation of another iPad version upgrade in the near future would make that a more urgent exigency.