If you've shopped for an iPad anytime during the last few years, you've probably run into the iPad 2. Not only was it the flagship model during 2011, but it hung around as the budget full-sized model for two full years after that. Well, you can finally kiss the iPad 2 goodbye, as Apple just laid it to rest in favor of the much more powerful iPad 4.
Starting today, a 16 GB version of the 4th-generation iPad with Retina Display (late 2012) will replace the iPad 2 in the US$400 slot in Apple's tablet lineup. That's only $100 cheaper than the lighter, thinner, and faster iPad Air (and the same price as the Retina iPad mini), so that's still a hefty chunk of change for an 18-month-old tablet. But there's also no doubt that it gives you more value in that slot than the three-year-old iPad 2.
If you need a quick refresher, the iPad 4 had the same 9.7-in Retina Display and external chassis as its early 2012 predecessor, the iPad 3. Its biggest upgrade over that model was an A6X system-on-a-chip (which made it noticeably faster) as well as a Lightning port for charging and data transfer.
Why make this switch now? Well, no matter how many people were buying the iPad 2, it just wasn't a good value for customers at $400. But the reason for the timing probably relates to supply chain deals. It was almost exactly two years ago that Apple first put the iPad 2 in that $400 slot. If the company made one- or two-year deals to outsource its parts, then that explains why this shift would happen now, and not, say, back in November when the iPad Air launched.