Apple’s latest iteration of its bestselling tablet, the iPad Air started shipping on Nov 1st, 2013. I picked up a cellular enabled version recently and here is my take on it.
Apple launched its fifth iteration of the iPad recently. To highlight specifically its reduced dimensions and weight, iPad has given it the Air moniker. The iPad joins Apple’s recently updated and expanded iPhone line as the company’s blockbuster products for the all important holiday season. With this product, Apple will try for two big goals- convince existing iPad owners to upgrade to the new Air (and nudge on-the-fence folks to buy one) and differentiate the Air from its newer and younger iPad Mini sibling. So does the iPad Air succeed in those two goals?. Read on…
If you have seen or owned an iPad Mini, the iPad Air is a bigger version of it. When Apple launched the first generation Mini last year, I was disappointed by the price and the lack of retina display. But one that stood out was how thin, slim and light the Mini was. Apple has spent the last year redesigning the bigger iPad to look more like the Mini and the results are worth the wait. The new iPad Air is thinner, lighter and slimmer. For the first time, I can actually hold an iPad width-wise with one hand.
The device is definitely lighter than the last generation iPad and it is obvious once you hold the two on each hand. The bulk of the weight on the iPad is the battery and the fact that Apple has been able to retain the battery life on the iPad Air and still lowering the weight of the device significantly speaks to their engineering capabilities.
Inside, the iPad Air boasts of more modest changes. The biggest upgrade is the 64 bit A7 chip which was expected after its debut on the iPhone 5S. Surprising was the lack of the TouchID sensor. The iPad has another claim to fame- something that is driven by Qualcomm’s recent innovations on the cellular front. The iPad Air boasts of a single SKU worldwide. This includes support for 14 LTE bands on one device. This is a huge benefit for the supply chain team in terms of fulfilling devices and managing demand dynamically. So one can technically buy an iPad in the US and use a LTE SIM from a carrier in Europe or Asia without any changes otherwise. For the corporate traveler, this is a big deal.
Apple has always worked on optimizing the iOS experience on its hardware. So is the case with the iPad Air and iOS7. I have covered iOS7 in previous posts. The iPad Air showcases all that is good and bad with the iOS7 in full 9.7inch glory. There is a lot of new in iOS7 and the iPad Air is the largest screen representative of the upgrade. There is nothing different between iOS7 on the iPad Air versus that of the fourth generation iPad from a year ago. Experience is smooth, clean and rich.
The Big Question- Should you buy one?
It depends entirely on where you come from. If you had an iPad from last year (third gen-April 2012, fourth gen-Oct 2012), the iPad Air is not a significant upgrade. Yes, its smaller and overall more portable but it is not worth the $499+taxes+upgrades you will have to pony up for. If you own an iPad 2 without the retina display, the iPad Air maybe the one you have been waiting for. You should definitely consider the upgrade if you can afford it.
If you dont own an iPad, then this is an interesting question. I am personally of the belief that you can pick up an iPad like tablet with similar if not better specs for much cheaper. So it is a trickier question to consider- the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 offers a lighter and cheaper option to the iPad while retaining similar or better innards. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 offers similar innards and a better display for about the same price. And there is the soon to be updated Nexus 10.
The iPad Air (2013) offers an updated iPad for the Apple faithful in a more compact and powerful package. It will sell very well and continue to keep the Apple product users very happy. It is a great product, probably the best in class but with a lot of good challengers knocking on its doors. The App Store continues to be its single biggest selling point while the hardware design furthers its cause of global domination in the tablet space.