I’m typing this on my brand spanking new iPad Air. I gotta tell ya – this thing is amazing and IMHO well worth upgrading for every iPad owner, even those considering a switch to the mini. That’s how great a difference the Air is compared to the prior gens, including the “New” iPad released last year.
When you read about the differences in size and weight between the Air and prior iPads they may seem minor. They’re not. At all. The Air feels like a completely new product line, like the difference between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro. In the hand, the reduction in width, thickness, and most importantly weight, feels dramatically better.
And note that I said hand and not hands. For the first time, the full sized iPad is a legitimate one-handed device, at least for most adults. Reading in bed in portrait, to approximate the page size of a hard cover novel, is now highly enjoyable. And that’s what makes it suitable for anyone considering the mini – it’s not that much bigger or heavier (the mini and the Air feel closer in weight than do the Air and other full sized iPads, regardless of what the specs say).
It’s also waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay snappier than prior iPads, about 2X a fast as the “New” iPad before it, but more like 4, 8, 16X faster than the older iPads most people have today. Not just the CPU/GPU speeds and how they translate into the overall app and UI experience. Even the wifi is noticeably faster thanks to the dual wifi antenna set up. It also runs far cooler than the Retina iPad, my last full sized iPad, did.
If you don’t think your current iPad is sluggish or heavy in the hand(s), don’t pick up an Air. If you do you’ll never go back.
On to the nits. Nothing is perfect, including the iPad Air. My biggest gripe is the feel of the screen. It’s difficult to describe, but others have called it things like slightly spongy, squishy, soft, and cheap. In general, I would agree. Prior iPads had a Mercedes/BMW-like heft to them and felt extremely solid and rigid in the hand and to the touch(screen). The Air is more like an Acura. Still nice, but forever chasing its German rivals. Certainly not enough for me to ever go back. But notable. I hate to be “that guy” but part of me can’t help but believe that Steve Jobs would’ve sent the Air back to the drawing board until they got the screen feel sorted out.
Another nit: price. True, Apple has kept the price/memory points the same. The 16GB wifi model is $499, just like the OG iPad of a few years ago. But the 128GB model with wifi + LTE is $929. That’s…..a lot of money no matter how you slice it. I know I know, Apple is a business and they’ll sell every Air they make. But on the whole I think there’s an argument to be made that Apple would be better off shaving say $50 from each price point, and lowering the premium for the cellular data radio to something more like $69 from the ludicrous $130 premium they’ve long charged.
Why? The Android ecosystem is catching up and in many ways is surpassing Apple. It’s strange to me that Apple hasn’t learned by now that these “little” price differences matter to enough people globally that Apple would likely be better off over the long term with a much higher market share than where they’re trending (which is down, if you weren’t aware). Make slightly less on each device, but sell far more devices. And leave yourself as the de facto choice in the market, leaving people no reason to buy Android tablets. But perhaps that’s a story for another day.
Go buy the iPad Air.