I haven’t touched my iPad Mini since I started using the iPhone 6 Plus about a month ago. It’s on my nightstand now, probably with no charge left because I’ve neglected it for so long.
That’s a strange thing for me. I had been addicted to my iPad Mini since I got it last year. As an iPhone 5S user, I was stuck with a tiny 4-inch screen that didn’t let me get as much work done. Plus, the battery life was terrible. The iPad quickly became my device for everything when I was at home or at work — taking notes, reading books, watching Netflix. There were many days I used it more than my iPhone.
But the 6 Plus, with its 5.5-inch screen filled the gap. Instead of lugging around an iPhone, iPad, and laptop, I just need an iPhone and a MacBook. The newest MacBook Air, which has 10-hour battery life and is plenty powerful, portable, and can do a lot more than my iPad, makes the perfect work tool.
I imagine a lot of people are feeling the same way about the iPad, especially now that the iPhone comes in two bigger screen sizes. There’s less of a reason to buy three Apple gadgets when two can handle everything just fine. It’s showing up in sales too. iPad sales were down 10% year over year in the second quarter this year. We’ll get numbers for the third quarter on October 20.
That’s why expectations were pretty high Thursday when Apple unveiled its new iPad models. The original promise of the iPad was that it’d eventually represent the future of productivity and computing. Eventually, it could even replace the Mac. But right now, the iPad still feels like a content consumption device. It’s great for videos, reading, and games, but doesn’t do enough on the software side to make it a laptop replacement.
Apple unveiled a great tablet on Thursday, the iPad Air 2. After playing with it for a few minutes following the event, I’m positive it will hold onto its title as the best tablet you can buy.
It’s clear Apple put a lot of effort into the design and hardware specs. The iPad Air 2 is a beautifully crafted machine on the outside and a beast under the hood. It’s only 6.1 mm thin and weighs just under a pound. Plus it still has the same 10-hour battery life on top of an improved glare-resistant screen, faster processor, fingerprint sensor, and better graphics.
But it’s the software side of things that worries me about the iPad’s future. iOS on the iPad is nearly identical to iOS on the iPhone. And with the phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus and even the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, I think it’s going to be tough to convince people to buy both until the iPad is able prove itself as something other than supersized iPhone.
When I asked one of the Apple employees to walk me through the tablet’s new features, it felt like he didn’t have much to say. He mostly focused on hardware like the improved camera, fingerprint sensor, and overall design. As for software, the camera app has new timelapse and slow-motion shooting modes, but that’s about it. And it’s nothing you can’t get on the iPhone.
There are a few things that could fix that though. As 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reported a few months ago, Apple is testing an update to iOS 8 that will let you run two apps side by side, sort of like you can on Samsung’s tablets and Windows 8 tablets.
And as Bloomberg reported this summer, Apple is working on a larger version of the iPad with a 12.9-inch screen, versus the 9.7-inch screen on the iPad Air 2. That’s the device I’m really looking forward to seeing, assuming Apple pulls the trigger and releases it. That extra screen space plus new multitasking features could help turn the iPad into the dream hybrid computing device that can finally live up to the tablet’s original promise.
Until then, the iPad we have today is more of the same. That’s not saying it’s a bad device, or that things are hopeless. But I have the feeling what Apple unveiled Thursday won’t be enough to reverse the iPad’s recent decline.
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