Let’s start this review of the newest iPad, the iPad Air, by pointing out something obvious: The iPad is not the iPhone.
Because they’re both revolutionary devices that changed their product categories, people tend to think of them as equal. They’re not. Not for Apple, and not for users.
The iPad generated $US6.2 billion in revenue last quarter, which is 17% of Apple’s overall revenue. The iPhone generated $US19.5 billion, or 52% of the company’s revenue. iPhone unit sales were more than double iPad unit sales, despite the fact that it costs $US138 more.
The reason the iPhone is a bigger business is that the iPhone is essential to your life. It is the device that is constantly in your pocket. It is your central communication and entertainment device.
The iPad is a nice gadget to own, but it’s not a must-have product. Even when you own an iPad, you’re more likely to use it a little bit in the morning, and a little bit in the evening. It’s not an all day, every day device.
As a result, there’s a big difference in the relative importance of each device in our lives.
With that as the backdrop, let’s talk a little bit about the iPad Air.
The iPad Air is the best iPad Apple has ever made. It’s the best tablet on the market.
The Air is lightweight. Some people are complaining that it’s not as light as they expected. Personally, I think it’s quite light and was very easy to hold for extended periods of time. It’s a huge jump over the most recent iPad, and it’s really impressive.
The new design of the Air looks gorgeous. If I want be nit-picky, I’d say it’s almost too nice. I would have loved for Apple to use the colourful plastic casing style it’s using on the iPhone 5C on the iPad Air. A tablet is going to be tossed in bag and carried around. I’d like for it to seem a little less precious, a little more durable.
I really don’t have much more to add about the hardware.
I like it. It’s great. If you’re in the market for a tablet, I recommend an iPad.
The only real question is whether to go with an iPad Air, or the forthcoming iPad Mini with a Retina display.
Personally, I like the big screen on the iPad. If I was buying an iPad, I would go with the iPad Air. If I want a small screen, I’ll use my iPhone.
However, I know three people interested in buying a new iPad. All three of them say they would rather go with an iPad Mini.
The logic for going with the Mini: It’s smaller, lighter, and easier to handle.
The fact that the Mini seems to be more popular than the Air suggests that Apple still has a lot of work to do on developing the software for the iPad.
When the iPad was still new, Steve Jobs compared it to a car. He said PCs were going to be like trucks. Some people would need trucks for heavy duty tasks, but most people would own cars. Similarly, some people would need laptops for heavy duty tasks, but for most people, tablets will work.
Nilay Patel, in his review of the new iPad at The Verge, points out that the analogy isn’t quite right. The iPad, he argues, is more like “a zippy little motorcycle for some cheap thrills on nights and weekends.”
The reason it’s better for zippy thrill rides instead of serving as a true replacement for the PC is that the software for the iPad isn’t advanced enough to really replace a PC.
My wife, for instance, says that when she needs to do real computing, she needs her MacBook. If she’s doing banking, or research for travel, or even just wants to look at Facebook (she hates the Facebook iPad app) she still prefers a laptop.
That’s why she, and others, want an iPad Mini. If it’s only being used for gaming, and some light web reading, then there’s no reason for a bigger screen.
She does not see it as a replacement for a laptop. It’s just a nice bonus device.
Part of the problem could be that Apple isn’t maximizing the capabilities of a big iPad.
While the iPad’s software is very good overall, there’s something lacking. It feels too much like the iPhone software just blown up. It feels like Apple isn’t taking advantage of the bigger screen.
Patel talks about this in his review. He points out that Apple doesn’t tweak iOS to be different on an iPad: “Shouldn’t Siri be a different experience here? Shouldn’t the camera app offer some tangible benefit to the growing number of people who insist on taking photos with their tablets? Why is the notification system still so goofy, and why does multitasking feel so jumpy? I would kill for Apple to rip the app-snapping feature from Windows 8 just so I could keep Twitter or a chat session open while I browse the web; add in that feature and I might seriously start thinking about replacing my laptop.”
The next major step for Apple, and the iPad, is figuring out how to really make it into a car instead of a motorcycle.
For now, though, the iPad remains the best tablet on the market. If you’re thinking about buying one, this is the one to get.
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