WHEN Apple announced the iPad Air last week, it made much of the achievement of packing so much into so small a package: this is the iPad that is already so popular, but now it’s lighter, thinner, faster and more powerful. And in a stroke of marketing genius, a largely similar product is now rebranded, making it easier for consumers to notice that they don’t have the latest model.
On the one hand, it’s not really very different at all: this iPad doesn’t do anything serious that the previous version didn’t. Camera, processor and other under the hood improvements don’t make it a fundamentally different device, so it’s probably compulsory to call it an evolution rather than a revolution. But it remains beautifully built, implausibly thin yet without any of the flex that comes with cheap tablets. The slightly more rectangular design contributes, with its more angled corners, to the sense of a substantially smaller, 7.5mm thin package, even though the screen is the same size.
Looked at another way, however, the Air is radically different. I’ve had one for a week or so and it’s the first full-size iPad I’ve ever thrown into my bag without thinking about the (28 per cent lighter) weight. It’s totally replaced the iPad Mini for me, which previously was the model I’d take out and about. Equipped with EE’s 4G network, which ran for me at a routine 30Mbps in London, it’s the internet at almost full-size, wherever you go. The 7” Mini now feels, well, Mini. Just as Android phones are getting bigger, so is the iPad. It claims 10 hours of battery life, which was more than I have ever needed, albeit sometimes with a little bit of planning.
If there are faults with the iPad Air, the only two I can find are the suggestion, in the branding, that it’s a totally new product, and the fact that the smartcover now adopts the flimsier three-panel design used in the original iPad Mini. But these are tiny issues. This is the iPad that was already brilliant in an even better design. Almost entirely thanks to the 475,000 tablet apps, iPad Air is the best tablet on the market. And Kindle fans beware - the Air is now more useful for reading, its clever software knowing whether your thumb is interacting with the device or simply holding it.
There is a question, of course, over why anyone should spend £399 on a tablet when Carphone Warehouse will sell you one for £49, and Tesco will sell you the perfectly decent Hudl for £119.But neither of these devices, nor for that matter Samsung’s more expensive versions, feel like the truly premium iPad. And none has that vast library of unique tablet apps. While Android phones have caught up with the iPhone, and in many aspects surpass it, the iPad remains a unique proposition and the iPad Air is the best iPad yet.
Its light weight and thin form mean it gets out of the way – you don’t notice it, but you notice what you’re doing on it. That, potentially, unleashes a new generation of tablet-based productivity. The fact that Apple is now giving away even more software means that perhaps the rebranding is, therefore, more than simply a marketing exercise. Air may yet be the oxygen for a new wave of uses for the iPad.
240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm
9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display
2048x1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); dual channel (2.4GHz and 5GHz) and MIMO
Bluetooth 4.0 technology
Front: 1.2MP photos/720p HD video
Rear: 5MP photos/1080p HD video