New iPads: Worth a Look?
The iPad seems to be running out of gas. Apple reports that sales of its tablets are down 13% from last year. Even more significantly, this year’s new iPads have nothing compellingly “new” about them for the average user, or even the power user. Let's take a closer look at the new models...
Just In: iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3
Last year’s iPad Mini 2 got the Retina display, a significant boost in readability. This year’s iPad Mini 3 has hardly changed at all. The first iPad Air, introduced in October, 2013, was dramatically thinner and lighter than its predecessors (the original full-sized iPad 2, 3, and 4). This year’s iPad Air 2 is a little more svelte but you need a micrometer to tell.
I watched Apple's announcement event, where CEO Tim Cook breathlessly mentioned that it was "18% thinner" than the previous model. No gasps were heard in the crowd. More musical to the ear was Apple's upgrade to a 64-bit A8X processor in the Air 2, which is touted to be 40% faster than the previous model.
The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is the biggest addition to the iPad Air 2. Fingerprint scanners have been around for decades. Apple promises to make marvelous, revolutionary apps available thanks to the Touch ID, including Apple Pay “contactless” payments (which doesn’t work with iPads but only with iPhone 6 or 6 Plus). But consumers haven’t taken to biometrics in general, and Apple Pay doesn’t seem likely to inspire them.
The iPad Air 2 has a better camera, if you take photos and videos with a 10-inch tablet. Oh, and it comes in gold color now, too, if that’s all that was stopping you from dropping $499 on a base model.
What the iPad Air 2 is missing, much to enthusiasts’ angst, is a larger display area; higher screen resolution; a snap-on keyboard; a lower base price; and longer battery life. In fact, the Air 2’s battery lasted 90 minutes less than the original Air tablet in the same test. Ten-and-a-half hours is still pretty good, but an Android-powered Samsung Tab S 10.5 tablet lasts 11 hours, 15 minutes in the same test.
Price Tags, Past and Present
The Air 2’s pricing is the same as the original Air: $499 with 16GB and WiFi only, ranging up to $829 for 128GB with cellular as well as WiFi connectivity. The iPad Mini 3 starts at $399 and goes up to $729.
Both new iPads offer faster Wifi and a new kind of cellular SIM card that makes it easier to switch carriers. But cellular iPads are in the minority and users don’t switch carriers that often.
The depression of earlier iPad models’ prices seems to be the best reason to welcome the new ones. Last year’s iPad Air is suddenly $100 cheaper, at a base price of $399. The original iPad Mini, from 2012, now goes for $249 new (and it's still for sale on the Apple website).
Overall, it seems Apple is selling smaller improvements to an ever-smaller audience. The vast majority of iPad owners are still using original (Air-less) iPad 2, 3 or 4 models, and Apple tablet sales have been on a downward trend for the past year.
Just Another Hater?
You might read this and think I'm an iPad hater. No, I'm just disappointed (along with many others) that the latest crop of them seems to offer little in the way of innovation -- nothing to make you say "wow." Across the board, iPads are good-looking, well made and they integrate nicely into the Apple product line. If you have a Mac or an iPhone and are looking for a tablet, I'd tell you to buy an iPad. If all your friends or family members are Apple fans, that's another reason to go iPad. If you're a Windows user with lots of music in your iTunes library, the iPad wins again.
But they are also expensive, compared to similar sized offerings from the competition. Amazon's HD Fire 7 tablet costs just $139, which is $260 less than the iPad Mini 3. The Nexus 9's $399 price tag is $100 lighter than the Air 2. Those models, along with offerings from Samsung, Asus, and Acer, are slick and well made. And there are scores of off-brand Android tablets on the market at even lower price points.
Is there an iPad in your future? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Oct 2014
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved