Apple put its newest tablet computer, the iPad Air, on sale Friday. The new device weighs nearly a third less and contains more processing power than the previous model of iPad, released a year ago. The New York Times’s Damon Darlin explains why the lighter tablet is easier to use:
Those 6.4 ounces make all the difference when, as you recline while reading or watching a movie, you conk out and the iPad falls forward to bonk you on the nose. The Air won’t hurt you the way the old iPad did.
The weight reduction and a 20 percent slimmer profile provide other benefits, too. My messenger bag strap didn’t dig into my shoulder as deeply when my iPad was in it. My hand didn’t cramp up while grasping the iPad Air for an hour while watching movies or playing games.
But is Nose Bonking Reduction enough to justify buying a new iPad if you already own one of the 170 million iPads that have been sold over the last three and a half years? And if you have never bought a tablet computer, is this the one that persuades you to fling your laptop aside like crutches at a faith healing and embrace a new era?
Some of the Air’s other features might be reason to buy a new iPad, writes Anick Jesdanun of the Associated Press:
— The Air shares the A7 processing chip found in the new iPhone 5S. Apple says it’s twice as fast as last fall’s model. The Air also comes with a companion M7 processor, which improves battery life for motion-related sensor data. The A7 processor uses a 64-bit system similar to desktops, which is mumbo-jumbo for saying that it handles large amounts of data more efficiently. This makes the Air great for games and other data-intensive apps once they are adapted to take advantage of the new chip. Only a few are right now.
— Two Wi-Fi antennas work to deliver up to twice the speed. I downloaded the pilot episode of the “Pretty Little Liars” spinoff “Ravenswood” in less than 20 minutes. It took last fall’s model 39 minutes to do the same.
— The Air adds a microphone on the back, while keeping the one on top. When recording video in a noisy room, I get better sound from the subjects and less ambient noise. There’s a second speaker grill, too, for better sound balance when held vertically, though sound still comes from one side in horizontal mode.
Apple announced its latest financial data earlier this week. Though the company took in a record $37.5 billion in revenue last quarter, investors were disappointed to see margins declining. Sales of the iPad also declined for the third consecutive quarter, which Timothy Lee writes is worrisome for Apple:
It’s the latest sign that the iPad is succumbing to the same problems that previously befell the iPhone and the Mac. Apple’s vertically-integrated product design philosophy and premium pricing helps the firm pioneer new product categories. But as the technology matures, Apple inevitably cedes the market share crown to another firm with a relatively open platform. In the 1990s, that company was Microsoft with its Windows OS. Today, it’s Google with Android. . . .
One analytics firm estimated that 34.6 million Android tablets were sold from April to June of 2013, almost double sales of 18.5 million Android tablets a year earlier and more than double Apple’s own sales of 14.6 million iPads during the same period. Apple may comfortably beat last year’s holiday record of 22 million iPads in the coming holiday season, but that won’t be nearly enough to erase Android’s market share gains over the last year.
The iPad Air starts at $499.