Ever since its launch in late 2015, the 12.9” iPad Pro has been my primary computer. The combination of a large display – the largest Apple makes for iPads – with software that properly takes advantage of it (see: Split View, multiwindow, multicolumn) makes the 12.9” Pro an ideal blend of laptop-like usability and tablet modularity. If you’re looking for power and flexibility, the 12.9” iPad Pro is the ne plus ultra of the iPad line.
Before the iPad Pro, however, it was the iPad Air 2 that convinced me the iPad could be a suitable replacement for a MacBook. In my review of the iPad Air 2 in early 2015, which I published just a few months before the iPad Pro’s debut, I called the device a “liberating” experience, noting how it struck a balance of high portability and versatility that enabled me to get more work done from more places. In spite of the iPad Pro’s superiority – especially in terms of display size – I’m always going to have a soft spot for the iPad Air as the device where my modern iPad journey began.
For the past few days, I’ve been testing Apple’s latest iPad Air, which comes out this Friday starting at $599 for the 64 GB, Wi-Fi model. While the 10.9” Air won’t replace the 12.9” iPad Pro as my primary machine, I’ve been impressed by this iPad for a different reason: the iPad Air democratizes the notion of “pro iPad”, bringing key features of iPad Pro to more customers, while at the same time looking ahead toward the future of iPad with hardware not seen on the current iPad Pro lineup. The iPad Air sits at the intersection of old iPad Pro features trickling down to the rest of the iPad line and new ones appearing on this model first. This makes the iPad Air a fascinating device to review, as well as a compelling alternative to another iPad of similar dimensions: the 11” iPad Pro.
Five years after the iPad Air 2, I’m intrigued by an iPad Air again. Let me explain why.
Alongside pre-orders for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, Apple opened up pre-orders for the new iPad Air today. First introduced by the company at a September 15th event, the iPad Air features the A14 Bionic SoC, a Touch ID power button, support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, USB-C connectivity, Magic Keyboard support, new case colors, and other updates. Availability for the iPad Air will begin next Friday, October 23rd.
For a complete rundown on the features of the new iPad Air, check out the overview we published here.
Today Apple has updated its online store with two major new products now available: an iPad Air with a 10.5” display, and a long-overdue fifth-generation iPad mini that includes Apple Pencil support.
Coinciding with Sunday’s Academy Awards Ceremony, Apple debuted a new iPad advert with a focus on making films. The advert features students from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) as they prepare and shoot films for a school project. Also featured in the advert is Martin Scorsese, with audio excerpts from his 2014 commencement speech to the NYU Tisch School of the Arts serving as the narration to the advert.
iPad is the ultimate tool for independent filmmakers. It lets them chase their ambitions and dive deeper into the work they’re so passionate about. Learn how students at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts relied on the power and versatility of iPad to write, produce, shoot, score, and edit their films in a matter of days.
Like most of Apple’s recent adverts, they’ve set up a page on their website with more information about the advert and those featured in it. As noted on the page, the apps featured in this advert are Final Draft Writer, FiLMiC Pro, Garageband, and VideoGrade.
We’ve embedded the advert below, but you can also view it on Apple’s website and on YouTube.
Display aside, another hardware change that I noticed in my iPad Air 2 is the extra RAM Apple put in this year. Pocket Gamer’s Mark Brown ran some tests:
To see how things have changed, we rebooted an iPad Air and an iPad Air 2, and then loaded monster memory hog XCOM: Enemy Unknown. We then started opening and using apps to see how much we could get done before iOS forcibly removed XCOM from memory.
Apple’s handy OS X tool Instruments lets you keep an eye on what your iPad is doing, so we could see the exact moment that XCOM was killed off like a Sectoid on the receiving end of a shotgun.
Check out his gallery of screenshots to see how much an extra GB of RAM can help. In my case, the iPad Air 2 keeps more Safari tabs in memory without aggressively reloading when I switch between them, and apps generally stay active for longer periods of time. The end result is a faster experience as I see less apps being removed from memory – a change that I particularly appreciate when I’m switching between Safari and a bunch of other apps for research or file management tasks.
Since getting my iPad Air 2 last week (I upgraded from an iPad mini), I noticed two things about the display: if I get closer to it, I can (almost) discern pixels again; and, it’s considerably better than the iPad mini when used under indoor lighting.
Dr. Raymond M. Soneira of DisplayMate notes in their in-depth analysis of the display:
A major innovation for the iPad Air 2 (that is not fully appreciated) is an anti-reflection coating on the cover glass that reduces ambient light reflections by about 3:1 over most other Tablets and Smartphones (including the previous iPads), and about 2:1 over all of the very best competing Tablets and Smartphones (including the new iPhone 6). We measured a 62 percent decrease in reflected light glare compared to the previous iPads (Apple claims 56 percent) and agree with Apple’s claim that the iPad Air 2 is “the least reflective display of any Tablet in the world” – both are in fact understatements.
While the anti-reflection coating doesn’t do much in direct sunlight, in my experience it has an effect for working with the iPad indoors. As for the pixels, it’s not a big deal because I wouldn’t normally get my eyes close to display (so in normal usage, the Retina display still looks fantastic), but I’d definitely welcome a Retina HD iPad next year.
A major change in the new iPads that Apple didn’t mention on stage today is the Apple SIM, which will come preinstalled on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. As we mentioned in our overview, the Apple SIM will be initially limited to the US and the UK.
Ina Fried writes:
The cellular-equipped versions of the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 can be bought with a single SIM card that supports multiple carriers, meaning that customers don’t have to decide at the time of purchase which cellular carrier they want. Customers buying previous versions of the iPad were bound to one carrier from the outset, since the SIM card was only compatible with that service.
Over at Quartz, Dan Frommer argues that the Apple SIM could potentially be a big deal on the iPhone and even disrupt the wireless industry:
It’s early, but it’s easy to see how this concept could significantly disrupt the mobile industry if Apple brings it to the iPhone. In many markets—especially the US—most mobile phones are distributed by operators and locked to those networks under multi-year contracts. People rarely switch operators, partially out of habit and satisfaction, but mostly because it’s annoying to do so.
There have always been rumors (see: 2010) of Apple setting itself up as a MVNO to change the way customers “interact” with carriers. It’s interesting that Apple has started to experiment with Apple SIM on the iPad and I’m curious to see if and how this will expand worldwide.
At a media event held earlier today in Cupertino, Apple unveiled the latest entries to the iPad family: the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. Building upon last year’s launch of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, the new iPads brings iterative improvements over the last generation, but it should be noted that, this year, Apple has drawn a clear line between the iPad mini and the full-sized iPad Air.