Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is gearing up for the Friday release of its new fifth-generation iPad, also known as the iPad Air. But is the 2013 iPad really worth your money?
Earlier this week, we offered three reasons why the high price of the iPad Air was worth your money. Now we’re flip-flopping with a counterargument. After all, the iPad Air may be the best iPad ever built by Apple, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a “must-buy” device. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t rush out to purchase the iPad Air when it's released on Nov. 1.
1. Besides the form factor, it’s nothing “new.” The only “new” features of the iPad Air are its redesigned form factor and its faster A7 processor. But besides those additions, plus a few tweaks to the iPad’s front and rear cameras, the iPad Air will release with an identical iPad experience as all other prior models. No Touch ID, despite the inclusion of the A7 chip. No next-generation Wi-Fi 802.11 ac for faster connections. These technologies exist, but Apple can’t create a thinner and lighter device without compromising in other aspects of the iPad design, namely in changing or adding useful functionalities or technologies. Even adding more storage capacities, or better yet, starting the cheapest basic iPad at a higher storage capacity, would've been a nice touch. But when it's all said and done, the iPad Air, despite its new name, really offers little in the way of "newness." The new form factor is impressive and certainly a welcome addition, but it doesn’t change the inherent nature of the iPad itself or dramatically improve the experience of owning one.
2. The iPad Air isn’t cheap. Starting at $499 for the most basic model and ranging up to $929 for 128 GB and LTE connectivity, the iPad Air is a luxury item in every sense of the word. But frankly, advertising the $499 starting price is a bit misleading, especially since many customers will want a bit more storage on the iPad Air if they hope to store any meaningful multimedia locally (for those times when we’re not connected to the Internet). The starting price of the 32GB iPad Air with Wi-Fi is $599, and the same model with LTE support is $729. If you’re going to spend $600 to $730 on an iPad Air (without taxes, mind you), you’d hope the iPad would offer some groundbreaking technology or do something other iPads, or even other tablets, can’t do. Unfortunately, besides being the “top-of-the-line” tablet from Apple, the release of the iPad Air isn’t a meaningful upgrade, but rather an iterative change to its form factor and power efficiency. The release of the 2014 iPad should offer some new technologies in the same one-pound enclosure, but without any truly unique features in this year’s model, it’s almost worth purchasing a lighter and much-upgraded iPad mini with Retina display, or even nothing at all. Saving money is always advisable, but for those really looking to blow at least $500, that money could be spent on clothes, rent, musical instruments, and even several cheaper tablets from Apple rivals like Google and Amazon. Or, you know, there is such a thing as charity ...
3. You already own an iPad. If you purchased an iPad 2 in 2011 or an iPad 3 or 4 in 2012, you might be considering the iPad Air as a decent reason to upgrade, considering its new form factor and top-of-the-line processors to help with computational and graphic performance. However, the release of the iPad Air is less meaningful when you consider how similar all of these tablets are. With the exception of the original iPad from 2010, each new iPad release has introduced very few meaningful features. The iPad 2 was a welcome release thanks to its significantly thinner form, and the release of the iPad 3 added a gorgeous Retina display, but since then, each iPad release has merely consisted of updating the tablet’s processors. The iPad Air offers nothing new in regards to storage capacities, or next-generation Wi-Fi – heck, even Apple founder Steve Wozniak has spoken out against the iPad Air. The argument isn’t that Apple isn’t innovating enough; the argument is that every iPad model offers the same experience more or less, although the newer models are understandably faster than the older ones. Apple will do its best to convince customers they “need” the slimmer, lighter iPad Air -- I can see Apple asking people, “How can you live without Air?” -- but when you understand how similar every iPad is, and once you understand the minimal differences between the iPad Air and every iPad release from the past two years, you’ll realize one important fact: There’s always next year.
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Apple iPad Air Release Date Nears: More About The Fifth-Generation Tablet
The 9.7-inch iPad Air brings the first major design change to the iPad since the March 2011 release of the iPad 2. The new iPad Air better resembles its “mini” counterpart, with its thinner side bezels, symmetrical speaker grilles, aluminum unibody and less-tapered back for a better grip. As we mentioned, this form factor weighs just 1 pound.
Besides the A7 chip, which will run up to twice as fast as last year’s A6X chip featured in the 2012 release of the iPad 4, Apple also chose to release the iPad Air with the company’s new M7 co-processor, which helps offload motion-based sensors from the A7 but is likely featured to give the chip a test-run before it powers Apple’s upcoming iWatch.
The iPad Air will also release with two new cameras: While the iPad 4 featured a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with 720p HD video and a 5-megapixel rear-side camera with 1080p HD video, Apple tweaked both cameras, opting to release the iPad Air with the same 5-megapixel camera with larger pixels (similar to the iPhone 5s) and a slightly improved 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with 720p HD video.
Apple will also release the iPad Air with faster Wi-Fi and more LTE bands on the cellular model, but both iPad Air models (Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + cellular) will come in two color options: white with silver, and space grey with black. The basic iPad Air with Wi-Fi starts at $499 for 16 GB and ranges up to $799 for 128 GB. For an iPad Air with Wi-Fi and LTE, models start at $629 for 16 GB and range up to $929 for 128 GB.
While Apple announced the release date for the iPad Air at its Oct. 22 media event, the company is not accepting pre-orders for its 2013 iPad. We reached out to Apple’s press team for a response, but without the company’s input, we believe Apple is removing the pre-order process to place a greater emphasis on the device’s public release date. With the general concern that Apple is losing its innovative edge with the iPad Air, Apple likely wants better press for the iPad. To accomplish this, Apple wants to publicize the iPad Air customers standing in line at its retail stores, and thus emphasize the demand for the product. Offering online pre-orders doesn’t have the same oomph as keeping the iPad Air away from the public until its wide release date, as it makes the tablet more elusive, and thus more sought-after. If Apple has any other reason for removing iPad Air pre-orders before its release date, it's probably because the company will release its quarterly earnings on Monday, and it's possible the company doesn't want to address pre-order figures on its Monday conference call, especially if those figures aren't good.
What do you think of the iPad Air? Do you believe the iPad Air lives up to its "Air" moniker, or do you believe Apple should’ve called it iPad 5 until it can release an iPad that weighs less than a pound? Do you plan to purchase the new iPad Air when it sees its Nov. 1 release date? Sound off in the comments section below.