It took some time, but Android tablet makers eventually figured out that in order to compete with the iPad, they had to undercut it on price, even if it meant releasing a smaller sized slate. Amazon took the lead with its Kindle Fire line, and Google offered up a blueprint of its own with its Nexus family. Fast forward to today and Apple no longer dominates the tablet market to the same extent it did in 2010.
However, based on available data from market research firms like IDC, the iPad is still the single most popular tablet family around, though the gap is closing quickly, making this latest release arguably the most important iPad launch since the original. Having now proven there's a substantial market for tablets, the challenge Apple now faces is maintaining its lead and coming up with new features to keep its customers mesmerized.
Enter the iPad Air. This is Apple's fifth generation iPad and the true successor to the iPad 3, whereas the iPad 4 was mostly a speed bump and lacked the fanfare associated with most of Apple's product launches. It also marks the first real redesign of the tablet's form factor to some extent. It's significantly thinner than the previous iPad, noticeably lighter, and sports a reduced bezel that more closely resembles that of the iPad mini. It's such a drastic change in feel that Apple chose to dub this version the iPad Air. It seems Apple always chooses a standout feature to rally behind -- upgraded cameras, high-resolution (Retina) display, Siri -- and this time around it's the physical dimensions garnering all the attention.
First, here's our quick video walk-through, then we'll get to the finer details...
iPad Air pricing starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and goes up from there depending on capacity and whether or not you want 4G LTE connectivity. Apple deserves some kudos for continually upgrading its iPad line while avoiding the temptation to charge extra throughout five generations of tablets.
It's also interesting to note that housed inside the iPad Air is a 32.4Wh battery, which is considerably smaller compared to the 42.5Wh battery in the previous generation iPad. This is the primary reason why Apple was able to shave so much weight and bulk off the tablet, but don't sweat the smaller battery, we've been getting just as much run time out of the iPad Air as its predecessors (more on that later).
Even though the spec sheet doesn't slap you across the face and scream, "Hey, look at me, I'm frigging awesome!," is there enough here to warrant an upgrade? Let's have a closer look...