Apple iPad Air 2: Visual Tour - InformationWeek

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10/18/2014
09:10 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
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Apple iPad Air 2: Visual Tour

Apple's iPad Air 2 looks like a slimmed-down version of its predecessor, but it packs many under-the-hood enhancements.
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Before he revealed the iPad Air 2 last Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook recounted previous iPads' various accomplishments.

The tablets sold more units during their first four years than any previous Apple product. In the most recent quarter, iPad shipments comfortably outpaced computer shipments from each of the five largest PC vendors. The devices earn "best tablet on the market" plaudits from reviewers. They generate virtually unheard-of customer satisfaction scores. And so on.

Cook did not mention either the analysts who've pointed out sliding iPad sales or the pundits who have asked whether tablets are even necessary now that the market is full of phablets and light, fast laptops and two-in-ones. But by listing iPads' numerous conquests, Cook seemed to be reminding skeptics that Apple's tablet business is still the envy of the industry.

Cook said iPads have succeeded because they blend simplicity and power. It's perhaps unsurprising, then, that the iPad Air 2 so closely resembles its predecessor. When you already make the most successful tablet, you shouldn't be in a rush to reinvent the wheel, Cook seemed to imply. Instead, you refine what makes the device appealing in the first place. For the iPad Air 2, this means more simplicity and elegance on the outside, and even more juice under the hood.

Initial reactions have been predictably divisive. Some journalists and commentators have already dismissed the Air 2 as a boring upgrade. Many have also questioned whether Apple's ostensibly iterative refresh will be tempting enough to entice shoppers.

Others, however, have more or less affirmed Cook's message: the iPad Air was already the best tablet, and that by gaining a Touch ID sensor, a slimmer body, a nicer screen, and souped-up internals, the iPad Air 2 is better still. A few have remarked that although the iPad Air 2 will probably be the best tablet available during the upcoming holiday season, it still lacks that je ne sais quoi needed to excite consumers -- especially because so many of those consumers are now carrying the phablet-size iPhone 6 Plus.

These concerns apply not only to iPads but to tablets in general. After growing 55% in 2013, the tablet market will grow only 11% this year, according to research firm Gartner. Analysts are concerned about Apple's long-term prospects because iPhones account for over two-thirds of Apple's profits -- a precariously heavy load for any single product, even one as massively successful as the iPhone. iPads had been expected to provide a second stream of large-scale long-term growth, but with sales down 9% last quarter, concerns have mounted, at least outside of Apple.

It's true that the iPad Air 2 is only an incremental upgrade. Anyone who spent almost $500 on the iPad Air last year probably isn't going to rush out and buy the iPad Air 2 this year. However, "incremental" might undersell the practical convenience of the Air 2's touch ID and anti-reflective screen especially for long-time iPad users.  More iPad owners have the aging iPad 2 -- released in 2011 -- than any other model. To these customers, the ones most likely to upgrade, the new Air 2 will be a massive improvement, with graphics performance around 100 times better than the older iPad's.

In an emailed statement, Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder said the iPad Air 2's new features "maximize the chance that businesses and consumers will be willing to upgrade their old iPads." With Apple cutting prices on older models to as low as $249, Gownder believes Apple could be in for a healthy holiday quarter. The iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for 16 GB, same as its predecessor, but 64-GB and 128-GB configurations are more affordable than before.

Despite some praise for Apple's new tablet, Gownder cautioned that many enterprise users are waiting for the long-rumored 12.9-inch Pro. "In order to return iPad to high growth, form factor innovation will be required," he said. "We'll have to wait until 2015 to see if Apple addresses this issue."

In the meantime, the iPad Air 2's small individual enhancements might create a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Click through our slideshow to check out some of the iPad Air 2's new features and let us know in the comments whether you're impressed.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2014 | 2:52:40 PM
Re: The best tablet on the market
@Susan. It's the word processing capability that keeps me laptop bound.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 8:49:58 AM
Re: The best tablet on the market
Brian, 

I will let you know how it went. :) I also believe it depends upon app availability.

This is why taking an iPad only on a trip to do your work instead of a laptop depends on what apps you need. So far, I find that there is an app for all what I need to do. 

-Susan
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2014 | 8:35:34 AM
Re: The best tablet on the market
Agreed, a similar situation took place at the banking end. Initially, bank apps only provided the functionality of balance inquiry and transaction history, developers could have enabled mobile transactions right from the beginning but did not know whether consumer would actually perform transactions using their phones. A few took the risk and developed apps with the capability to perform transaction and the results were good. The same is happening in the enterprise world.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2014 | 8:20:51 AM
Re: The best tablet on the market
@Susan, it will be extremely interesting to hear about the post adventure experience. I guess, it all depends upon app availability. For instance, if work related mobile apps are provided by a company such as SalesForce, then the developer has taken into account the functionality that a laptop provides over a tablet and vice versa.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
10/20/2014 | 7:09:58 PM
Re: The best tablet on the market
As vendors who publish desktop apps are becoming more willing to jump on the mobile device bandwagon, the utility of the tablets and phones for work purposes has increased dramatically. We just rolled out expense reimbursement software to our mobiles and a few months back we implemented mobile time capture and billing software as well. This was not possible for a very long time (at least speaking from a security standpoint...) Obviously the features are more bare bones, but our folks can get the bulk of this kind of work done anywhere. I can only see it getting better as time marches on.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
10/20/2014 | 4:12:41 AM
The best tablet on the market
Brian, 

iPads are not only good for playing games. :) They are great working tools for those who like doing some work surrounded by the iOS environment and taking advantage of the many wornderful iOS apps available. 

The iPad Air is the best tablet on the market at the moment and that's the place that the Air 2 will take. 

The iPad is necessary and there is no doubt about that. You can't do the work you can do on an iPad Air on a phablet, or the iPhone 6 Plus. They are different stories for different needs. 

Comparing with thin, light and fast laptops is also pointless as we would be talking about different OSs in the first place, not just hardware.

At the end of this week I will embark in a new adventure. For the first time I will travel without my laptop, taking only my iPad Air to do the work I need to do. :) 

-Susan
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2014 | 3:14:05 PM
Slim Tablet
The slim design along with a powerful GPU might cause many users to want to upgrade, as it would be nice to play game on a device that has a good GPU and a screen capable of displaying 2048-by-1536-pixel.

I wonder what caused the 55% explosion of tablet sales in 2013, was it because of a release of a next gen device or an increase in the number of tablet users.
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