First byte: Faster, lighter, sexier - why Apple’s new iPad Air is a breath of fresh... air

5.00

It’s called Air for a very good reason as it’s so much thinner. But is it the best iPad? Yes, by far

When the first iPad arrived, many people didn’t know what it was for, even if they knew they wanted one. Now, Apple has a different challenge: to persuade customers that they really need the new, updated model. So, should you buy the iPad Air?

This is the first substantial change to the hardware’s design since March 2011 when the iPad 2 arrived. Subsequent models (there have been two) have followed the same pleasing shape – sloping edges on the back, wide black or white bezel on the front. The third and fourth-generation iPads have been heavier than the iPad 2 because they featured a gorgeous, high-resolution Retina display and needed a bigger, heavier battery to push all those extra pixels around.

So the first thing you notice about the iPad Air is the gadget’s new design. It’s been updated to match the iPad mini, released a year ago. This means boxier corners and a back cover coloured to match the front bezel. It’s an altogether snazzier look, with a chrome Apple logo in the middle of the lighter coloured iPad, previously called white, now silver, while a black logo sits in the middle of the darker one, called Space Grey.

The biggest design change is on the front of the iPad Air, with its much narrower bezel. Most tablets have wide frames round the screen, for good reason. On a touchscreen it’s important to ensure that the user’s thumb doesn’t accidentally rest on the screen as it’s being held – an accidental thumb press is registered by the touchscreen and gets in the way. Unless you’re Apple.

One of the most underrated features on the iPad mini was thumb rejection – software clever enough to know to ignore an errant thumb and focus on the other touches. It’s a brilliant solution which allows for thinner side bezels and therefore narrower tablets. The feature is included in all iPads, large and small, with recent software.

And now it’s been used to slim down the iPad Air. This has made the new slimmer bezels possible, though it does mean that last year’s covers and cases won’t fit the new model, but that’s the only downside. The new tablet’s size is one of its triumphs. It makes it feel more comfortable in the hand.

That’s also because the iPad Air is much slimmer from front to back than the last iPad, or even the iPad 2. This is the thinnest full-size iPad yet. And even that’s not the real reason the design is improved. It’s now much lighter. It weighs 478g instead of last-season’s 662g.

This is the real killer improvement.

A tablet needs to be portable, to be light enough for you to want to take it everywhere. Just as the MacBook Air was the most lightweight, thin-profiled laptop on the market when it launched, so the new iPad justifies borrowing the Air moniker for this super-light piece of kit.

Of course, that’s not the only upgrade on the new iPad. It now has the same processor as the iPhone 5s. This seemed ludicrously over-powered for a phone (though who’s complaining?) and is certainly more than fast enough here.

It means that the things you’re used to doing on an iPad happen more quickly now. The whole thing just feels faster. And it means that as more complex and demanding apps are devised (and you can bet they are in development now), the iPad Air and its smaller sibling the iPad mini with Retina display will be able to handle them with ease.

Apple’s key advantage is that it makes the hardware and software, so they can work together flawlessly. So the new iOS 7 operating system dovetails with the iPad in every way, down to the matching of iPad case colours to the system palette.

It’s a finely detailed OS – look no further than Messages which enables iDevice users to share unlimited messages. When you’ve pressed send, the text plonks itself into a speech balloon. When your interlocutor is replying, the screen shows they’re crafting their words with the distinctive bubbles of a thought balloon. Or FaceTime Audio, which enables voice calls between iPhone, iPod and iPad using a data connection. Effectively it means you can have free phone calls if you’re not busting your data limit. Not only is this a beautifully executed feature, it’s a real bonus if you find yourself in a network blackspot but there’s wi-fi around.

Like the iPhone 5s, the iPad Air has a motion co-processor which reports on movement. Fitness apps will take advantage of this soon, but for now it means that the iPad knows if you’re driving or walking. If you’re using the iPad to give you directions, it knows to re-route you to walking instructions when you get out of the car.

What’s missing? Rumour had it that the iPad might have the delectably enjoyable Touch ID fingerprint sensor of the iPhone 5s, which would have been nice.

The five-megapixel rear camera is unchanged, though as noted elsewhere, do you really want a big, flat slab of glass and aluminium as your main snapper? An uprated camera may not be a pressing priority.

This iPad is the biggest upgrade since the arrival of the Retina display on the third-generation iPad in spring 2012 – though it remains the same price, from £399 for the 16GB wi-fi only version.

Its spiffy new styling may be enough to persuade you to upgrade. The faster processor is cool and will become more useful as more apps arrive.

But above all, this is the super-light iPad, the most portable iPad, the most powerful iPad. Tablets are expected from rivals like Google in the next months, but for now Apple is in the lead again.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

    £22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Service Desk Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones