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iPad Air Review (Wi-Fi only)


Review by Andrew Kameka on Wednesday November 20, 2013.

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Apple iPad Air iOS apps
Apple iPad Air iOS apps

Software and Apps

I've already pointed out what I love and hate about iOS 7 when reviewing the iPhone 5S, and the iPad Air merely magnifies those issues. It sometimes even adds new issues, like the terrible use of space on the home screen. Apple adheres to a strict 4 x 5 grid of icons that looks fine on a 4-inch iPhone but looks silly on a 9.7-inch iPad. People who complained of iOS 7 fonts being too light and thin will quickly discover that the lack of weight is just as noticeable on the iPad, but the increased size means it's still legible.

There are other instances that make the iPad seem like a natural fit. The Notification Center has the same look and shortcomings as seen on the iPhone, but the Control center spreads its toggles and sliders across the screen so much that it's much easier to make adjustments to settings. When double-tapping to access the multitasking view, the size of the thumbnails make app-switching so much easier. Apple iOS 7 has a love it or hate it feel, but people in the love, or at least strong like, camp will find it pleasing. You'll still run into issues with sharing between files, but with iCloud support, it's easy to maintain a smooth workflow of notes, bookmarks, and photos when switching between phone, tablet, and Mac.

Where the iPad Air truly shines is its App Store. iOS has more tablet apps than anyone can reasonably need, and that's what makes it so much better than the many Android alternatives when it comes to software. The iPad Air has apps for controlling television and audio equipment, viewing multimedia, creating and editing documents, playing games, and reading eBooks or news articles. You can do the same thing on Android, but iOS offers more and better choices. To sweeten the pot, Apple has even recently made GarageBand, iMovie, iPhoto, iWork, and other apps free, making it easier to be productive for work or personal uses.

I've gone on long rants about how terrible the NBC Sports app for Android is, and the iPad version isn't much better. But the fact remains that it is better because it actually loads content quickly without crashing on me repeatedly. The strongest selling point for the iPad Air is that it has such a healthy third-party ecosystem. If you need an app for your tablet, the App Store probably has it.

Apple iPad Air FaceTime with front-facing camera
Apple iPad Air FaceTime with front-facing camera

Camera Quality

The iPad Air has a 5-megapixel camera in the back and a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera. People willing to overlook the social stigma of being "That guy" taking photos with an iPad will see that the camera quality is not bad. The camera is also more manageable because it can the iPad can be held comfortably with just one hand. The camera lacks the rear flash and slow-motion capabilities of the iPhone 5S, and almost any smartphone is probably a better option, but the photos below illustrate that it's a decent camera by tablet standards.

Battery

Under normal circumstances, the iPad Air lasts an entire day. Apple promises 10 hours of continuous usage, so browsing the web on Wi-Fi should routinely offer long lasting performance. High-end gaming and watching video should last as long as you need it to in most cases. Someone who uses a tablet only sparingly - reading or browsing the web for a few hours, drafting emails for a few minutes, and then live streaming a sporting event - might make it an entire weekend on a single charge. That's what I did my first week with the iPad Air.

Apple iPad Air
Apple iPad Air

Conclusion

Critics of Apple often say that the company merely makes incremental upgrades and then repackages them as something new to sell to their naive followers. Even Apple's staunchest critics couldn't reasonably say that about the iPad Air. Aside from being noticeably faster thanks to its A7 chip, the tablet has made significant improvements to its design. There isn't a huge gulf between how iOS 7 runs on an iPad Air compared to previous iPads, but there is a major change in the feel of the tablet.

Apple iPad Air
Apple iPad Air

The lighter size and new materials alter the way that someone uses an iPad, which makes the iPad Air something worth holding onto. An iPad with Retina display (iPad 4) owner will be content to continue using the device until next year, but everyone else should consider upgrading. Thanks to its lighter build, the iPad Air is probably a better bet than the iPad Mini as well. An iPad Mini is a great device because of its portability. Apple has found a way to make the iPad Air light enough to offer the same benefits and still up the ante for internal power and its large display.

 
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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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