Comparing the iPad Air is hard to do

The iPad Air went on sale on Friday. It’s easier to compare it to its predecessor in the Apple stable, but not that easy when it comes to other vendors like Microsoft and Samsung.

You want to figure out if the iPad Air is for you, it’s pretty simple. You just look at the table below and you kind of know that is a hardware upgrade that come with a price premium over older models. It’s not rocket science, people.

Does it make sense? Well, if you are using an iOS based tablet and you are happy with your apps and the experience, it’s a simple step up that depends on your tolerance, need, or desire for a new iPad. 

Yes. The iPad Air, for example, is thinner, lighter, and has better performance. But, if you are doing okay with your existing iPad, it’s not going to suddenly give you more productivity, for example.

It comes down to your apps. Pick the top 10 apps on your existing iPad and try and figure out how much better they might be on the new iPad Air. I mean, that’s one way of figuring out. Pretty subjective, but I guess, if you like to watch movies on your iPad, a better display is going to be a good step up. If you have apps that are just eating up processing power, which some graphics applications are doing then, there’s another step up.

But really, the iPad Air doesn’t leave you much choice but to work towards an upgrade. Apps that are optimized for the iPad are just better than Apps on Android tablets. So, you are always looking at a better app experience. You can dally with the details but that’s the iPad ecosphere for you: apps get better with better hardware.

The Air is lighter, faster, and has a much better battery life. Nothing to hate here. It addresses the biggest issue that I ever had with an iPad: it’s not easy to handle compared to something like a Kindle Fire, for example.

  iPad 2 iPad Mini iPad Mini 2 iPad Air
MSRP $399 $299 $399 $499
Processor Dual-Core Apple A5 Dual-Core Apple A5 64-bit Apple A7 64-bit Apple A7
Motion Co-Processor None None M7 M7
Resolution 1024×768 1024×768 2048×1536 2048×1536
Display 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit 7.9-inch IPS LED-backlit 7.9-inch IPS LED-backlit 9.7-inch IPS LED-backlit
Graphics PowerVR SGX543MP2 PowerVR SGX543MP2 PowerVR G6430 PowerVR G6430
Memory 512 MB 512 MB 1 GB 1 GB
Storage 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64 GB 16, 32, 64, 128 GB 16, 32, 64, 128 GB
Camera Front-facing: VGA | Rear-facing: 720p Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP Front-facing: 720p | Rear-facing: iSight 5 MP
Data Rate 3G 4G LTE 4G LTE 4G LTE
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n
MIMO No No Yes Yes
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR 4 4 4
Accelerometer YES YES YES YES
GPS 3G Version Only 4G Version Only 4G Version Only 4G Version Only

As for how it compares to erstwhile competitors from other vendors. Well…….

  iPad Air  Microsoft Surface 2  Samsung Note 10.1 
Price $499 $449 (32 GB) $549
Processor Apple A7 1.7 GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 4 1.9 GHz quad-core Exynos 5420
Cameras 5 MP 1080p (rear) 1.2 MP 720p (front) 5 MP 1080p (rear) 3.5 MP 1080p (front) 8 MP 1080p (rear) 2 MP (front)
Display 9.7″ 2048 x 1536 Retina 10.6” 1920 x 1080 Full HD 10.1″ 2560 x 1600
RAM 1 GB 2 GB 3 GB
Size 9.4″ x 6.6″ x 0.29″ 10.81″ x 6.77″ x 0.37″ 9.57″ x 6.75″ x 0.31″
Storage 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB, 128 GB 32GB, 64GB 16 GB, 64 GB, 32 GB
Weight 1 lb 1.5 lbs 1.18 lbs
Cool Stuff SIRI USB 3.0 S Pen Stylus
  64-bit applications Split screen apps Split screen apps

Clearly, both the Surface 2 and the Note 10.1 have hardware features and configurations that compared favorably, if not superior, to the iPad Air. 

Frankly, for Netflix and Hulu Plus, Gmail, and Chrome, I can get almost all of my work and play needs figured out on Android so, I can afford to shop around or wait for the Kindle Fire HDX. Good hardware at great prices without the lock-in to Apple. I can throw my Android devices around and mess them up and not feel so bad.

Microsoft’s going to appeal to the enterprise purely because it is, no matter how you slice it, an alternative to the desktop or laptop for a lot of functional computer users. The Surface 2 is a pretty cool piece of hardware and if Microsoft wasn’t being kicked around for other things, the Surace 2 would probably be a game changer for the company. Windows 8.1 ain’t that bad.

So, in the end, iPad Air is going to be a must have for the Apple user. For everyone else, you have a choice. You ain’t missing the iPad anyhow.

And that’s the biggest threat to greater tablet adoption: outside of Apple, the fragmentation of devices is very confusing. That’s why, Apple is going to keep outselling its rivals. It has provided a controlled experience that delivers on user experience and applications and now, on power, portability, and sustainability.