So I picked up my iPad air a few days ago, and the first thing I noticed was how small the box was. I had the chance to play with an iPad 2 the day before, and the box with everything inside felt like it weighed about the same. So what did I find when I opened the box? Simple packaging thank goodness. I felt like a kid with a new toy and I didn't want to waste time with complicated packaging. Once I removed the plastic cover, the iPad in all of its shiny glory could be lifted from the box. It is a lot thinner than the fourth generation, 40 percent thinner to be exact, and has a 40 percent thinner bezel. Why is that important? Well I will get to that, chill out.
So the first question I asked myself, or better yet, the question my girlfriend helped me ask myself; is the iPad Air worth the upgrade? Well I have had a few days to poke and prod at it, and I can gladly say yes it is. The new A7 chip that Apple built in to the iPhone 5S is the little brother of the powerhouse built in to this iPad. This is more important to voice over users, because no matter what we are doing, we almost always require more from our devices than the casual user. As I mentioned before, when I had the chance to play with an iPad 2, I noticed that voice over slowed the device down considerably. I noticed no strain whatsoever when using the Air, and loading voice over takes hardly any time at all, witch is not the case with most of Apples portable devices. From the perspective of a power user, the extra muscle under the hood is amazing. But unless you are upgrading from the first generation iPad, you really will not notice a big jump in performance during every day use.
The second question I asked myself was, could I get used to the new interface? Most people I have encountered that have never used an iPad have stressed to me that an iPad is nothing but a glorified iPod touch. For awhile I agreed, until I got my hands on an iPad. However, it is unlikely that Apple would invest so much time and money into a product that is essentially a blown up version of what they already make. That being said, I will say that applications coded specifically for the iPad, take advantage of the extra screen real estate quite well. As I write this article on my new iPad Air this fact becomes more and more clear. Usage of the iWork package is a bit more user friendly on the iPad than it is on my Mac. While the iPad helps with productivity, one of the first things I noticed was how fun it was to use in everyday life for things such as social media and play. A big difference between the iPad and iPod touch/ iPhone is menu functionality. In the iPhone/iPod selecting an option in a menu moves you to a new screen most of the time. However, in the iPad, menus have multiple columns and selecting in one column changes what is available in the next column. In the settings menu, for example, selecting general on the left, brings up the general menu on the right and selecting accessibility changes the rightmost column to the accessibility menu. One challenge voiceover users may face with the increased screen real estate is locating apps on the home screen. The iPhone/iPod touch have edge to edge design, however the iPad have 1/2 inch bezel on each side. No only is mental mapping important on the iPad determining where the screen starts and stops is also of importance. Those upgrading from previous generation iPads may be thrown off by the decreased bezel thickness. On the iPad the pop-up menu appears adjacent to the item that is activated. Another challenge is that some apps are model specific. It is possible to install iPhone apps onto the iPad, however they will be considerably smaller than full screen iPad apps. Unfortunately, iPad apps cannot be installed on other devices.
My overall experience with the iPad Air thus far has been quite positive. Pros of upgrading to the new iPad are increased performance, decreased bezel thickness, increased touch response, and its just freakin' lighter. Cons of upgrading are unless you are more than 2 generations behind you may not notice the increased performance, the dimensions of the device may make it easy to lose between couch cushions, and the lack of flash and touch ID is slightly disappointing. In conclusion... go pick one up; they are sexy!