Apple's iPad Air 2: Faster, Thinner, But Maybe Not Enticing Enough

Apple's keynote brought new iterations of the iPad Air and iPad mini to market, but it may not be enough to drive continued growth in the market.

by / October 16, 2014
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, shows the new iPad Air's time lapse feature for video at the company's launch event Oct. 16. Apple

On Oct. 16 in Cupertino, Calif., Apple delighted its fans by announcing new iterations of several of its devices and operating systems. Highlights included the launch of iPad Air 2, the iPad Mini 3, a new 27-inch iMac with retina display, the launch of Apple Pay on Oct. 20, and a free update to Apple’s mobile platform iOS 8, called 8.1, as well as free updates to OS X Yosemite.

But are these devices worth the upgrade? Not necessarily, according to one IT analyst.

Big Deal

One day after tablet rival Google announced its HTC-designed Nexus 9, Apple Senior Vice President Tim Cook led the keynote, lauding Apple's success in the tablet market -- the company now has sold more than 225 million iPads globally, he said, and with a 100 percent customer satisfaction rate.

The iPad Air 2 is 6.1 millimeters thin – 18 percent thinner than the iPad Air, and more than twice as thin as the original iPad. Apple added a new anti-reflective coating that it says reduces reflections by 56 percent; company engineers redesigned the screen into a single component; and the device’s 64 bit architecture has a CPU that is 40 percent faster and graphics that are 250 percent faster.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, showed some of the things the new device could do, like run any of the iPad’s 675,000 available apps, or take photos with the device’s upgraded 8 megapixel camera, now faster with a 2.4/f aperture lens, and new features like burst shot, single shot HDR and HDR video.

Like the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the new iPad comes with fingerprint unlocking and will work with Apple Pay, Apple’s new online and physical payment service. Cook noted that all major banks now support Apple Pay, with 500 more banks on the way. Apple Pay will begin service on Oct. 20.

The Apple Watch, officially announced on Sept. 9, was briefly mentioned at the beginning of the presentation. “It’s the most personal device we’ve ever created. […] It’s just as much about personal expression as it about functionality,” Cook said. Apple Watch is scheduled to launch in early 2015.
 
Available in three colors and three memory options, the iPad Air 2 ranges from $499 to $699, while the cellular versions range from $629 to $829. The older iPad versions were reduced in price by $100 each, except for the original iPad Mini, which was reduced by $50 to $249.

So what?

Apple’s keynote speeches are always met by Apple fans with great excitement, but IT analyst Rob Enderle was less excited. “Unexciting” was the word he used, in fact, as he addressed Apple’s shortcomings and problems with the tablet market in general.

“They’re slightly improved,” he said. “The folks that do graphics will like the improvements in their all-in-one. There were some weird choices, like not putting the burst cameras in the iPad mini and they did in the iPad, given the fact you’re paying twice market for the iPad mini and you look like an idiot using a full-sized iPad as a camera.”

Overall, Enderle said, the new products are a little thinner and have a few new additions, but Apple isn’t driving excitement in the market like it used to, which could indicate a coming stall in tablet adoption. “If Apple’s not driving excitement, there’s not a whole lot else out there to get folks buying tablets. And if people got a tablet, they’re likely to just keep what they’ve got, because you don’t have the carriers driving you to a new product every two years. Demand growth is slowing. It’s still growing, but we don’t have the drivers we have in other segments. A tablet a couple years old is just fine.”

A report released by Adobe in September showed consumers are increasingly turning away from their tablets and toward their smartphones for mobile browsing. Gartner also reported that tablet growth is slowing.

For government, the new products don’t mean much, Enderle said.

“Apple products in government have never been a close match anyway, they’re just carried in by my employees, so it’s not like government buyers were scrambling for Apple products. It’s government users that wanted them. Biometrics might help a little bit in terms of overcoming barriers, but in terms of how biometrics are so heavily mistrusted, I’m not sure it’s a knock. But it’s certainly a little bit better than what it was.”

Colin Wood former staff writer

Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.