The mid-range iPad is finally here. Who needs it and who doesn’t.
Among the many products that Apple released in late March, the iPad Air 2019 has been getting the least attention and probably for good reason. There are no significant design changes since the Pad Air 2 that Apple announced in late 2014. Unlike the iPad Mini, the Air is, relatively speaking, the same size as other iPads you can buy for less or for more money.
But its the innards of this new iPad Air where things start to get interesting.
The iPad Air comes in silver, space gray, and gold and if you miss the big bezels of yesteryear, you will not be disappointed. Inside you’ll find the A12 Bionic processor with a four-core graphics engine and a 10.5‑inch Retina display with a P3 Wide Color Gamut and True Tone. There’s an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 7-megapixel front camera. It also has a lightning port, a Nano Sim and a headphone jack. It does not, however, come with headphones. The only thing in the box is a Lightning to USB Cable, a USB power adapter, and the iPad itself.
The newest iPad Air also sports a smart connector, which means support for Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard, but only the old Apple Pencil and the old smart keyboard. So, if you had the newest iPad pro and you’re thinking of downgrading to the new iPad Air, don’t expect to use the same accessories, which is a bummer. Old iPad Air cases don’t fit either.
Let’s talk styluses. (Styli?) Logitech Crayon that came out last year works with all the iPads that have Apple Pencil support. That’s right ALL OF THEM. So you can only use the old Apple Pencil with the new Mini and the new iPad Air and you can only use the new Apple Pencil with the latest iPad Pros, you can use the Logitech Crayon with everything. If you plan on upgrading or downgrading your iPad and you want a writing utensil for it, I suggest the Logitech Crayon, which is only $70.
Other key features of the new iPad air include 10 hours of battery life, which I tested and found to be pretty accurate. The Air starts at 64 gigabytes of storage and goes up 256 for an additional $150. The display features high brightness and an antireflective coating. I happily used the iPad Air 3 by the pool on my recent vacation to Los Angeles and had no problems with sunlight.
The newest iPad Air has Touch ID, but not Face ID. That’s the most significant difference, and if you’ve gotten used to the new iPad Pro, you’re going to miss this feature. You’re also going to miss the four speakers of the Pro. This one only has two, and frankly, they don’t sound amazing. If sound is something you’re concerned with, I recommend finding yourself a used iPad Pro from 2017 which is essentially the same, but with 4 speakers.
If you’re upgrading from a previous iPad Air or an older iPad Mini, you might be thrilled by the difference in speed. My son has been using my iPad Air 2, and he couldn’t be happier with this new device, which he tested mainly by playing Fortnite. Lots and lots of Fortnite I, however, have been spoiled by the latest iPad Pro, which contains the A12 X Bionic Chip, as opposed to the A12 of the iPad Air. The Pros also include ProMotion technology, which means a better refresh rate and a smoother experience all around.
pick your price point
Right now you can pay five different prices for 5 different iPads.
The lowest price is $329, and that’s for your standard 9.7-inch iPad.
Next up is the adorable iPad Mini, which is smaller AND slightly more powerful than the standard iPad. That one will cost you $399,
Then right here smack in the middle is this new iPad Air at $499.
If you want to go pro, and I’m certainly not saying that everyone (or even most people) should, the 11 inch iPad Pro is $700 and the 12.9 inch iPad Pro starts at $999.
You can also buy a refurbished 10.5 inch iPad Pro from 2017 for $470. And I bet if you checked other reputable places online, you could even do better. Despite two-year-old hardware, you’d get 4 speakers (instead of two), a slightly better camera, and ProMotion technology that makes for an overall smoother experience.
Too many iPads? I don’t think so. This iPad Air is less than half the price of the more expensive iPad Pro, but it isn’t half the power, half the battery life, or half of anything really.
So, who IS the iPad Air three really for? I have some ideas.
The iPad Air 3 is for you, if you’re a teenager or someone buying an iPad for a teenager, especially one who wants to game, take advantage of augmented reality, or wants to draw or otherwise create with an Apple Pencil. GPS is a significant improvement over the previous iPad Air, which means if you or your kids use it for Pokemon Go, you’d do well to upgrade if its in your budget.
If you’re a student who wants to or has to use an iPad for middle, high school, or even college, this is also a great choice. I’m not saying it will replace a MacBook unless you’re not using a MacBook for MacBook-like things. It could replace many basic Chromebooks with the bonus of integrating seamlessly with your iPhone and it would mean a decent weight reduction for your backpack.
You might be less productive getting your personal Messages and Facetime group calls or your video games on your schoolwork device, but it sure is nice to have that capability.
The iPad Air is for you if you just feel like you need a little more oomph in your iPad or an extra inch of screen real estate, but an iPad Pro might be too much.
And the iPad Air is definitely for you if you still want a headphone jack in your Apple tablet.
The iPad Air 3 starts at $499 and is available now.