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Why you don’t need an iPad Air

Wednesday, October 23rd 2013 by Dean Reilly
Let me prefix this blog with a confession: I love all things Apple. I use my iPad far more than my laptop, I’ve purchased a fair number of iPods for a certain someone as gifts and even got them laser engraved at source to make them that little more personal. In spite of this, after last night’s Apple conference that announced the launch of the iPad Air and new iPad mini, I’m left with an increasingly clear and immovable position: you don’t need an iPad Air.

Yes, you. Moreover, I’m sure that you don’t need the new iPad mini either. And this applies if you’ve got a previous generation iPad or not. Now before my iTunes account gets wiped, I’m permanently banned from the Genius Bar at my nearest Apple Store, and a small army of blue-shirts come after me, let me explain why.

Live fast, die young

Let’s talk about lifecycles. A report by survey group Recon Analytics found that the average UK mobile tech user updates their hardware every 22 months – making us the second quickest country when it comes to turnaround of technology (the USA are the first with an average of 21 months of usage).

You don’t have to look very far from home to find countries where items like mobile phones and tablets are allowed to stick around longer: the average French consumer will only upgrade after 30 or so months, for example. Pop to Finland and you’ll find techie devices like phones and tablets are allowed to stick around for roughly six years. Well done, Finns – but even this is far shorter than the predicted useful life of contemporary handheld tech, with experts suggesting we should get around 10 years from it.

Essentially, we’re all taking part in some weird Logan’s Run style cull of tech that’s still in its prime – and it’s not just our wallets that are paying the price. And if the targets of a certain real-world animal cull can “move the goalposts” over the summer, then frankly, so can I.

The cost of early upgrades

Here’s the short version: upgrade frequently when there’s still life left in your current tech and the steps up from your old device to your new one will be minor, at best. This is unavoidable if the period of time between devices is relatively short. Dumping your tech adds to the country’s WEEE stockpile (that’s Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment to you and me – not, sadly, the excited sound made by a fellow Apple fan on a launch day). This, to varying degrees of seriousness, impacts on the environment. Get rid of your device quickly, and the use you’ve got out of it versus how much you paid for it is exponentially lower (the longer you have it, the cheaper it'll become). Finally, you just don’t need one.

And yes, I know products like the iPad Air and new iPad mini aren’t products anyone necessarily needs – it’s more about what we want. But even so, can we really justify all of the above points against the fact that a new toy would be cool? IF you're still not convinced, then here’s a case study.

The Apple iPad vs Apple iPad Air

Like lots of Apple devotees, I watched the launch of the new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, live from California last night (on a Mac, obviously).

From that, and from trawling the Apple site for info, here’s the key things that are different about the Air and its predecessor the iPad 4th Gen.

The iPad Air:

  • Is 2.0mm thinner.
  • 209g lighter.
  • Uses an A7, M7 motion processor rather than a dual-core A6X one.
  • Costs around £80 more (so that’s technically a bad difference).

Here’s the things that are the same:

  • Same height.
  • Same width.
  • Same screen size.
  • Same resolution.
  • Same OS.
  • Same memory options.
  • Same RAM.
  • Same connectivity.
  • Same camera.
  • Same battery life.
  • Same charger.
  • Same apps.

That’s a bit one-sided, however you cut it. Compare the new iPad mini and the picture is even worse…

The new Apple iPad mini vs the (not really that old) old Apple iPad mini

The iPad mini is different from the old iPad mini because:

  • It’s double the resolution of the previous mini.
  • Like the iPad Air, it uses an A7, M7 motion processor rather than a dual-core A6X one.
  • It’s capable of 3X video zoom.
  • It’s also available in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB models.
  • It’s around £70 more. Bad difference part II.

Here’s the things that are the same:

  • Everything else.

No, really: everything. Same height, width, depth, weight, screen size, touchy-feely finger print resistant coating, same camera and lens, same HD video recording… everything.

So when you actually measure up these admittedly lovely devices side-by-side, the differences become less game-changing and more game tweaking. The cold hard truth is you don’t need an iPad Air or new mini. It’s not too late in the guide to start calling the latter a ‘newmi’, right? No? Good.

Advantages of sticking

If you get pangs of guilt about not picking up the latest iteration of the iPad and glancing at the above checklists aren't enough to keep the urge to buy at bay, remind yourself of this: you’re saving money, could pick up a previous gen device for less than the latest models while only sacrificing minor improvements, can sleep comfortably knowing you’re not contributing to a growing techie junk pile, and are getting more bang for your respective buck (whether you’re holding onto an existing iPad or buying a previous gen version as your first Apple tab). I’d call that a win-win.

And no, I’m not anti-progress. I’m as far removed from being a Luddite as is possible (“Use a pen and paper, you say? No, it’s fine, I’ve got my tablet”). I’m not sneakily trying to erode the sales of Apple either – whatever one blogger writes, there’s still going to be plenty of early adopters who will happily, joyously and with abandon take part in the midnight launch circus (and who doesn’t love going to the circus after all?).

But for those who wait, pause and consider, there’s real benefits. So glance again at the loyal iPad you’ve been Angry Bird-ing, Candy Crush-ing or Facetiming with for the last year or so. Take a look at the former flagship model that’s sitting a little less proudly on the shelf and is a lot less likely to be picked up and taken home.

You’re not really going to abandon them just like that… are you?

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