iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3: Why I'm not buying either one

I have a history of buying each new iPad, but the two new ones have no appeal for me.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Apple showed off its two new iPads recently, most notably the iPad Air 2. The new mini didn’t get much air time from Apple at the launch event, but the new Air got lots of exposure by the Apple crew. As much excitement as they could muster in Cupertino about the iPad Air 2, I saw nothing that entices me to buy one.

No iPad Air 2

To be clear, the new model in the iPad Air line is nice. It’s thinner and has more powerful innards than the original iPad Air. It has a good camera and gains the Touch ID feature I like on the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a solid upgrade to the iPad Air I own, but not enough of an improvement to make me want to trade up.

Hardware improvements

After giving it some thought, I don’t think the slightly thinner iPad Air 2 is enough of an improvement over my iPad Air.

The processor in the iPad Air 2 — Apple’s A8x —  is even better than the A8 in the iPhone 6 Plus. The phone’s processor has impressed me since buying the new iPhone, and the improved model in the new iPad Air should be quite good.

While the iPad Air 2 performance is no doubt better, the performance of my iPad Air still impresses me in daily use. I spend literally hours every day using the iPad Air with its A7 processor and don’t ever find it to be slow. I can’t see the benefit of things happening faster. It’s snappy enough and that’s good enough for me.

The improved 8MP camera of the iPad Air 2 doesn’t appeal to me, either. The 5MP camera on the iPad Air is quite good and I don’t need one better than that. I use the iPhone 6 Plus for all my photos, anyway. Fact is, I only use the iPad Air to take photos of the iPhone.

The big hardware change on the iPad Air 2 is the inclusion of the Touch ID sensor. I've come to appreciate that technology on the iPhone 6 Plus, but I see no need for it on an iPad.

That’s largely because I hold the iPad differently than the iPhone. The iPad Air is too big to hold at the bottom of the screen, finger on the Touch ID sensor. I don’t feel the sensor would be a good fit for the way I use the iPad.

Touch ID is a good feature on the phone as I pick it up and turn it on numerous times a day. Being able to turn on the phone with a simple touch makes it easier to use.

That’s not the case with my typical iPad usage. I tend to use it for long periods at a stretch, sometimes for hours at a time. I’m not picking it up to do something quickly as with the phone. That’s why the Touch ID sensor on the iPad Air 2 would have limited value for the way I use a tablet.

When thinner isn't better

I’ve always considered it a great thing for a tablet to be as thin as possible. This has proven to be the case as I've used dozens of tablets for years. 

But the fact is, the iPad Air is already extremely thin and having a slightly thinner iPad won’t gain me much. I’m not worried about durability due to the thinner form, I just think the iPad Air is already skinny enough.

The biggest reason I think the thinner iPad Air 2 is a negative is that keyboards/cases for my iPad Air probably won’t fit the thinner tablet. Buying the iPad Air 2 would require a prohibitively expensive investment in new accessories.

iPad Air in ClamCase Pro keyboard case
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

My friends call me Mr. iPad Keyboard as I have tested and own so many of them. I use the iPad Air heavily for my work, and that requires a good keyboard. I own several that I use regularly, and they are designed with such a tight fit on my “fat” iPad Air that they’d be useless with the skinnier model. If I could see enough of a step up from the iPad Air to the Air 2 I’d be willing to consider the expense of new keyboards, but I can’t.

Companies that have stocked up on iPad Air keyboards will want to hold off deploying the iPad Air 2 for the same reason. Those keyboards in inventory won't likely work with the new iPad so there's a financial consideration to getting the iPad Air 2 that shouldn't be overlooked.

iPad mini 2.5

iPad mini2

I have even less desire to buy the iPad mini 3. Once I realized the only change from the original iPad mini, renamed to iPad mini 2 by Apple, was the addition of a Touch ID sensor (gold option aside), I knew I’d never buy the new mini.

The iPad mini 3 is improved so little I would not recommend anyone buy one. The iPad mini 2, still sold by Apple, is a much better value than the iPad mini 3 given its lower price ($100 cheaper currently). There’s not a single compelling reason to get the newest iPad mini.

Maybe next time

The iPad Air 2 is a nice bit of kit, but only marginally better than the original iPad Air. I am still as happy with the iPad Air as the day I proclaimed it the best tablet ever made. That title would now go to the iPad Air 2, bumping my old iPad Air down to the title of next best. That’s still good enough, so I won’t be getting an iPad Air 2.

Apple’s curious decision to barely upgrade the iPad mini 3 ensures I won’t ever buy one. It makes me wonder about the company’s long-term plan for the littlest iPad.

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