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Five Reasons to Upgrade to the New iPad Air

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Jason R. Rich offers five compelling reasons why you should consider upgrading to the iPad Air, and offers an overview of this tablet's new features and functions.

Whether you're one of those people who simply must own the latest and most high-tech gadgets on the market, or whether you rely on your iPad for a wide range of tasks and want to experience even higher levels of efficiency and productivity, chances are you could benefit from upgrading your existing iPad to the iPad Air.

For people who prefer the larger, 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen size of a full-size iPad (compared with the smaller, 7.9-inch screen size of the iPad mini), there are several compelling reasons why the iPad Air offers a more desirable tablet computing experience over its predecessors and competitors.

Reason #1: It's Lighter and Thinner

It's true that all the previously related iPad models were thin and lightweight, especially when compared with a notebook computer, for example. However, for avid tablet users who tend to hold the iPad in their hands for hours at a time and who carry it around just about everywhere, the 1.33- to 1.35-pound weight of the earlier iPad models often left people wishing their iOS mobile device were just a little bit lighter.

The redesigned iPad Air is both lighter and thinner than its predecessors. It measures 9.4 inches by 6.6 inches by 0.29 inches. The Wi-Fi-only model weighs just 1 pound, whereas the Wi-Fi + Cellular models weigh 1.05 pounds. This may seem like only a minor improvement over earlier released iPads, but without compromising battery life, durability, or computing power, the new design makes the iPad Air more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

Reason #2: It's Faster and More Powerful

For many serious iPad users, the most compelling reason to upgrade to the iPad Air is to be able to take full advantage of the device's faster and more powerful A7 chip, which offers 64-bit architecture and an M7 motion coprocessor. Without using a lot of techno-babble, what this means is that the iPad Air can process data much faster, and this improvement in processing speed is very noticeable. In fact, the iPad Air is twice as fast as the third- or fourth-generation iPad, and is eight times faster than the original iPad.

For example, you'll immediately discover that the iPad Air responds much faster when launching or switching between apps. Because you're using apps that require working with vast amounts of data, whether it's a high-resolution digital image, a complex spreadsheet, or a graphic-intensive and high-action game, the performance and responsiveness of the tablet is better than ever, which provides for a more enjoyable and productive experience.

When using a traditional computer, perhaps you've become a skilled and speedy typist. One drawback of doing word processing on previous iPad models was that typing on the virtual keyboard had a slight lag, especially when typing quickly. This reduced accuracy and made word processing on the iPad possible, but not as fluid as if you were using a word processor on a notebook or desktop computer.

Thanks to the Apple A7 chip and improvements made to the various word-processing apps available for the iPad, including Apple's own Pages app, the ability to quickly touch-type is possible and enjoyable, allowing you to use your tablet for work-related applications without compromising speed or data entry accuracy.

Reason #3: The Retina Display

The LED-backlit, Multi-Touch Retina display that's built into the iPad Air offers 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch. Thus, whatever you're viewing on the tablet's screen will appear sharper and more detailed, and the colors will be extremely vibrant. This is most noticeable when viewing high-resolution photos or HD video, but it also affects everything else that's displayed on the screen. Thus, even text is more pleasant to read and easier on your eyes when viewed on the iPad Air.

Reason #3.5: Improved Camera Functionality

Although the iPad Air has the same camera hardware that's built into the fourth-generation iPad, for example (thanks to other hardware improvements made to the tablet), the front- and rear-facing cameras can capture pictures and video at a better resolution, react to available light better, and function faster. The result is a noticeable improvement in the quality of photos and videos you can capture using the iPad Air's cameras and the improved picture quality of FaceTime video calls you participate in.

Reason #4: Long-Lasting Battery Life

Despite its smaller size and increased capabilities, the iPad Air continues to offer a 9-to-10-hour battery life, depending on how the device is being used. So whether you're on the road all day, taking a cross-country or international flight, or want to sit outside and get work done, when you start with a fully charged battery, you can be confident that all your apps, data, and content will be readily available whenever and wherever it's needed throughout the day and night.

To ensure that your tablet will always have power when it's needed, consider investing in a car charger and/or external, rechargeable battery pack. They come in a variety of sizes, but most are smaller than a deck of cards and can double, triple, or quadruple the battery life of the iPad Air. For example, there's the ChargeIt! Universal Power Bank from Digital Treasures ($49.95, http://www.digitaltreasures.com/ChargeIt!-3600mAh-Power-Bank) or the Richard Solo Smart Power Bank ($69.95, http://richardsolo.com/richardsolo-smart-power-bank.aspx).

Reason #5: Plenty of Internal Storage for Apps

The iPad Air is available with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB,_rich, or 128GB of internal storage space. Unfortunately, the tablet is not upgradable after purchase, so it's important to plan for your storage needs in advance. Keep in mind that high-resolution photos, HD videos (including television show episodes, movies, and video you shoot yourself), as well as music, app-specific data, third-party apps, and other content you'll ultimately be storing within your device will all utilize some of this internal storage.

Determining your internal storage needs will depend on what you'll be using your iPad Air for, which affects the type of data and how much content will ultimately be stored within it. You should also consider that because the tablet is now more powerful and capable of efficiently handling a wider range of tasks, chances are you'll want to use a broader range of third-party apps with the device, and these apps will utilize more internal storage space for the apps as well as for the app-specific data created and being managed in conjunction with these apps. As a result, your storage capacity needs may become greater than they've previously been when using older iPad models.

In addition to the collection of preinstalled apps that come bundled with iOS 7, Apple has recently made the iWork for iOS and iLife for iOS apps available for free, which greatly expands the capabilities of the tablet.

So if you'll be using your iPad as a business tool to enhance your communication, productivity, and organization, you'll definitely want to utilize the Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheet management), and Keynote (digital slide presentation) apps. Because the iWork for iOS apps are Microsoft Word-compatible, and transferring and syncing documents and files is a very easy process, you'll probably find yourself storing more documents and data on your tablet than ever before. Work that was previously accessible only from your computer can now be easily accessed and utilized from your tablet.

Meanwhile, if you'll be relying on the iPad's built-in cameras to take pictures or shoot video, or want to transfer digital images or video you shoot into the iPad, you'll want to take advantage of Apple's iPhoto and iMovie apps for photo and video editing and sharing. So, in addition to needing extra space for powerful apps, you'll want plenty of internal storage space available for your app-specific documents, data, photos, files, videos, and other content, for example.

iPad Air Price Considerations

There's a direct correlation between the internal storage capacity of the iPad Air and its price. In addition, the price you'll pay for your tablet also depends on whether you opt for a Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular model, which determines how the tablet can connect to the Internet.

Keep in mind that many iPad features and functions that are built into iOS 7, as well as many apps rely heavily on the tablet's ability to access the Internet. Choosing a Wi-Fi only model means that your iPad Air will only have Internet access when you're within the signal radius of a wireless network or Wi-Fi hotspot. Meanwhile, a Wi-Fi + Cellular model can access a Wi-Fi signal when available, but also use a 3G, 4G, or 4G LTE cellular data signal to access the Internet from anywhere there's a cellular signal from a service provider such as AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PC, or T-Mobile (based on which service provider you select when purchasing your tablet).

The following chart lists the current prices for the various iPad Air system configurations. However, various Apple authorized dealers continuously run money-saving promotions that could save you up to $50.00 or more when purchasing a new tablet. Plus, if you're upgrading from an older iPad model, many retailers will allow you to trade in the older model and receive a credit or store gift card valued at up to $200.00, which can be applied to a new iPad Air purchase.

iPad Air Pricing (as of November 2013)

iPad Air Internal Storage Capacity

Wi-Fi-Only Model

Wi-Fi + Cellular Model

16GB

$499.00

$629.00

32GB

$599.00

$729.00

64GB

$699.00

$829.00

128GB

$799.00

$929.00

In addition to purchasing the iPad Air, you'll probably want to invest in an optional cover, case, protective film for the screen and/or stand for the tablet, which is highly recommended. This will cost anywhere from $20.00 to $200.00, depending on your selections.

Also, strongly consider acquiring the optional AppleCare+ service plan ($99.00), which offers 2 years of unlimited telephone or in-person technical support, as well as a repair service for the tablet that includes an extended warranty, as well as coverage if the device is accidently damaged (a deductible will apply).

As you decide which iPad to purchase, understand that at least once per year, Apple will release a newer and even more powerful iPad model that you may want to upgrade to right away. Even if you don't opt to upgrade immediately when a new iPad model is released in the future, the current iPad Air models will most likely be considered outdated technology and obsolete within 3 years due to incompatibility with future versions of the iOS and apps that will not be compatible with today's technology.

Final Thoughts...

Suppose that you're already happy using a third- or fourth-generation iPad. Although you will definitely appreciate the improved functionality and speed of the iPad Air, an immediate upgrade is not absolutely necessary because these iPad models are fully compatible with iOS 7 and all the third-party iPhone- and iPad-specific apps currently available.

However, if you're using an iPad 2 or an original iPad, upgrading to the new iPad Air will allow you to experience a device that's lighter and up to eight times faster, while allowing you to experience your apps and content on a much higher resolution Retina display.

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