Since its launch on April 3, 2010, when Apple launched the touchscreen tablet device, the iPad has blazed a new trend in the world of electronic goods - with a fan following that is now well-known.
In the three years since then, the device has been upgraded several times, and a few weeks ago, its fifth generation device hit the market. The first generation is still good for many, but seem to pale in front of what the new iPads on the block can do.
Of course, in the intervening years, we have seen Samsung, BlackBerry and even Microsoft and Nokia attempt to take on Apple with tablet devices, with varying degrees of success. But Apple’s iPad remains king in cult value.
The Apple iPad Air and the new iPad Mini were launched on October 22, and hit the Indian market on December 7. Let us look at the evolution.
Though each successive iPad has been arguably the best tablet of its generation, the last one lacked a few things. One of them was stereo speakers, as many of us use the device to listen to music and watch videos.
With the Air, this grouse has been addressed. The front camera has been upgraded, and performs well even in low light. The dual microphones introduced in the first-generation Mini last year has been carried over to the Air, so we get better sound reproduction, and cleaner noise cancellation - useful for video-calls or for shooting videos.
The iPad has always been one of the fastest performing devices in the category, but with the new 64-Bit A7 processor, the Air is blazingly fast, be it for editing movies using iMovies or editing music on Garage Band. You never feel the need for a desktop computer. The full-day battery life is a bonus.
The second generation iPad is still available, starting at Rs. 28,900 while the iPad Air starts at Rs. 35,900, with storage options ranging from 16 GB to 128 GB, and connectivity options of WiFi only or WiFi plus cellular. The topmost model costs Rs. 65,900 (128 GB, WiFi+cellular).
When the iPad Mini was launched last year, it got a mixed reception. Many people bought it for its added portability, but many Apple fans stayed away, put off by lower resolution screen specs. Apple has now fixed that. The new Mini features a retina display, and also adds the 64-bit A7 chip that works on the iPad Air and the new iPhone 5s.
In appearance, the Mini has gained 3 mm in depth, and is 29 grams heavier. It is designed to fit in one hand, but that is not a particularly comfortable usage. The display is sharp, and is actually a preferable medium for reading and browsing the Web than the Air, as the pixel density is greater on the small screen, at 324 pixels per inch.
The new Mini squares up to the iPad Air spec for spec, and no longer leaves you feeling what you have is a cheaper and slower version of the iPad.
The Mini is also available both in WiFi-only and WiFi+Cellular variants, with storage options in 16 GB to 128 GB. The original iPad Mini is still available, too, starting at Rs. 21,990. The new one is in the price range of Rs. 28,900 (16 GB WiFi only) to Rs. 58,900 (128 GB WiFi+cellular).
There are many tablets available in the market, some costing below Rs. 10,000, and operating environments of Android and Windows. But with an ecosystem of 475,000 apps designed exclusively for it, the iPad has an edge on what you can do with a tablet - and scores big on looks, engineering and sheer performance.
And if you pick on the iPad, do go for an extended warranty. It is worth the investment, and insures you against having to spend a bomb if your device dies falls prey to unexpected glitches.