This year's apple-picking has turned into picking out Apples, as in the crisp iPhone 6 and the shiny iPad Air 2. And the new tablet just might make a delicious holiday gift for you or another frequent traveler.
(Comparison with earlier iPad; Photo: Lea Lane)
I queried trainers and geniuses, and tested and compared to consider the improvements of the just-released device. (Disclaimer: I already own a MacBook Air, an iPad mini and a perfectly adequate older iPad. And I'm drooling over the possibility of upgrading to an iPhone 6 and maybe even getting an Apple Watch next year. I mean, come on, guys, you're killing me. Isn't there even one rotten apple in the bunch?)
Anyway, as I see it, here are the basic improvements of the iPad Air 2. Whether or not it's worth an upgrade remains a personal call.
-- The iPad Air 2 is slim and light, 18 percent thinner than the previous Air, and even thinner than the iPhone 6. The aluminum case has soft edges and elegant lines and the product is easy to carry, weighing less than a pound. For travelers, this is major. When I'm toting a backpack while running to catch a train, I feel every ounce. Yes, the iPad mini is smaller, but seems bulkier.
-- Battery life on the iPad Air 2 is now up to 10 hours. So you can be waiting in the airport lounge, then fly to Rome and still not need to charge the battery. And if you use auto-brightness, which allows for better usage, you may not even have to lug a charger on a quick trip. I lug one anyway.
-- The variety and quality of apps, especially the ones geared to travel are pretty awesome. You know that already, and the clarity of the iPad Air 2 big screen helps.
-- The improved display is not only thinner, but also anti-reflective. That means you can now read maps or books in the sunshine, something pretty impossible before.
-- The 8 megapixal camera takes even crisper photos, with large panoramas, slo-mo and time-lapse videos and burst-mode photos. The less reflective screen makes it easier to take a great shot in strong light, helpful when you're in travel situations you can't control.
-- Wireless connectivity is faster than before, and the cellular model has improved 4G LTE.
-- The device now has a touch ID fingerprint sensor.
-- The upgraded A8X processor is even faster than the A8 in the iPhone 6 and 6 plus.
-- Great for travelers, it's easier than ever to switch providers for global trips, with a pre-installed SIM.
Some downsides: You still can only see one app at a time on the screen, so, for example, no calendar while you're writing an email and minimal multi-tasking opportunities. The keyboard still can't compare to a Mac. The screen still can crack if you drop it along the way, which we travelers know is always a possibility running to catch a cab or packing and repacking. And when you take photos, there is still no flash.
Also, tablets are more classic than smartphones. And my current one works well enough, especially when combined with other devices.
So there you have it, traveler. Word is that the next iPad will be 12.9 inches. It undoubtedly will deal with and resolve some of these remaining problems. If you haven't yet, you'll probably jump in at some point rather than holding out for perfection.
The question is whether now is the time to jump. Bottom line: Check it out and if you're satisfied with your current devices, and you're not really hungry for a new Apple, you may just want to wait, and for these holidays at least, put an orange in that stocking.