Where will it end? How thin is too thin?
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online for 31 years

New iPads thinner, but what else is new?

October 26, 2014

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2014, The Post-Standard

Where will it end? How thin is too thin?

If only the new iPad Air 2 were bendable like the jumbo iPhone 6 Plus, you might be able to make a paper airplane out of it. It's rilly, rilly skinny, as a carnival barker would say.

It's lighter, too. That'a how tablets evolve -- lighter and of course thinner. Someday you'll be able to hold your iPad up to the sun and see the light shining through it, just like you can do with fine china.

Sadly, that's just about all that's new from Apple's Oct. 16th announcement of new iPads. The iPad Air 2, at $500 and up, still doesn't have any way to add storage. That's just plain dumb.

And still no way to plug in a thumb drive, mouse or portable hard drive, either.

The new mini, the Retina iPad mini 3, starting at $400, has the same limitations. But both new iPads do come with a fingerprint reader built into the Home button. You can turn that function on to keep anyone else from using your tablet. And, as always with Apple products, they're gorgeous, with super-bright and sharp screens.

The new models could not come at a better time. iPad sales have been slipping, and Apple seems adrift. Should it lower prices to compete with Android models? They're much cheaper. Should it keep pumping out new versions to get the Apple faithful to pony up more regularly? That could backfire; customers are getting more savvy.

So Apple seems to be taking the middle road -- better tablets, just two of them, poised to fill store shelves well before the holidays.

But I was disappointed in the new models. Are they actually better? Apple needs to realize that thin isn't "in" any more; Chinese Android makers do it all the time, at ridiculously low prices. (Watch for iPad mini competitors from the Android horde discounting for $50 within a month.) Fingerprint sensors are nice, but they're not worth $350 extra.

I've written before about the advantages of Android tablets, and they're worth repeating: They're much less expensive, often have memory card slots for added storage and usually come with USB connecting ports.

Android tablets that have Google's "blessing" (a conformity check accompanied by a license fee) can shop at Google's fancy app store, too. In many ways, it's slicker than Apple's app store. Google even gives you a full refund, no questions asked, if you find the app you bought is not what you had hoped for. (You have two hours to try it out.)

Missing from the iPad intro was any mention of Apple's jumbo iPad, which the company has been testing in its secret labs. It's got a 12-inch screen, compared to the 9.7-inch screen of the standard iPad. Toshiba is already selling an Android tablet with a 13-inch screen. It's a little horsey in normal use and hasn't sold well, so Apple might be waiting to see if the market warms up to bigger tablets.

My guess: If it's too big to hold, it's not going to be sold.