iPad Air: Design evolution

iPad Air: Design evolution

From iPad to iPad air: Three years and a half-a-pound later

The iPad Air is an amazing piece of design and engineering. What was first introduced in 2010 as a 0.5-inch, 1.5lbs post-PC revolution has been steadily transformed into a 0.29-inch, 1lbs damn-near MacBook Air-level revelation. Packing the power of an Apple A7 into something barely any bigger than the 9.7-inch screen it encases is impressive enough by itself, but when you see and feel it next to what's come before, the difference of three years and half-a-pound is enormous.

How ludicrously thin Apple can take it, how monstrously powerful they can make it - these are questions for another day. Right now, I'm holding something in my hands that makes Star Trek look outdated and clunky. Insane.

I'll add some more photos as our review process continues, but here's a sampling to get things started.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPad Air: Design evolution


I'm holding something in my hands that makes Star Trek look outdated and clunky. Insane.

Love that!
I have bought the air this morning. One word: AMAZING!

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uhh... i like how this article is labeled "iPad Air: Design Evolution", but your only showing photos of the iPad 1, iPad 4, iPad 5(air), and iPad Mini... shouldnt you have included the iPad 2 since its technically one of the most important steps in the evolution to the iPad Air???

So that you could tell me what an idot I am, of course!

Seriously, though, the iPad 2/3/4 have almost identical chassis, and my iPad 4 was the one I had with me, so I used that.

Sorry Rene, never intended to put off the thought that you're an idiot, I'm just too anal retentive like that.. especially since you cant even buy the 4 anymore, and the 2 is still available and has the 30pin connector instead of lighting. again.. im just anal retentive like that :(

I think the reference is to the form factor. In that respect the iPad 2/3/4 are virtually identical
In design and feel. It's performance and internals that differentiate the iPad 2 from its successors.

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I personally don't enjoy the iPad Air at all. After having an iPad Mini, the full-size version of the iPad seems WAY too big and clunky. The mini is the size a tablet should be. There is no question about that. Now that the mini has retina and the A7 chip I don't understand why anyone would choose a full size iPad over a mini.

Bigger screen real estate perhaps ? Some people find the mini too small. For me It was so hard to type on the mini.

For me, who has been rocking an iPad 3, it's the exact opposite. This feels so small, it feels like a mini. Even the screen seems smaller to me. I know it's an optical illusion, but it feels so tiny...it's way better than I thought it would be...

definietly screen real-estate. The iPad Mini is very cool, but i bought my iPad in order to watch movies, read magazines, and play games (mainly on airplanes and travel). The iPad mini just doesnt compare to the full size on aspects like that.

"Right now, I'm holding something in my hands that makes Star Trek look outdated and clunky."

That's one reason the movies had to reboot into a different timeline. The culture and technology envisioned in the mid-1960's looks primitive and laughable today. On the other hand, the Newspad beat Apple by a few years.

I wonder if we are seeing the next iPhone design? All the iDevices besides the iPhone 5s now have a similar design.

Rounded sides.
Elongated volume buttons and rounded mute switch.

I would absolutely love that. The iPhone's design is gorgeous, but it's not the most comfortable phone in the hand, because of the sharp edges. Rounded corners like the mini/Air would solve that. Seems like a good design evolution, is consistent with the rest of their product theme, and would significantly change the look of the phone.

As an owner of each iteration....I can't explain with words the difference between iPad 2/3/4 and the 'Air'. It's absolutely amazing (I also own the 'mini'). My bride wasn't fond of my iPad 3 so I sold it to finance the 4 & mini last year. She hung on to her '2' and our 8 year old son is still 'rockin' the iPad OG :-). He loves it. She's now lusting for my mini. I told her when I bought the Air yesterday it's hers (my mini)---her response? "When will I not get a hand me down?"
I'm buying her the new mini for Christmas. My son will inherit the iPad 2. I'll hang on to the '4’ for our business and continue to share the original mini as a family tab/travel tab (it's LTE).
The Air is amazing. Fast as hell, incredibly svelte and easy to hold for extended periods of time. Even while loading up almost 70GB of apps, music, magazines and a few TV shows yesterday (took about 7 hours on my 22Mb/sec download speed ISP)....I continued to use the Air to surf, play a few games, manipulate pics and videos as well as resetting some of my email and iCloud settings....nary a glitch all the while it was downloading and I'm sure 'spot-lighting' the newly introduced apps (I set it up 'as new' instead of from backup of the 4---as I bought the 128 this time vs the 64GB on the '4'). Color me impressed. And I love the parity of processing power now between my 5s & Air. Easily the 'BEST' 2 iOS devices ever released (5s and Air) and we are extremely excited to get mom the mini for Christmas. She's gonna dig the higher resolution without having to use alternative browsers for texts size adjustment. Much more portable for her as well. In our mid 40s our eyes aren't what they once were. We both require transitional prescriptions for eye glasses and these displays are absolutely phenomenal. Even in their default 8/9 or 10pt text sizes;)
Love. The. Air! And if you're looking for one in your local market...forget the Apple store. They're either out or without a lot of capacities and cellular options. If you're looking for an LTE version visit your carrier. I was first in line when they opened at 10 yesterday. Wasn't til 10:30 until a disgruntled buyer came in that had waited in line at our local Apple store from 5am until they're 8am opening....number 12 in line, wasn't able to get the AT&T model he was looking for. AT&T had several of the one he wanted. Both colors.