iPad Air Refutes the Claim That Apple Can’t Innovate

| Editorial

For a long time in 2013, as we waited for the presumptively labeled iPad 5, many observers bitched about Apple's tardiness and presumed inability to innovate. The iPad Air refutes all that silliness in spades.

_________________________

The iPad Air creates a whole new kind of experience for a 10-inch tablet. Sure, you can look at the specs as "28 percent lighter and 20 percent thinner," according to Apple, but these are just numbers. You have to hold the iPad Air in your hand to appreciate the feeling. TMO's Melissa Holt described it well: "It's like a marshmallow made out of metal."

Until you have handled an iPad Air as I have and compared it to previous full-size iPads, you can't really appreciate the abstract numbers quoted above. (Jeff Gamet also evaluated this new iPad, and his full review has now been published.)

My take is that Apple performed considerable engineering work to accomplish this. The battery is two cells instead of three, according to iFixit: 8,820 mAh compared to 11,666 mAh (approximately). And yet the battery life is the same: 10 hours. That means that everything that consumes power in typical use had to be engineered to use significantly less power. The innovation comes in achieving those specifications that, in turn, manifest themselves in the outward design of the product.

To understand that is to understand innovation.

The result isn't a laundry list of industry acronyms for technologies thrown into a pot of wishes, but rather a new kind of iPad experience. What writers are saying, and I agree completely, is that the iPad Air (472 g) feels like a slightly oversize iPad mini (331 g). The iPad Air is also 0.75 inch narrower than the iPad 3/4. That makes more of a difference that the sub 1-inch number suggests.

The sensation is so astonishing that I wouldn't be surprised if vast numbers of customers were eager to sell their iPad 1/2/3/4 on the spot and buy one of these iPad Airs. It's an example of innovation that translates into customer enthusiasm and satisfaction. Maybe even a little bit of affection.

This feat of engineering vindicates Apple. The company's vision of what customers really want and appreciate is truer and crisper than pundits who aren't participants in the engineering process and vision of Apple engineers and designers.

It took a little longer, but the wait was worth it. Innovation means development and breakthroughs in areas that mean something tangible to the paying customer, and if this is the kind of innovation we can expect from Apple, I'll take it every time.

________________

iPad Air images via Apple.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

Join the TMO Express Daily Newsletter to get the latest Mac headlines in your e-mail every weekday.

4 Comments

skipaq

Already sold our white MacBook and iMac. New 13” MacBook Pro 8GB/256MB is on the way. This changed from intended MacBook Air once the new Pro was announced. Next order will be an iPad Air wifi 32 MB. Had one in my hands the other and is amazing in design.

Constable Odo

The iPad Air is not considered innovation.  The tech industry considers it merely a minor upgrade.  There’s nothing Apple has that the tech industry considers innovative.  Maybe if Apple had been able to make the iPad Air levitate, then maybe that might be considered innovative.  Personally, I think innovation is very hard to discern, but tech critics are know-it-alls and they have the answers for everything.

I’d consider the iPad Air a technical masterpiece of engineering that probably even the most brilliant aerospace engineers would be impressed with, but you’ve got these pundits who yawn at everything because a product doesn’t transcend time and space or work by quantum theory.  These people are jaded to the max and don’t quite comprehend what it takes to actually build products like that.  They’re just plain ignorant.

gnasher729

When Samsung releases a smartphone that’s as big and as heavy as the iPad Air, then the “tech industry” will consider it “innovation” grin

 

wab95

Constable,

What you are witnessing is human perversity at work; something that perhaps my most brilliant mentor in medical school drew my attention to when it comes to how humans value things and make choices.

This tech critic behaviour is not about truth, or right and wrong, fair or unfair - as unpalatable as that might be. It’s about how our lesser selves respond to the success of others - anyone but ourselves, including corporations, with petty jealousy, resentment, and a desire to see that entity brought down, to see it fail even if just once, and the satisfaction we derive from that failure; a backhanded justification for our self-perceived albeit often unacknowledged short comings and inadequacies. We love to see the underdog win one; but should that underdog keep winning, we begin to want that some dog to lose, to bleed, to suffer, perhaps to die. Same dog, same audience. The only difference is that dog’s relative success or failure. It doesn’t get more perverse and fickle than that.

This is why, despite the lack of emotional investment and genuine enthusiasm for anything Samsung (remember, Samsung sent a camera crew to the Apple iPhone 5s release to try to better understand this phenomenon of enthusiasm for Apple product releases - they couldn’t figure it out, but obviously they envy it despite their ridiculing of the phenomenon), critics will, falsely in my view, praise Samsung’s competing products, despite the often poorer record of consumer satisfaction associated with those products, or the almost invariable poorer sales performance model for model.

Critics and pundits gushed all over themselves prior to the release of the Samsung smart watch, all pointedly underlying their beating Apple to market, and then, post release, most of these pundits went dark, silent except for one article that I could find on CNN effectively saying that one should not buy this product. Indeed, so ‘great’ and ‘loved’ was this product that it is selling like day-old dog poop unwrapped. In fact, it’s selling so well that it makes the Surface look like a runaway success and a thing of beauty to boot. Now, it takes something truly butt-ugly and unwanted to make that happen, but there it is. Have the pundits retracted? Have they come clean and said, ‘We were wrong’? No. Nor will they. Ever. Except to point to one another in a disingenuous attempt to belittle or discredit one another, or curry favour with public opinion, should it sway.

Expressed public opinion, however, is a fickle thing when not frankly a mirage; an illusion, when once pursued, leads the individual to that place of perversity and to expose aspects of themselves that are best kept hidden.

John:

I concur with you (and the Constable) that this is innovation, and refutes, as does the Mac Pro, albeit it has yet to be released in the wild and put through its paces) this claim that Apple’s innovative capacity is over and done. The only way that this will be even tacitly acknowledged, I suspect, is when competing companies attempt to replicate the iPad Air’s features and performance across all indicators, with varying degrees of success, including the shift to a 64-bit platform. Call to mind the MacBook Air, and the industry’s attempt to replicate that machine - despite the initial dismissal of it as nothing more than Apple’s surrender and attempt to produce a netbook. The thundering herd called this class of laptop the ultra book, and to this day, most of these don’t even come close to the performance and inherent engineering prowess of the MBA. Sometimes recognition requires contrast in the form of a physical competitor.

In my opinion, then, the acknowledgement of the iPad Air’s innovation will be, as it generally is with Apple products, in the implicit form of imitation.

Log-in to comment