Perhaps I was a little unfair in calling the iPad Air 2 an iterative update. Gruber’s review is convincing me otherwise. The combination of big upgrades, like to the SoC and display, and little enhancements, like the thickness and Apple SIM, are much greater than the sum of their parts:
I think the sort of person who prefers the Mini form factor is less likely to be using their iPad in the ways that the iPad Air 2 is improved. (Anecdotally, most iPad photographers I see in the real world are using 9.7-inch iPads, not the Mini.) And the sort of iPad users who are pushing the performance limits of the platform are the sort of people who’ve preferred the 9.7-inch models all along. In short, I think the Mini really is more of a pure consumption device, and the Air is more of an alternative to a MacBook.
That’s a big claim, but there’s probably enough in the Air 2 to warrant it. It’s a pretty impressive update on the hardware, all things considered.
But, despite the great hardware, the iPad lineup is aching for software improvements. Last year’s iPads can do everything that this year’s iPads can, with the exception of Touch ID and Apple Pay. Yes, the Air 2 has a better user experience — it’s faster and much nicer to hold. It’s certainly a much better product than the iPad 3 or 4, which is a more appropriate comparison for most people who will upgrade. But I can’t help but wish for far greater capabilities to go with the far greater hardware.