First iPad Air 2 Reviews: ‘Ridiculously Fast’, ‘Vibrant Display’, Thinner Profile Comes at the Cost of Battery Life

Following Apple’s October 16 event that saw the debut of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3, Apple provided multiple publications with review units. The embargo has now lifted on review posts, so we’ve gathered some of the relevant excerpts from each site in order to highlight general release reactions to the new tablet.

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Apple’s iPad Air 2 is an entire millimeter thinner than the original iPad Air, and Apple has billed it as the thinnest tablet in the world. It offers a new A8X processor, Touch ID fingerprint support, an anti-reflective screen coating, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an improved 8-megapixel rear camera.

Walt Mossberg, Re/code:

So when Apple brought out new iPads last week, and I had a chance to test them over the past four days, you might think I’d be pretty excited about them — but I’m not. They are, in most respects, the best iPads ever made. But for average users, they represent only a modest evolutionary improvement over last year’s models, not the kind of big change that the first iPad Air or the Retina display iPad mini did last year. [...]

The Air 2 didn’t allow me to hold or carry the tablet longer and more comfortably than the Air. Its weight of 0.96 pounds isn’t discernibly lighter than the Air’s weight of one pound. And its thickness of 0.24 inches is a barely noticeable reduction from the Air’s 0.29 inches.

Nilay Patel, The Verge:

The Air 2 has a vibrant, sharp display that looks almost painted on. Apple says the new antireflective coating on the Air 2 reduces glare by 56 percent, but I didn’t really notice it making a huge difference; you definitely can’t use it in bright sunlight. [...]

Inside the iPad Air 2 lies Apple’s new A8X chip, which is a variant of the A8 found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus with additional graphics capabilities. It’s ridiculously fast — noticeably faster to load web pages and launch apps than my iPad Air, and it has so much graphics headroom that I’m eager to see how game developers take advantage of it.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch:

The 6.1 mm chassis just makes all the difference when it comes to the Air feeling like something that you could comfortably hold for long periods of time, and even for all-day computing, should you need it (and it’s easy to imagine an event coordinator, for instance, needing exactly that).

Our review unit came in Apple’s gold finish, and let me just say that on the iPad, that means there’s a lot of gold going on. Apple’s take on this particular metal color is better than most, but this definitely isn’t my favourite finish. The Air 2 in either space grey or silver still looks fantastic however, and the gold is definitely going to stand out in a crowd, especially if you’re also using the iPad as a camera.

Brad Molen, Engadget:

A thinner profile comes at the expense of battery size. The new Air’s is 5.1Whr smaller than the old one, but Apple still promises that you’ll get the same 10-hour battery life because the A8X is more power-efficient. Real-life use shows that the original Air still rules the roost; after a day of heavy use, I typically went to bed with around 20 percent left in the tank. If you’re only using it moderately — say, for casual content creation or consumption — you should get a little over two days. In our video test, in which an HD movie plays through the life of the battery, the Air 2 squeezed out 11 hours and 15 minutes, significantly lower than last year’s Air and about an hour short of the Samsung Tab S. [...]

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The Air 2 also doesn’t have a mute switch, which I didn’t think would be a huge loss until I actually found myself trying to use it and becoming frustrated more frequently than I expected. Your new options are to press and hold the volume down button or go into the Control Center and press the mute key; if you used the switch to lock screen orientation, you’ll need to do that in the Control Center as well. A microphone now sits where the mute switch once was; there’s another one right next to the camera.

Joanna Stern, The Wall Street Journal:

That anti-reflective screen also makes a great, though admittedly ginormous, viewfinder for snapping nature shots with the revamped 8-megapixel camera. It takes much crisper shots than before, and in many cases, ones as good as those I can take with my iPhone 6. But I won’t bring my iPad to some mountain peak, as some Apple promo shots suggest.

Besides, when I set the iPad Air 2 down for a second on a bench, it slid off and hit concrete, shattering the screen. Sure, I’m to blame, but if Apple wants me to climb every mountain armed with nothing but an iPad, ruggedness should be as important as anti-reflectivity.

Harry McCracken, Fast Company:

The weirdest fact about the iPad Air 2 is that Apple isn’t publicizing (or even acknowledging) one of its best new features. The tablet now has 2GB of RAM, up from the rather cramped 1GB allotment in the original iPad Air. (Some competitors, like the Galaxy Tab 10.1, have even more.)

Doubling the RAM means that the iPad can keep more apps and browser tabs in memory without having to reload anything. That results in a speed boost which which is very apparent as you hop between apps and load new web pages.

Lance Ulanoff, Mashable

To get an anecdotal sense of the performance, I installed a pair of console-level games: Asphalt 8 Airborne and Modern Combat 5: Blackout. Each of these games is notable for rich imagery and physics including smoke, water, rain, and reflections. The games looked and worked great on the original iPad Air and worked just as well — if not better — on the iPad Air 2.

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However, Apple isn’t just blowing smoke when it says the A8X is more powerful. I ran Geekbench 3 on both Airs and found that that Apple’s A8X has 3 cores (the A7 had 2) and that the multicore score for the iPad Air 2 is nearly double that of the original Air. The singlecore score for the iPad Air 2 is only slightly better than that of the iPad Air.

Other Reviews:

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times
Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian
David Pogue, Yahoo Tech
Chris Davies, Slashgear
Matt Warman, The Telegraph

The iPad Air 2 is currently available for pre-order from Apple’s online store, with prices starting at $499. Apple has not yet revealed when the new tablets will be available in stores, but the first pre-orders will be arriving to customers this week.




FXNOW iOS App Gains Support for ‘Simpsons World’, All 552 Episodes of The Simpsons Available [iOS Blog]

FXNOW, an on-demand video app that features hit movies from Fox networks FX, FXX, and FXM, was today updated to add support for Simpsons World, an FXX feature that allows users to watch all 552 episodes of popular television show The Simpsons.

FXNOW is an on-demand video service featuring Simpsons World, as well as the biggest and best lineup of critically acclaimed dramas, hit comedies and blockbusters movies from 3 networks, FX, FXX and FXM. With the addition of Simpsons World, FXNOW delivers a one-of-a-kind Simpsons experience with access to Every.Episode.Ever. and more, at your fingertips.

Accessing the FXNOW app and the Simpsons World content requires a cable subscription from one of the following TV providers: AT&T U-Verse, Bright House Networks, Comcast XFINITY, Cox, Midcontinent Communications, Optimum, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable, or WOW!.

Along with airing old episodes from the past 25 seasons, Simpsons World will allow users to watch new episodes of The Simpsons 24 hours after they first air on television.

There’s also an FXNOW channel on the Apple TV, which is rumored to be gaining Simpsons World content as well, but thus far, Simpsons World content has not been added to the channel.

FXNow can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]




Apple and GT Advanced Reach Deal to End Partnership, GT to Sell Furnaces to Pay Debt

GT Advanced and Apple have reached a deal that will see the two companies dissolving their partnership, according to documents submitted to the court earlier today, reports The Wall Street Journal. According to GT Advanced attorney Luc Despins, the agreement between the two companies marks an “amicable parting of the ways.”

Under the terms of the deal, GT Advanced will sell off more than 2,000 sapphire furnaces, with some of the proceeds going to Apple as repayment for the $440 million loan the company gave GT to purchase the sapphire equipment.

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Mr. Despins said the proposed settlement allows GT Advanced to try to sell the furnaces at the Mesa, Ariz. sapphire-manufacturing facility, and give the money to Apple, which financed the equipment. GT Advanced would surrender its claims against Apple, under the deal, and agree not to disparage the technology giant, Mr. Despins said.

There was some speculation that GT Advanced was aiming to force Apple into taking over the sapphire operation, but it appears that Apple is not interested as both parties seem to want out of the deal. With GT planning to sell off all of the furnaces, it is unclear whether Apple will be able to source enough sapphire from other suppliers in order to incorporate sapphire into the iPhone display in the future.

Apple and GT Advanced have also agreed to file a revised explanation for the company’s bankruptcy filing, which will be provided to the court at a November 25 hearing, but the original court papers remain sealed. If approved, the settlement between GT Advanced and Apple will see original court papers stricken from the court record, keeping the details of what went wrong between the two companies quiet.

Rumors have suggested that the deal between GT Advanced and Apple began falling apart early on, with GT Advanced missing technical milestones as early as February. A failure to produce high-quality sapphire led Apple to withhold a final $139 million loan payment, which may have been the reason behind GT Advanced’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing in early October.

GT Advanced will begin winding down operations at its sapphire plant in the near future, eliminating the jobs of more than 727 employees in the coming weeks. GT Advanced plans to prepare existing sapphire boules for sale, clean and sell furnaces, and then close the plant for good by December 31.






The Pokemon Company Releases Second Official Pokemon Game for iOS [iOS Blog]

The Pokemon Company today released Camp Pokemon, an official Pokemon game that stars real Pokemon characters. Because the game is aimed at kids between 6 and 8 years of age, it’s unlikely to be of interest to adults, but it does suggest The Pokemon Company is committed to bringing Pokemon games to iOS.

In Camp Pokemon, kids are tasked with exploring an island “filled with fun Pokemon-themed activities” that include searching for Pokemon to earn pins and playing a variety of Pokemon mini games to earn rewards.

- Find the Pokémon: Use a spyglass to search for virtual Pokémon and earn their Pins. Earn Rewards to unlock new levels and search for other Pokémon in different environments.
– Poké Ball Throw: Launch Poké Balls at cardboard cutouts of Pokémon hiding in the grass and knock them down. Earn Rewards to unlock the Rock and Water environments.
– Pokémon Evolutions: Test your knowledge of Pokémon Evolutions by choosing the correct Pokémon missing from the Evolution chain.
– Battle Matchups: Practice type matchups, an important skill in Pokémon battles, by choosing which type is strong against the given Pokémon.
– Pokémon in Focus: Choose the Pokémon that matches the shadow projected on the tent.
– My Cabin: In this home base, campers can find their Pin Book, Photo Book, and Bulletin Board.
– Photo Booth: Create camp memories by taking photos with the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch camera, adding stickers to the images, and saving the pictures to the app’s Photo Book or the Camera Roll on the camper’s device.
– Mystery Cave: What could be hiding in the Mystery Cave? To find out, campers will need to earn the right to enter!

As noted by our sister site TouchArcade, Camp Pokemon is going to be a “snooze-fest” for adults, but it makes it “obvious that The Pokemon Company is serious about iOS,” hinting that additional Pokemon games could come to iOS in the future.

Along with Camp Pokemon, The Pokemon Company also released Pokemon TCG Online on iOS in late September, bringing the card trading game to the iPad for the first time. Pokemon TCG was the first official Pokemon game to be released on iOS.

Camp Pokemon is a free app for the iPad and iPhone and can be downloaded from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Pokemon TCG Online is a free app the iPad and can be downloaded from the App Store. [Direct Link]