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Apple Expands Education Discounts; Our iPad Air Review

Mike Maravilla, TeachHUB.com

 

 

Recently, Apple added the iPad Air and iPad mini (with Retina display) to its education discount program. This is the first time the technology behemoth has offered those tablets at cheaper costs for students and teachers.

Learn more about the education discounts.

Here’s a review of the iPad Air that ran in a recent edition of TeachHUB Magazine:

Apple does this to us every year – dangling a shiny, new model of their latest iDevice that instantly makes us look at their online store begrudgingly. Indeed, I don’t think there is another company that can make your 6-month old device feel at least five times older and outdated than it is; in fact the first two generations of the iPad have only aged 2-3 years since their announcement.

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As such, there are still plenty of them out there that work perfectly fine or haven’t been smashed in new Apple envy. And for teachers who use their personal devices in the classroom, holding onto these relics may have proven the safe bet for either young or careless students who utilize them for activities. But with the most recent release of the iPad Air, the all-important annual question has come up once again, especially for the iPad 1 and 2 faithful: Should I upgrade?

At first glance, the iPad Air has instant appeal by virtue of a much-needed chassis upgrade – a 43% thinner bezel, a 20% thinner profile overall, and consequently a diet of almost half a pound. It looks much more like an iPad Mini that has been injected with a bit of growth hormone or underwent a “Honey I Blew Up the Kid” treatment. The result is an iPad that would leave Rick Moranis in admiration of his work – it looks much better than previous generations.

Under the hood, the iPad Air boasts graphic speeds that are 72 times faster than the original and overall 8 times faster in day-to-day use – a handy thing then for consumers and developers who are now able to create much more robust applications for this popular handheld. Speaking of the original, Apple has made it even more blatantly clear that it’s time to retire it to the rafters with their iOS7 release – it simply will not run on the “one” and runs like a sprint through pudding on the “two.” Out of speed frustration alone, I would venture that it’d prompt some to toss in the towel and upgrade.

But is that enough reason for a teacher to follow suit? Let’s break it down into some important criteria:

EDU Apps

Many education-specific developers have made dedicated iOS7 optimized versions of their apps, but that doesn’t mean that their tried and true iOS6 iterations won’t keep hanging around. In fact, some of the most popular apps like Evernote got some flack for their iOS7 interpretations. Undoubtedly, these concerns will be addressed as everyone adapts to the new OS, but these growing pains present a case to wait out an upgrade a bit.

On the other side of the coin, however, lots of education-centric applications are employing the iPad’s more sprightly features – the HD cameras, video recording, gyroscope, and the like to change up the way learning is delivered. The iPad 2’s cameras are remedial by comparison to the new Air and the “one” doesn’t even have cameras at all. If your classroom iPad is being used as more of an eReader or e-mail device, you’ll still be able to get away with the older variants, but to give your students the full benefit of the device’s robust learning potential, it’s time to pony up.

iPad Comparison from TeachHub.com on Vimeo.

Durability

This has always been the thorn in Apple’s beautiful design, regardless of generation. It’s a sturdy device no doubt, but its gorgeous glass isn’t the most forgiving when it hits the floor. In this category, I feel like the iPad 1 still dominates, maybe because of its more portly stature. The counter-argument here is that you’d never really bring an iPad into the classroom unless it was protected. The newer shape of the second gen (and beyond) heralded in a slew of classroom-friendly cases that help the iPad take quite a beating – a handful of which we tested (and liked) a couple issues back.

Maybe it’s because the original iPad was too revolutionary for its time to get similar treatment, but the case selection for this ol’ girl isn’t even a fraction of the versions that followed. It seems that case manufacturers have grown accustomed to getting a jump on Apple’s releases and I’m sure we’ll see plenty of classroom-ready protection for the Air simultaneous to its availability.

Support

This is a no-brainer category that will always favor the new. The case has to be made, though, that Apple’s support (regardless of age) is quite accommodating. Nevertheless, you won’t see free factory replacements for your elder iPad if things do go awry in the classroom.

Form Factor

I’ve talked about this briefly above, but its transformation deserves a bit more attention, especially for educators who teach younger children. I should make it clear that I own an iPad 4 and an iPad Mini currently. Honestly, the lighter weight (and smaller size) of the Mini has its full-grown brother collecting dust. It’s simply more portable, easier to hold and easier to use on a daily basis. I had always felt that the iPad was a bit of a heffer. Now this is pure speculation since the Air is not due for official release until November, but I think between adopting the Mini’s shape and its diet, the new iPad Air will be a universal hit across age groups.

In the end, the new iPad Air is hard to fault. It’s better looking, easier to live with, more powerful and packs more features all without costing us any more. It might not seem as big of an upgrade to third and fourth gen owners, but for the iPad class of 2010/2011 with a bit of extra coin in their pockets, the Air looks like a very tempting holiday treat that both you and your classroom will undoubtedly appreciate.