The iPad Air acts as a bridge between the consumer 10.9-inch model and the iPad Pro. It has flat sides and minimal bezels but still relies upon Touch ID. Since this is a consumer-focused product, it is available in multiple colors.
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When the iPad Air was first introduced, it was the flagship iPad with more features than the iPad 4 released before it. Now, it sits squarely in the middle of the product line with better-than-budget features at less-than-pro prices.
Apple revitalized the iPad Air lineup in 2020 with a full-screen redesign and multiple color options. The iPad Air 4 was essentially an 11-inch iPad Pro that lacked a few pro-grade features to differentiate.
It was the first consumer-focused iPad with a USB-C port and no Home Button. Touch ID moved to the Top Button in place of Face ID to reduce costs. Currently, Face ID remains an exclusive feature to the iPad Pro line.
Apple is expected to release an iPad Air 6 in 2024. It could come in two sizes similar to the iPad Pro, but continue to offer fewer premium features at a consumer-friendly price point.
iPad Air history
The iPad Air started as a flagship device sporting a thinner case and improved display but was replaced by the iPad Pro in 2015. It appeared that Apple had abandoned the iPad Air brand after four years of no updates, but it was revitalized with a processor upgrade in 2019.
Apple further showed its commitment to a mid-range iPad by performing a complete redesign in 2020, bringing it in line with the iPad Pro design language. In 2022, the 10.9-inch iPad encroached on the iPad Air's territory at a lower price with fewer features.
The external design, display, and smart connector remain identical to the previous generation. Only the new colors differentiate the products: Starlight, space gray, pink, blue, and purple.
The selfie camera is upgraded to the 12MP ultra-wide camera used for Center Stage. So, the camera will attempt to keep the user's face centered during calls and video recordings.
Apple also increased the speed of the USB-C port by moving it to USB 3.1 gen 2. That means it can achieve a data transfer rate of 10GB/s and is fully compatible with the Studio Display.
The iPad Air 4 came as a breath of fresh air for the iPad lineup. The colorful redesign was reminiscent of Apple's original iMac G3, taking stale silver and gray into the next generation with five colors to pick from.
Apple didn't hold much back from the iPad Air 4 in technology or design. Compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro, it only lacked a ProMotion display, Face ID, and performance cores in its processor. As a result, choosing an iPad Air or iPad Pro was difficult until Apple refreshed the iPad Pro in 2021 with the M1 and Thunderbolt.
Customers can choose between space gray, silver, green, rose gold, and sky blue.
Apple Pencil 2 and Magic Keyboard support also mean that users can all of the latest accessories and features previously reserved for pro models. The Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio transform the iPad into a makeshift laptop for production-focused tasks.
The introduction of USB-C also means more compatibility with external drives, keyboards, and other accessories with a need for fewer adapters. Every iPad has moved to USB-C except the 10.2-inch model due to its use in education and business markets.
The iPad Air 3 debuted less as a sequel to the iPad Air 2 but more of a reduced-price 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Apple had released the redesigned 11-inch iPad Pro in 2018, so the old device chassis and technology fell to the iPad Air 3 with a few minor tweaks.
It didn't have ProMotion but gained Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio support. It ran the A12 processor, which lacked the more powerful graphics available in the A12X used in the iPad Pros.
Since it used the older design, it had Touch ID in the Home Button and the previous camera system. This device was a stepping stone to the iPad Air 4, which was released only a year and a half later in 2020.
Apple upgraded the iPad Air in 2014 with Touch ID, a thinner and lighter chassis, and a new gold color option. It ran the A8X processor with 2GB of RAM, making it the first Apple mobile device to have more than 1GB of RAM.
Despite going years without hardware updates, the iPad Air 2 saw several years of software updates and remained a popular purchasing choice for budget-minded consumers. It still gets updates in 2022 and runs iPadOS 15, although it isn't nearly as powerful as today's iPads.
The biggest story around the second-generation model was the introduction of Touch ID. The first model didn't have any form of biometric authentication, so users often used a simple four-digit passcode or forewent any security features.
When the iPad Air was first announced in 2013, it was the thinnest and lightest iPad yet. It used the same A7 processor as the iPhone 5S and shipped with a base model with only 16GB of internal storage.
The original iPad was in its fourth generation when the iPad Air was introduced. Apple had made a few unpopular choices with the product line in those years, given that the iPad 3 only existed for a few months before the iPad 4 replaced it.
A year later, the iPad Air took over as a flagship model with the Lightning connector, 5MP camera, and slim bezels. This was the first time Apple had three different iPad models for sale simultaneously.
iPad Air price
Customers can get the iPad Air 4 in five colors, starting at $599 for 64GB of internal storage. Upgrade to 256GB of storage for $749 or add $130 to either model to include a cellular modem.