Apple's new iPad isn't just thinner and faster than last year's model. The iPad Air 2 is packed with tons of new features that can help make business users more productive. The device features a fingerprint scanner, runs the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, and sports new continuity features that let you answer text messages and phone calls on your iPad. And since it's an Apple device, it gives you access to arguably the best selection of business and productivity apps on any mobile platform. In short, the iPad Air 2 looks to be one of the best business slates ever. It's available for preorder now and will go on sale starting Oct. 20. While you wait, read on for 10 features that will make it good for work.
The new iPad is the slimmest one yet, while retaining the same 9.7-inch display as previous models. Overall, the iPad Air 2 is about 18 percent thinner than the original iPad Air. It's so thin, in fact, that two iPad Air 2s stacked on top of each other are thinner than the very first iPad, which launched in 2010. And the new iPad is also a bit lighter than last year's model, too. Rest assured, this is a business slate that won't weigh you down on your daily commute.
The iPad Air 2 doesn't have a bigger or sharper display than last year's model, but it still looks better. That's because Apple has optically bonded the LCD panel, glass and touch sensor to eliminate air gaps. The effect is a picture that practically seems to sit on top of the display, while also helping to make the tablet thinner. The display also includes an anti-reflective coating to make it more than 50 percent less reflective than previous versions. Apple says it's the least reflective tablet on the market, giving business users better visibility.
More powerful processor
The iPad Air 2 is powered by Apple's new A8X processor, which is even speedier than the A8 chip inside the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple claims that the updated chip gives the new iPad a 40 percent performance boost over its new smartphone, and promised that the CPU is more efficient, so it can deliver better battery life.
Faster Internet speeds
Business users can expect super-fast Internet speeds from the iPad Air 2. It supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi connections that are capable of offering speeds more than twice as fast as before. Meanwhile, the 4G variant of the iPad Air 2 will offer Internet speeds up to 50 percent faster than on the original iPad Air.
A tablet gives you more space to work on than your smartphone, but it's a more limited device since it can't take phone calls – until now. Apple has introduced new continuity features that let you link your iPhone and iPad to open up a variety of features, including tablet calling. When a call arrives, you'll be alerted right on your iPad Air 2. From there, you can actually take the call using the speaker and microphone on the iPad Air 2. You'll also be able to read and respond to text messages on your iPad.
There's also a feature called Handoff that lets you seamlessly switch between Apple devices when you're working. If you're composing an email on your desktop Mac computer, for example, you can hit the Handoff button at the bottom of the screen to beam it to your iPad to keep working on the go. It works for newer Apple devices that are connected to the same wireless network.
If you use your tablet for work, security should be a top concern. That's why it's such a big deal that the iPad Air 2 is the first iPad model to include a fingerprint sensor. Dubbed Touch ID, the sensor is embedded right in the home button on the device. Just hold your thumb over the button to quickly and easily unlock your device. In other words, it lets you keep your work tablet on lockdown, with no need to fuss with cumbersome password screens.
Here's an under-reported feature that could really benefit business users who want a tablet with a persistent Internet connection. First, a bit of explanation is necessary. All 4G iPads come with something called a SIM card, which lets you subscribe to a data plan through a carrier such as Verizon or AT&T. Until now, all SIM cards have been carrier-specific. But now Apple is introducing a new kind of card called Apple SIM, which can switch between carriers on the fly. That's important for a few reasons. For starters, it means that you can opt for cheaper, short-term plans, without the need to commit to a two-year contract. For example, if you want to subscribe to 4G coverage for a single, travel-heavy month, Apple SIM will let you do that. It will also let you subscribe to short-term plans with carriers in other countries, which will also be a big help on business trips.
The iPad Air 2 supports Apple Pay, a brand-new payment platform that lets users save their credit card information, then purchase items using their mobile device. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both include a near-field communication (NFC) chip to make contactless payment at brick-and-mortar stores possible, but the iPad Air 2 lacks an NFC chip. Instead, you'll be able to use Apple Pay through your iPad Air 2 to complete payments in apps and on websites that support the platform.
The iPad Air 2 runs on iOS 8, Apple's latest mobile-operating system. The update adds tons of handy features to the iPad, including the ability to install widgets on your iPhone for the first time. Widgets are like persistent miniature apps that update in real time right on your screen – no need to open them up for the latest information. Widgets can show your daily schedule at a glance, the latest stock market updates, the weather forecast, and a lot more. You can view your widgets inside the new notifications center by swiping down from the top of the iPad screen.
Another big addition to iOS 8 is the ability to install third-party touch-screen keyboards; previously, iPhone and iPad users were limited to the stock keyboard. That means you can install keyboards with extra features such as gesture-based swipe typing, providing easier access to numbers and symbols. That's a perk for business users who do a lot of typing on their iPad.
The iPad Air 2 is actually launching with iOS 8.1, a slightly updated version of iOS 8 that activates previously mentioned features such as Apple Pay, Handoff and continuity features.