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iPad Air (2019) review: Apple’s newest tablet combines productivity with affordability Review

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For the past few years, there’s been a giant void left in Apple’s iPad lineup. On the low end, the base iPad model has retained the traditional form factor, with a spec bump here and there, and most recently gained Apple Pencil support. The iPad Pro line, however, has taken advantage of the fastest processors, modest display improvements, and Apple’s Smart Connector tech for keyboards and sat comfortably at the high-end of the lineup.

Also: Apple unveils new 10.5-inch iPad Air and iPad Mini

The price difference was stark, as well. The iPad starts at $329. The newest iPad Pro models start at $799. There wasn’t a device priced in-between the two.

Then, last month, Apple somewhat quietly released a new iPad Mini and a revamped iPad Air. It’s the first iPad Air since the iPad Air 2 was released in 2014 and then discontinued in 2017. The third-generation iPad Air mixes some of the high-end iPad Pro features while retaining some of the core iPad features and looks, at a $499 price point.

ZDNet’s Matthew Miller recently reviewed the iPad Mini and found it to be outstanding. And for the past two weeks or so, I’ve been using the new iPad Air. 

Instead of complicating Apple’s tablet line, the new iPad Air provides some clarity. 

Design


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

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The new iPad Air comes with Apple’s A12 Bionic processor, Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac WiFi, and 64GB or 256GB of storage. The latter of which carries a $150 over the $499 starting price. If you want to add LTE connectivity to the iPad Air, the price increases by $129 for either storage model.

Color options include silver, space gray, and gold. In lieu of Face ID, the iPad Air uses Apple’s tried-and-true home button with Touch ID. An 8-megapixel camera is found on the rear, with a 7-megapixel camera on the front for selfies and FaceTime calls.

Also: Would a cheaper iPad encourage you to upgrade?

Apple Pencil support is now a standard feature across the entire iPad lineup, including the new iPad Mini. Only the iPad Pro supports the newest Apple Pencil with wireless charging. With the Air, you’ll still need to stick one end of the Apple Pencil into the Lightning port for initial pairing and charging the Pencil. There’s a headphone jack on the top of the housing. 

Apple’s Smart Connector is located on the side of the iPad Air, providing connectivity and power to the Smart Keyboard; a new accessory for the iPad Air line. Previously, the Smart Connector and associated peripherals had been reserved for the iPad Pro line. A Lightning port on the bottom is used for charging. Without the keyboard, the new Air weighs right at one pound.

The iPad Air looks very much like older iPad Air models, only instead of a 9.7-inch display, the new iPad Air has a 10.5-inch 2224×1668 display. That’s the same size panel that Apple used in a previous generation of the iPad Pro. It’s just enough extra screen real estate to ease the cramped feel of using multiple apps at the same time.

Performance

ipad-air-2019-1.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

When using the iPad Air, as opposed to the iPad Pro that I’ve used daily for the last few months, it quickly became apparent there are two features I sorely miss. The first is Face ID. Sitting down at my desk and double-tapping the spacebar and watching as the iPad Pro unlocks and goes back to the app I was in last has become a task I didn’t even think about. Unlocking the iPad Pro with Face ID is done the moment the iPad wakes up and requires zero thinking on my part.

With the iPad Air, I have to either enter my pin code or place a finger on the Touch ID home button. Double-pressing the space bar does nothing more than wake the iPad Air, and I’m left staring at it, waiting for it to unlock.

The other feature I miss is the sound quality of the speakers. The iPad Pro has four speakers: Two on the top and another two on the bottom when holding it vertically. The iPad Air, however, only has two speakers, both of which are on the same end as the home button.

Also: Apple just can’t stop insisting iPad Pro is a computer 

Outside of those two areas, the iPad Air is every bit as capable as the iPad Pro in my work routine. A routine that consists of text documents, triaging my inbox, photo editing, and occasional video editing. At no point during my time using the iPad Air in place of the iPad Pro did I feel like it was underpowered or lacking in performance.

Battery life has been more than enough to get through a normal workday, with power to spare. Apple estimates 10 hours of use, and my experience has mirrored that expectation. 

Writing or drawing with the Apple Pencil is smooth and the iPad Air’s display is responsive. I’ve made it clear before, I’m no artist, but I do like to use an iPad and Apple Pencil to jot notes during a meeting or when brainstorming story ideas. 

One area that all iPads fall short in is software. I complained about with the iPad Pro and iOS 12; the iPad Air runs the same software and suffers from the same shortfalls. Specifically, the lack of a desktop-class browser. Despite the reach of the App Store and the number of companies with apps available for every sort of task, some tasks rely on using a full web browser. Hopefully, iOS 13, which Apple should reveal in early June at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, will include a heavy emphasis on improving the iPad’s computing experience.

Which model do you go with?

ipad-air-2019-4.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

With different iPad models of various sizes, capabilities, and price points, there’s bound to be some debate on which model to purchase.

I’d imagine that for most users — including those in the enterprise — the new iPad Air is the right choice. It’s not overly expensive, and the recent updates provide modest performance improvements over the iPad. The addition of the Smart Keyboard helps the iPad Air toe the line between a tablet built for productivity, and one that’s better suited for binging on Netflix shows and checking an occasional email.

Also: A Best Buy salesman told me it’s iPad or don’t bother 

Unless you absolutely have to have the best of Apple’s best, or a 12.9-inch display, the iPad Pro is too much tablet and has a price point to match. The Air nearly matches the Pro in performance, and at that, I doubt most users would notice the minor differences. And it does it for a few hundred dollars less.

Update: An earlier version of this review stated there wasn’t a headphone jack on this model. That’s been corrected. ZDNet regrets the error. 

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Fortnite’s mystery ‘superstar’ virtual music tour kicks off next week – TechCrunch

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Epic Games is teasing the biggest in-game event since Travis Scott psychedelically stomped through Fortnite’s virtual meadows.

The mysterious new event, which Fortnite-maker Epic is calling the “Rift Tour,” will kick off on Friday, August 6 and run through Sunday, August 8. In the teaser announcement, Epic invites players to “take a musical journey into magical new realities where Fortnite and a record-breaking superstar collide.”

In-game events building up to the mystery show series will run from July 29 through August 8, so players can hop into Fortnite to check out new Rift Tour-themed quests and rewards now. The cotton-candy-colored event will offer a custom loading screen and a fluffy cloud kitty emoticon, among other digital prizes.

The Rift Tour isn’t a one-and-done event. Like the Travis Scott event, Fortnite will host five different show times across three days to make it easier for players to catch. Epic says they’ll have more details to share on Monday, August 2, so Fortnite players will have to wait for more hints or an official announcement about who’s performing.

So … who’s performing? So far, all signs point to Ariana Grande. Leakers have been saying as much for more than a week, and the documents revealed through Epic’s court battle with Apple also detailed plans for in-game events with both Grande and Lady Gaga.

Image Credits: Epic Games

At Forbes, Paul Tassi also connected the dots on how recent leaks point to Grande, including some visual themes from her music videos and a reference to her pet pig Piggy Smalls.

Since Epic is calling its latest virtual event a tour, that suggests Grande won’t be alone, if she is indeed the mystery superstar. A Lady Gaga appearance could also be in the cards, since Epic apparently had plans for Gaga to appear in a December 2020 concert that never materialized. Kanye West is also releasing his newest album on August 6, but it seems less likely that Epic would be willing to partner with West given his myriad recent controversies. And “Donda,” West’s latest album, was originally scheduled for a different date before being delayed.

Whoever it winds up being, we’ll likely know more on Monday. Even if you’re not a Grande fan or a regular gamer, Fortnite’s in-game concerts are some of the most creative and visually exciting virtual events to date.

Everyone should fall through the metaverse with their friends while a skyscraper-sized virtual rapper shoots neon lightning bolts at least once.

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Why companies and brands need to tune in – TechCrunch

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What comes to mind when you think of livestreaming? In the U.S., most people would name their favorite celebrity leading a Q&A on Instagram or a gamer doing a speedrun on Twitch.

In China, it’s shopping, streamed live.

Livestream e-commerce has taken off in China in the last few years and is expected to yield more than $60 billion this year. In 2019, 37% of online shoppers in China (a cool 265 million people) made purchases on livestreams — and that was well before quarantine. In 2020, it’s estimated to have reached around 560 million people.

During Taobao’s annual Single’s Day Global Shopping Festival in 2020 (China’s Black Friday), livestreams accounted for $6 billion in sales — nearly doubled from a year earlier.

Starting to see a trend? The big U.S. companies have noticed, and they’re jumping on the bandwagon faster than you can say, “Swipe up to buy now!”

Last December, Walmart livestreamed shopping events on TikTok. Amazon released a live platform where influencers promote items and chat with customers. Instagram launched a Shop feature that encourages users to browse and buy within the app. Facebook also kicked off Live Shopping Fridays for the beauty and fashion categories.

“It’s an entertaining way for shops to tell the story behind their products. It brings buyers closer than ever to their favorite creators and allows them to have a voice in the conversation.”

Startups are growing fast to keep up with the heavy hitters — PopShop.Live raised $20 million to let people buy everything from books and toys to jewelry from sellers who livestream their offerings, and Whatnot raised a $50 million Series B, largely to expand its livestream commerce infrastructure. There’s also a burgeoning category of SaaS tools such as Bambuser, which is working with brands like Klarna to test native livestream shopping directly within branded apps.

At this pace, retailers will all welcome livestream commerce teams like they have influencer partnerships in recent years. It’ll just be part of the digital equation to stay competitive and relevant in the future of marketplaces and e-commerce.

From B.C. to 5G: The evolution of shopping

What is old is new again. Your grandparents spent years watching QVC because it balanced the experience of speaking with an associate with the convenience of their retirement community’s TV room. Livestream is today’s version of “shoptainment,” where hosts showcase products dynamically, interact with their audiences and build urgency with short-term offers, giveaways and limited-edition items.

Now, with livestream commerce, hosts can form deeper customer connections and answer questions in real time. It’s a new standard of communication that holds a longstanding truth from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to smartphones: People shop to kill time and are more likely to buy when they feel connected with a salesperson.

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Twitter shuttering NY, SF offices in response to new CDC guidelines – TechCrunch

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Just two weeks after reopening its New York and San Francisco offices, social media giant Twitter said Wednesday that it will be closing those offices “immediately.”

The decision came “after careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions,” a spokesperson said.

“Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately. We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” the spokesperson added.

The company initially just reopened those offices on July 12. It declined to reveal headcount per office.

The CDC this week recommended that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates amid concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant.

Earlier today, TechCrunch’s Brian Heater reported that Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media behemoth.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

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