iPad Air diary

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iPad Air diary, day 3: Case closed

Sometimes it takes a while to get used to the iPad. I just finished up a FaceTime call with my mother, who got an iPad mini for Christmas last year. After a couple of months, she was still using her MacBook more than the iPad, and I was concerned that it was just a misbegotten purchase. But today she complained that the only reason she used her laptop anymore was to print, because her printer doesn’t support AirPrint.

So even someone in their 70s who is as hesitant to embrace technology as my mother can fall under the spell of the iPad, given enough time.

As for me, I still use my laptop and iPad in different situations, but I’m much more of a power user than my mother. I’ve written two of these diary entries on an iPad with external Bluetooth keyboard, and for this edition I’m typing on the onscreen keyboard like a savage.

iPad AirPhoto: Michael Homnick

I spent some time playing Real Racing 3 this weekend on the iPad Air, and I continue to be impressed by the iPad’s ability to show high-resolution graphics at high frame rates. I still haven’t run any apps that feel like they’re taking true advantage of the processing power of this device; I’m sure there’s some mad-scientist developer building an outrageously power-hungry app right now, and we’ll see it in the App Store before too long.

Let me answer a few of the questions that I’ve been receiving since I started this series. First up, one commenter wanted to know if I find the lack of Touch ID in the iPad Air to be annoying or a hassle.

Touch ID remains an iPhone 5s-only feature, but you may not necessarily miss it on the iPad Air.

I’ve been using the iPhone 5S since day one, and I admit that I’ve gotten used to Touch ID. It’s great. I previously locked my iPhone with a four-digit passcode; now I use a more complex password, but almost never have to type it in. But here’s the thing about the iPad: I’ve never, ever passcode-locked it. My iPad is generally in my house or in another secure location, and I just love the Smart Cover so much that I don’t want to clutter up the experience by having to input a passcode.

It’s hard, therefore, for me to regret a lack of Touch ID in a device that I’ve never locked. However, I feel the passcode lock closing in on all sides. My company is about to switch to Office 365 and will begin enforcing a draconian passcode-lock policy that will require me to lock any device that accesses company email. Apple’s iOS 7 setup strongly encourages the setting of a passcode lock, almost to the point of looking at you with a stern schoolmarm face when you tap the very small type that lets you skip this step. And of course, Find my Friends is inconvenient and iCloud Keychain is disabled entirely if your device isn’t passcode-locked.

So I suppose I will be locking my iPad, and when that day comes, I will be a bit sad that the iPad Air doesn’t have Touch ID. But I understand Apple’s choice to omit it from this generation of iPad–it just feels a bit less necessary than it does on the iPhone. But clearly, Touch ID needs to migrate everywhere in the iOS product line eventually. Until then, I for one welcome our four-digit overlords.

Speaking of the Smart Cover, I’ve spent a little bit of time with both Apple’s Smart Cover and Smart Case. Both seem like solid products, and beyond that it’s sort of up to personal preference. My wife never cottoned to the Smart Cover and said a lot of positive things about the Smart Case, which is made out of leather and covers the back of the iPad as well as the front.

The latest iPad Smart Case from Apple

I’m a longtime Smart Cover user, and I like the new model, which is essentially a scaled-up version of the one for the iPad mini: It’s available only in polyurethane, not leather like the older iPad model, and it’s got a covered set of magnets rather than a magnetic metal hinge. It’s also got only two folds instead of three. If you like the iPad mini Smart Cover, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t, this one is not for you. I admit I sort of miss the leather on the Smart Cover; I’m still using an original leather Smart Cover from the iPad 2 and it’s worn incredibly well over the years.

This coming week, I’ll put the iPad Air to use in the place it was born to be used: the air. More specifically, on an airplane. Perhaps even during takeoff and landing, if JetBlue is feeling particularly generous. I suppose it’s time to actually start writing my formal review of the iPad Air, too, so look for that later in the week. And keep posting questions or sending then to me at @jsnell on Twitter.

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