Apple announced the iPad Air 2 today--a thinner, faster tablet that has a few extra features that might appeal to small business owners. It's the new Apple Pay feature available this Monday as part of iOS 8 and an ecosystem called Continuity that are the big selling points.
First, about that new iPad Air 2. I've made no secret of the fact that these events tend to be big letdowns in terms of new hardware. The Air 2 is faster, running an updated version of the A8 processor found in the iPhone 6. It's 18 percent thinner as well, which could be a problem once I get my hands on one and test the battery life. It might be skimpy.
The main problem I see with small businesses getting the iPad Air 2 is that, while it does have a Touch ID fingerprint reader, there's no NFC chip for making purchases. That means, if you want to use the new Apple Pay secure transaction app, you can only use it for making online purchases, not for tapping onto a terminal at a store. Apple also announced a refresh of the smaller tablet, the iPad Mini 3, which also has a Touch ID reader but no NFC.
The saving grace here for both devices is that they fit nicely into the new Apple Continuity ecosystem. There are two benefits for business users. If you are typing up an email, browsing a business site looking for leads, or even jotting down a note on one Apple gadget, you can switch over to the new iPad, the iPhone, or your Mac and pick-up where you left off. For example, on the iPad Air 2, a small icon will shows up on the Home screen for the email client, Swipe on it, and your previous email you were composing on a Mac will pop up.
That's incredibly handy because it helps those of us who tend to switch from mobile to desktop devices throughout the day. The same is true of making phone calls. As long as you are on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone, you can answer a call on a Mac or iPad. You might not have your phone handy right when that new investor calls to ask a question.
That said, the Continuity service is available for the current iPad Air. It's actually just part of the new Mac OS called Yosemite that you can download now and iOS 8 which is already available. The lack of NFC on the new iPad models means they won't work for making purchases at a retail store, but they do have better security.
This one of those times when a brand new Apple product doesn't seem that appealing, mostly because it is a little faster and a little thinner. I've been testing the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, and I'm ready to put Apple Pay to work this Monday. I'll reserve final judgement on the new iPad models until I can test them thoroughly. Suffice it to say for now, they appear to be falling in the shadow of bigger news for those who reply on Apple devices. Appel Pay is coming this Monday, and only the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be ready to play.
Both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini3 will start shipping next week. The Air 2 price starts at $499 for the 16GB model and the iPad Mini 3 pricing will start at $399 for the 16GB model.