Although I purchased last year’s iPad Air and was perfectly content with it, I found myself in an Apple Store yesterday, purchasing the iPad Air 2. Part of it was that I wanted an excuse to use Apple Pay, and groceries weren’t exciting enough. But the other part was that after I held the updated device, I couldn’t leave without it.
When it was announced last week, the incremental changes in weight and size seemed almost negligible to me as I read about them. We’re talking grams and millimeters. Tiny, insignificant adjustments to the body of the device. How different could it possibly be?
Put the two devices side by side, and it becomes glaringly apparent. Not to mention the ridiculous internals this new model has. Plenty of people have voiced opinions along the lines of “I’d rather have a little more battery than a thinner device, why is Apple so obsessed with this?” and it got me thinking about exactly what that means. Clearly Apple feels that current battery life is reasonable and is willing to make other changes to the physical nature of the device to optimize in other dimensions. But why? Why the relentless march to thinner and lighter?
I think it’s because Apple doesn’t want us to notice that we’re holding chunks of metal and glass. We should think about these devices as extensions of ourselves and the closer the company can come to making them nearly weightless (in relative terms), the better. In the same way that you get dressed in the morning and feel your clothes but quickly adjust and your body stops sending those input signals, your devices should follow similar paths. If Apple can create a device that is so comfortable to use that it’s forgotten as it’s held because it’s so unimaginably thin and light–while still maintaining the performance users come to generally expect without decrement–it’s going to do it.
Eventually battery technology and wireless radios will advance to the point that our concerns about charging will be obviated. In the meantime, Apple will create devices that continue to advance the technical bottom line while somewhat disappearing in terms of our nerve endings’ perceptions. And while two days ago I couldn’t have cared less, holding the Air 2 now, I realize how quietly significant that goal is.