Apple's New iPad Air Receives Rave Reviews

Apple's new iPad Air. Source: Apple.

Apple's iPad Air launched on Friday. Analysts will be watching closely to see how well the new iPad does in the market. If reviews are any indication of how well the 9.7-inch tablet will fare, the iPad may be in for a record-breaking launch weekend.

At Apple's iPad-centric media event on Oct. 22, Apple announced two new iPads: the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with a Retina display. With the second-generation iPad Mini set to launch later in November, the limelight is on Apple's new iPad Air this weekend.

Apple's new 9.7-inch iPad Air is Apple's fifth version of its full-sized iPad. The company opted to call the new tablet the iPad Air because of its thinner and lighter design; the tablet is 20% thinner and 28% lighter than its predecessor. The iPad Air took on a similar form factor as its smaller counterpart, the iPad Mini.

An unprecedented tablet
In a search for a negative review of Apple's new iPad Air, I found none. Has Apple hit another home run? It's very likely. Just look at some of the language in reviews from publications that got their hands on an iPad Air before the launch.

The Loop's Jim Dalrymple:

It's very hard to describe how good the iPad Air feels in your hand without actually picking one up. It's kind of like the first time you saw a Retina display for the first time -- shock.

iPad Air. Source: Apple.

AnandTech's Anand Lal Shimpi:

Trying to summarize what makes the iPad Air special quickly turns into a list of the things Apple likes to have with any evolution of an existing product: It's smaller, lighter and faster with absolutely no trade-offs made in the process.

Mashable's Lance Ulanoff:

There are many things Apple's iPad Air is not. It's not the cheapest tablet you can buy. It's not the lightest. It doesn't have the highest resolution screen. Yet, on balance, it's still the best consumer tablet on the market. 

USA Today's Edward Baig:

As it happens, though, this latest full-size Apple tablet is the most tempting iPad yet, better than its already best-of-breed predecessors, superior still to each and every rival big-screen slate that I've tested. Apple dominates the tablet apps ecosystem. Its tablet remains the easiest to use.

Reviews don't get much rosier than that.

iPad Air. Source: Apple.

The iPad's importance to Apple
Apple's iPad lineup is likely to be a top priority among Apple's top strategic concerns for several reasons.

First, as Apple's second largest business segment (16.5% of Apple's fourth-quarter revenue), the iPad performance in the market could have a large influence on Apple's top and bottom line.

Second, Apple is fighting to maintain its leadership in the tablet category. Apple has greater dominance in the tablet category than it has in smartphones. In the third quarter of 2013, Apple accounted for 29.6% of worldwide tablet shipments, according to IDC's estimates; Samsung trailed behind in second at 20.4%. Notably, however, Apple's worldwide market share is down significantly from the 40.2% share it boasted in the year-ago quarter. Even more, Samsung's share has leaped from just 12.4% in the year-ago quarter. With competition intensifying, you can bet Apple is taking its leadership in tablets seriously and intends to keep it that way.

When Apple launched the fourth-generation iPad and the iPad Mini last year, the company sold 3 million iPads during the opening weekend. Notably, however, the original iPad Mini had a price of $329, meaningfully lower than the full-sized iPad's retail price of $499, making last year's launch weekend a difficult comparison since Apple isn't yet ready to launch its iPad Mini. That said, though the comparison is imperfect, it will be an interesting benchmark for the iPad Air's launch weekend. Apple typically announces launch weekend sales the Monday following the launch weekend.

What do you think? Will Apple's lauded iPad Air help Apple set record iPad launch weekend sales?

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