When I first reviewed the iPad Air, I had nothing but good things to say about it. It’s light, fast, has an excellent screen, and a camera that’s decent in a pinch. Apple put a dual core, 64 bit processor in their latest tablet, but didn’t give it very much memory. It still only has 1GB of ram. That gives the iPad some issues with memory management. Apps may have gotten larger, and may use more memory, but the iPad doesn’t have the RAM to run all those apps at once. 64 bit apps not only can use more memory, many need to use more memory. Running multiple apps or using bluetooth accessories (like my bluetooth keyboard) can cause an issue. As a result, it crashes on occasion. Actually, it crashed on me twice yesterday, and once when I started writing this article today. What’s going on?
Not long after the iPad Air was released, Apple sent out a firmware update that greatly improved the stability of the tablet. Still, three times while writing and doing research for this article, my iPad crashed. It brought me to the breaking point where I decided to make this post. There are a few aspects of the issue, but it seems to come down to Apple’s reluctance to put enough memory in their iOS devices. The iPhone 5 had only 1GB of memory, and even the iPhone 5s, which also has the 64 bit A7 processor, has just 1GB as well. This isn’t as much of a problem on the iPhone 5s, as the device is smaller and has fewer pixels to render than the iPad Air. Although I do wish my Pebble wouldn’t be forced to disconnect due to memory constraints. The iPad Air is a larger device, and the apps require more memory than their iPhone counterparts. Apple didn’t give it enough memory though. The tablet is still very fast, it just sometimes hangs and crashes when you try to do too much, and that’s not the sort of thing an Apple product should do.
The next iPhone and iPad will certainly have more memory, but if youre experiencing issues, there are a few things you can do on your iPad Air to improve your experience. First, you can turn your iPad off when you’re not using it. It boots up quickly, and turning it off will clear memory, meaning you’re less likely to hit that 1GB limit. You can also force-quit apps by either double-clicking the home button and swiping up on the app, or swipe up on the screen with four fingers, then swipe up on the app you wish to quit. This will free up the memory it’s using. You can also try only having Bluetooth on when you need it, and not using bluetooth devices if you find that you don’t frequently need them.
So why would Apple have included only 1GB of RAM? First, this may be a more frequent issue than it was for the previous generation of iPad, but it’s not an issue users have to deal with frequently enough to become anything more than an occasional annoyance. That means testers may not have even noticed it. Secondly, RAM is expensive. Apple wouldn’t use a bump in memory to explain a spike in pricing, so by using slightly less memory in the iPad than it should have, Apple can make a larger profit. Finally, Apple just didn’t think the iPad would need more than 1GB of memory. On paper, it didnt seem like it would be an issue, but in practice, people go months without restarting their devices, and use apps and games that push the limits of the hardware, demanding they all run in the background. That taxes the system more than Apple expected, and they’ll certainly improve future iPad and iPhone hardware with more memory. In fact, the next iOS devices will likely have 2GB of memory. If they don’t, Apple will have made a huge mistake.
Apple may release a firmware update prior to iOS 8, or iOS 8 itself, that makes the operating system handle the aprox. 1GB of memory in the iPad Air better optimized. If they don’t, us iPad Air owners will just have to grow accustomed to the occasional restarts due to memory exhaustion, or take some precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen so frequently.
Do I still recommend the iPad Air? For the most part, yes, it’s still the best tablet money can buy, even with occasional restarts. However, if you’re patient, the next version will be released early next year. I recommend waiting until then.