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Apple iPad (2021) review: Bare minimum update still beats the competition – Android Authority

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Apple gave its entry-level iPad a modest update this year. The changes clearly reflect the increased time we’ve spent with our devices while dealing with the global pandemic. With a better screen, better camera, and better processor, the basic iPad is a better device for social media, video chats, and passing the time. Is it the best low-cost slate for your and your family? Find out in the Android Authority Apple iPad (2021) review.

About this Apple iPad (2021) review: I tested the Apple iPad (2021) review unit over a period of seven days. It was running iPadOS 15.0.1. The unit was purchased by Android Authority for this review.

What you need to know about the Apple iPad (2021)

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • Apple iPad (64GB): $329 / £319 / €379
  • Apple iPad (256GB): $479 / £439 / €549
  • Apple iPad w/LTE 4G (64GB): $459 / £459 / €519
  • Apple iPad w/LTE 4G (256GB): $609 / £579 / €689

Apple has once again warmed-over its least expensive tablet. The Apple iPad (2021) gains limited improvements in a few key areas, though it is mostly carried over from older generations. This simpler slate sticks to the basics as far as the feature list is concerned. It’s got a sizable display, all-day battery life, and an improved user-facing camera system that goes a long way toward boosting the quality of those FaceTime or Zoom calls.

Competing low-cost Android tablets from the likes of Lenovo, Amazon, and Samsung vary in size, shape, and capabilities, and there are plenty available within $100 or so of the iPad’s starting price. Opting for an Android tablet over the iPad may boil down to a few clutch functionalities or preferences being met for potential buyers.

This year, the Apple iPad comes in two colors, Silver and Space Gray, and just two storage options, 64GB or 256GB. Those storage numbers are twice that of last year’s iPad, which is a welcome upgrade. LTE 4G cellular models are also available for an additional cost of $130. Like Apple’s iPhones, the iPad is widely available for sale. You can pick one up from Apple’s website or brick-and-mortar stores, as well as retail chains including Amazon, Best Buy, BHPhoto, Target, Walmart, and many more. The cellular models can be snagged from your local wireless carrier, such as AT&T or Verizon in the US.

Let’s find out what’s new and what’s not.

Is anything about the design new?

Apple iPad 2021 rear panel off center

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Outwardly, this year’s Apple iPad looks identical to last year’s model. I held the two side by side and there are no obvious differences with respect to materials, size, shape, weight, or components. Even the rear camera modules are reflections of one another. You cannot tell the two tablets apart based on appearances alone.

The tablet has a large piece of display glass fitted into an aluminum chassis. Apple hasn’t said what the glass is made from. Apple cut an angled chamfer into the frame of the chassis where it joins the glass. The side edges and rear panel are made from a single piece of metal and there are smooth curves where the back surface transitions into the sides. The iPad measures 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm, which makes it medium-sized as far as tablets go. It feels delicate due to the thin profile and 487g weight. If you intend to give this to a younger child, I strongly suggest some type of case.

Related: The best Android tablets for kids

The design is decidedly iPad-y. No other tablet looks quite like the iPad, and this particular design has been around for a while now. What stands out visually, unfortunately, are the large bezels. You’ve got deep black edging on two sides of the display and thinner edging in between. The bezels give your thumbs something to grab hold of, but given the all-screen designs of today’s devices, the thick black border is beginning to look outdated. Apple’s newer iPad Pro, Air, and Mini designs have a fresher, more modern look to them — and much slimmer bezels.

The home button doubles as the Touch ID fingerprint reader.

Apple iPad 2021 Touch ID

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Controls and buttons are standard fair. Because the Apple iPad (2021) uses the older design, it still includes the physical home button. The home button doubles as the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Touch ID takes just a moment to train and it works consistently and quickly. There are times when Touch ID is better than Apple’s Face ID and vice versa. Sadly, Face ID (or any facial recognition) is not available to the entry-level iPad.

Apple iPad 2021 Lightning Port

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

This iPad is the last tablet from Apple to rely on the proprietary Lightning port. Apple’s costlier tablets have all moved on to USB-C. Most competing Android and Windows tablets also use USB-C. At least the cable that ships with the iPad matches the one that ships with the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone, however, the iPad does include a charger in the box.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Apple iPad’s simple design, but it no longer turns heads like it used to.

How is the new screen?

Apple iPad 2021 display landscape

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Apple made one small change to the iPad’s display. It is not a groundbreaking feature in any way and yet it does improve the experience of using an iPad — particularly if you use the iPad in different settings.

The size, shape, resolution, and brightness are all the same as last year’s iPad. That means a 10.2-inch IPS LED with 2,160 x 1,620 resolution at 264ppi and 500 nits of light output. It includes a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating but not the anti-reflective coating of the iPad Air and iPad Pro. It’s a really good screen with plenty of color and light, and everything is sharp and clean looking.

So what’s different? Apple updated the screen with its True Tone technology. True Tone has been around a while, though this is the first time we’re seeing it on the low-cost iPad. True Tone uses the ambient light to set the white balance on the screen so it looks more natural as you move from environment to environment, say between a room lit with an incandescent bulb to one lit by the sun through a window. This automatic shift in white balance is subtle and yet it makes enough of a difference to matter.

More reading: How to record your screen on any device

Like I said, not groundbreaking. Even so, the display of the 2021 iPad is easier on the eyes than the 2020 iPad. When you spend all day staring at a screen, every little bit of help is appreciated.

Is the battery life better?

Apple iPad 2021 buttons

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Nope. It’s the same. You’ll get 10 hours of streaming video or surfing the web via Wi-Fi. Was ever thus with the iPad, and ever thus it shall be.

Nearly all Apple iPads meet this 10-hour benchmark for battery life and the new iPad is no different. In my tests, the new iPad reached a maximum of 10 hours 12 minutes of battery life. You’ll get closer to nine hours of battery life if you’re using the LTE 4G model for surfing the web, according to Apple. While 10 hours is plenty of uptime when you’re just goofing about, it might be a bit short for those who put in longer work days. Some competing Android tablets can reach 12 hours of battery life.

More: Charging habits to maximize battery life

I’m happy to report that the included charging brick is a 20W plug. This helps a great deal when it comes time to recharge the iPad. Topping it up from dead took about 2.5 hours. Apple used to ship the iPad with the old 5W plug, which would take closer to four hours to top up.

The Apple iPad (2021) certainly provides enough battery life, though it can always be better.

Is it faster?

Yes. Apple boosted the 2021 iPad’s processor by one generation from the A12 Bionic to the A13 Bionic. The A13, announced in September 2019, may be a two-year-old processor but it still delivers plenty of performance for the iPad.

When it comes to everyday tasks, the iPad simply flies. Under casual observation, the tablet is as smooth and quick to do things as the more powerful Pro models. I didn’t experience any lagging or slow-downs when installing and running applications, including big ones such as GarageBand and iMovie. Games also run perfectly on the iPad. I was more than pleased with the experience of running Asphalt 9 and other action games.

The A13 Bionic and the iPad wreck competing Android tablets.

As far as benchmarks are concerned, the A13 Bionic does indeed put up better numbers than the A12 Bionic. Across tests such as AnTuTu, GeekBench, and 3DMark, the A13 generated scores that were, on average, about 20% higher than the older A12. That’s to be expected given the chip’s updated architecture. The A13 and the iPad wreck competing Android tablets, which typically have mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon processors on board.

What you need to know is this: the Apple iPad (2021) is faster than anything else in the price category and it runs even the most challenging apps and games available in the iTunes App Store without breaking a sweat.

Anything else?

Apple iPad 2021 camera in focus

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

  • iPad OS 15: This tablet runs the latest operating system from Apple, which means iPadOS 15. Changes in iPadOS 15 specific to the iPad include wider system support for widgets on the home screens. This is a welcome change, as widgets were quite limited in iPadOS 14. Other new features include revised tab browsing in Safari (which I don’t like), revised full-app multitasking controls, easy access to the App Library, video and audio enhancements to FaceTime, and much more. It’s a solid platform that also gets more complicated every year.
  • Camera: Most tablets come with basic cameras that do little more than serve as stop-gap measures if your phone isn’t around. Apple carried over the iPad’s 8MP rear camera. It’s middling at best. No change there. But the company made an enormous upgrade to the user-facing camera, which jumps from 1.2MP to 12MP. Moreover, it’s an ultra-wide shooter that handles 2x digital zoom and is compatible with Apple’s Center Stage video tech, which can automatically follow and center on subjects in the frame (within reason). The result is a tablet that’s dramatically better at video calls, particularly within Apple’s own FaceTime. It improves extended dynamic range for video up to 30fps and also leaps from 720p to 1080p video capture at 25fps, 30fps, or 60fps. The results are truly better than those of the 2020 iPad and many other budget tablets.
  • Multi-user support: This is a big one. iPadOS 15 and the iPad do not include support for multiple users on a single device. This is in direct contrast to Android, Chrome, and Windows, all of which provide for multi-user access. The lack of multi-user support on tablets is a serious limitation and one that Apple should have rectified years ago. There’s simply no excuse any more. What it means is that any adult wishing to share their iPad with kids will place their own apps, settings, and content at risk. For families that cannot afford more than a single shared device, this may be a dealbreaker.
  • Apple Pencil: The Apple iPad (2021) supports the original Apple Pencil. This $99 accessory opens up a wide number of use cases for the iPad, such as drawing and editing apps. It’s a shame the Pencil costs so much extra. Samsung ships an S Pen stylus with many of its mid-range and high-end tablets at no additional charge.
  • Wireless: The base model iPad includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 4.2. We would prefer to see Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.0 for the latest in connection options. That said, the Wi-Fi performance was excellent. As for cellular, the entry-level iPad is limited to LTE 4G as an option rather than 5G. That makes sense given the pricing for this device category.
  • Speakers: The iPad provides “two-speaker audio” but I wouldn’t call it stereo. Both speakers are located on the same edge of the tablet. It doesn’t matter much when you hold the iPad vertically in the portrait orientation, but you’ll notice the lopsided sound coming from one side of the tablet when watching video in horizontal landscape orientation. Younger users probably won’t care, but if you’re serious about balanced audio when watching movies or listening to music you’ll want to opt for wired or wireless headphones. Concerning the latter, remember that the iPad is limited to AAC as far as Bluetooth codecs are concerned.
  • Smart Connector: Astute observers will note three metallic dots along one of the iPad’s side edges. This is the Smart Connector, which allows the iPad to interact directly with select accessories, such as the Apple Smart Keyboard. The biggest benefit to using Smart Connector accessories is that it negates the need to tie up the Bluetooth radio.

Apple iPad (2021) specs

Apple iPad (2021)
Display 10.2-inch IPS LED
2,160 x 1,620 pixels
264ppi
500nits
True Tone
Processor Apple A13 Bionic
Neural Engine
2.87GB RAM
64/256GB storage
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 4.2
LTE 4G
GPS/GNSS
Cameras Rear:
8MP, f/2.4
1080p at 25/30fps

Front:
12MP, f/2.4
1080p at 25, 30, 60fps

Battery Up to 10 hours browsing via Wi-Fi
Up to 9 hours browsing via LTE 4G
Biometrics Touch ID fingerprint reader
Dimensions 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
Weight 487g
Colors Silver, Space Gray

Value and competition

2021 Apple iPad 1

Apple iPad (2021)

The new most-basic iPad gets some new processing power.

The vanilla iPad got a 2021 refresh with a new A13 Bionic chipset and a new price.

The Apple iPad (2021) probably provides more value than any other tablet in its class. A number of things factor into its appeal and its standing among its peers.

To start, the hardware quality is outstanding. Apple knows how to assemble solid devices. The screen is large, sharp, and bright enough to handle all the content you can throw at it. Battery life may just be average, but it’s consistent and still pushes through more than a full work day. Apple’s silicon is simply speedier than everything else in the class, which pushes this entry-level tablet’s performance to the top. iPadOS may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t knock the platform’s smooth experience and wide app compatibility. Toss in extras such as the headphone jack, Smart Connector, Apple Pencil compatibility, multiple storage options, and potential for LTE 4G connectivity and you have a well-rounded device that should make most anyone happy short of power users. With a starting price of $329, the Apple iPad is a bargain.

With a starting price of $329, the Apple iPad is a bargain.

If you’re dead set against iPadOS or need vital features such as multi-user support, Android, Chrome, and Windows have you covered.

Lenovo has a slew of potential products for you. First, there’s the Lenovo M10 HD Smart Tab ($129.99). It’s an FHD, 10-inch tablet that covers the basics, though it’s a bit on the slow side. Want to upgrade? There’s also the Lenovo Yoga Tab 13 ($679.99), which delivers big on performance and productivity. Lenovo also offers a range of new tablets, including the P11 Plus, that are closer to the iPad’s starting price. Last, Lenovo also offers a killer slate-style Chromebook in the 2021 Chromebook Duet ($299.99) that has an improved screen and processor if you want to give Chrome a go.

Samsung doesn’t have a direct competitor to the iPad. Its Tab A series tablets, such as the Galaxy Tab A7 ($179.99) are typically priced in the $200 range and are best used as simple content consumption devices. If you want to overshoot the iPad a bit, you could opt for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE ($479.99), which offers plenty to like, including a boxed S Pen stylus. We found the 5G model to be a bit on the slow side.

If price is a factor, you can always look to Amazon’s tablets.

If price is a factor, you can always look to Amazon’s tablets. The best potential iPad competitor is the Amazon Fire 10 HD Plus ($179.99), which has a 10-inch screen and access to Amazon’s Prime content (for a subscription fee.) The Fire HD 10 Plus uses Fire OS, which is a fork of Android. Performance is not the Amazon tablet’s strong suit.

Last, if you’re more of a Windows user, there’s the brand new Microsoft Surface Go 3 ($399.99), which runs Windows 11. This tablet-first, PC-second device doesn’t ship with extras, such as a keyboard, but it has a palatable price tag and a full operating system.

Apple iPad (2021) review: The verdict

Apple iPad 2021 rear panel angled in carpet

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Apple didn’t do a whole lot to improve its baseline tablet year over year, but then it didn’t really have to. The entry-level iPad was already ahead of the competition by a significant margin in terms of value and performance. Apple made some meaningful tweaks anyway.

The refreshed display is easier on the eyes. The upgraded processor gives the iPad even more of a performance edge. And the overhauled user-facing camera makes the iPad a much more enjoyable personal and professional video chat platform. Consider the vast existing app library, wide range of compatible accessories, and software update commitment from Apple, and this all adds up to a more complete package than ever for this $329 slate.

The reality here is that Apple’s low-cost slate doesn’t have any real competition.

That’s not to say there aren’t things holding the iPad back. One of the biggest detractors is its lock-in to a single user, not to mention its lack of a dedicated kids mode. This simply doesn’t work for families that need multi-user support. I’d prefer to see real stereo speakers on a tablet like this, and it would be nice to see Apple make strides with battery life.

The reality here is that Apple’s low-cost slate doesn’t have any real competition. No other $300 tablet delivers the same level of performance as the iPad. There are plenty of other tablets in the market, many available for less than $300, but they simply can’t match the power and potential of the iPad.

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PayPal in $45 billion bid for Pinterest – sources

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PayPal Holdings Inc has offered to buy digital pinboard site Pinterest Inc for $45 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, a combination that could herald more tie-ups between financial technology and social media companies in e-ecommerce.

The deal talks come as internet Shoppers increasingly buy items they see on social media, often following “influencers” on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. Buying Pinterest would allow PayPal to capture more of that e-commerce growth and diversify its income though advertising revenue.

PayPal has offered $70 per share, mostly in stock, for Pinterest, one of the sources said. The online payments provider hopes to successfully negotiate and announce a deal by the time it reports quarterly earnings on Nov. 8, the source added.

The sources cautioned that no deal was certain and terms could change. They asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.

PayPal and Pinterest did not respond to requests for comment. Bloomberg News first reported on the PayPal-Pinterest talks on Wednesday.

PayPal’s offer represents a 26% premium to Pinterest’s closing price of $55.58 on Tuesday. PayPal’s shares fell over 4% on the news, while Pinterest rose more than 14% to $63.51.

“(The) combination would be a significant positive for PayPal’s ongoing monetization initiatives on both sides of its merchant and consumer platforms, especially if Pinterest’s social commerce platform gets integrated with Honey’s AI into PayPal’s destination app,” Wedbush analysts wrote in a note.

The payments behemoth was among the big winners of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people used its services to shop online and pay bills to avoid stepping out. Its shares have risen about 36% in the last 12 months, giving it a market capitalization of nearly $320 billion.

Pinterest also saw a huge spike in users looking for crafts and DIY project ideas, as lockdown curbs kept people at home.

As lockdowns eased, Pinterest has warned about slowing user growth, especially in the United States, its largest market.

Pinterest was valued at about $13 billion when it went public in 2019.

The company is at a crossroads after co-founder Evan Sharp announced last week he would step down as chief creative officer to join LoveFrom, a firm led by Jony Ive, the designer of many Apple Inc products.

Sharp founded the online scrapbook and photo-sharing platform with Ben Silbermann, who is the San Francisco, California-based company’s chief executive officer, and Paul Sciarra, who left in 2012.

PayPal had been looking to boost its e-commerce offerings in recent years through acquisitions. It bought online coupon finder Honey Science in 2019 for $4 billion and Japanese buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) firm Paidy for $2.7 billion earlier this year. It acquired return-service provider Happy Returns in May.

SOCIAL MEDIA-DRIVEN COMMERCE

Social media platforms that have not pursued mergers with fintech firms have been working on ways to allow consumers to buy directly from their platforms.

TikTok, for example, is testing a way for users to buy products directly on its short video app. It has partnered with ecommerce giant Shopify and in August began allowing retail brands to link their product catalogs to the app.

Analysts said the PayPal-Pinterest deal talks highlight the potential for other social media and fintech companies to join forces to capture swaths of the e-commerce market.

“Social/interactive commerce is growing in the United States and no one has won it yet. So rather than going against Amazon, PayPal is making a bet on a different kind of shopping model,” said Marketplace Pulse e-commerce analyst Joe Kaziukėnas.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis and Arriana McLymore in New York; Additional reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru and Krystal Hu and Sheila Dang in New York; Writing by Anirban Sen; Editing by Maju Samuel and Richard Chang)

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Facebook ‘planning to rebrand company’ with new name – Al Jazeera English

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CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at its annual conference on October 28, but it could be sooner.

Social media giant Facebook Inc is planning to rebrand itself with a new name next week, American technology blog the Verge reported on Tuesday, citing a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg plans to talk about the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28, but it could be unveiled sooner, the Verge reported.

In response, Facebook said it does not comment on “rumour or speculation”.

The news comes at a time when the company is facing increasing government scrutiny in the United States over its business practices.

Legislators from both parties have excoriated the company, illustrating the rising anger in Congress with Facebook.

‘A metaverse company’

The rebranding would position Facebook’s social media app as one of many products under a parent company, which will also oversee groups like Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and more, the Verge report added.

It is not uncommon in Silicon Valley for companies to change their names as they bid to expand their services.

Google established Alphabet Inc as a holding company in 2015 to expand beyond its search and advertising businesses, to oversee various other ventures ranging from its autonomous vehicle unit and health technology to providing internet services in remote areas.

The move to rebrand will also reflect Facebook’s focus on building the so-called metaverse, an online world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment, according to the report.

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and intends to connect its nearly three billion users through several devices and apps. On Tuesday, the company announced plans to create 10,000 jobs in the European Union over the next five years to help build the metaverse.

Zuckerberg has been talking up metaverse since July when he said that the key to Facebook’s future lies with the metaverse concept – the idea that users will live, work and exercise inside a virtual universe. The company’s Oculus virtual reality headsets and service are an instrumental part of realizing that vision.

“In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “In many ways, the metaverse is the ultimate expression of social technology.”

The buzzy word, first coined in a dystopian novel three decades earlier, has been referenced by other tech firms such as Microsoft.

The Verge report said a possible name for the company could have something to do with Horizon. Recently, Facebook renamed its in-development VR gaming platform named ‘Horizon’’to “Horizon Worlds”.

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Apple's voice-only Music subscription could boost Siri's accent understanding – TechCrunch

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Apple had a slew of interesting announcements at its event on Monday. But one that stood out to me — and I feel didn’t get as much attention — is the new pricing tier of Apple Music. A new “Voice” tier will offer the entire Apple Music library to subscribers at a reduced rate of just $5 per month: The catch is you have to use Siri to access it, eschewing the standard Apple Music visual and typing-friendly in-app user interface.

Apple didn’t share why it is launching this plan, but I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the iPhone-maker is lowering the price barrier and persuading more people to use Siri because it wants to gather more voice data to train and improve its voice assistant.

“We’re excited that even more people will be able to enjoy Apple Music simply with their voice,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said at the event.

I can’t imagine any other compelling reason why the Apple Music Voice plan exists, especially since Apple is likely offering the new service with much lower margins than the standard plan, as the licensing agreements with labels remain the same to offer up the entire Apple Music catalog.

Again, this is just speculation, but I think given the stiff competition between Apple and Spotify, if the Swedish firm could offer its streaming service at $7-8 a month to beat Apple Music at price, it would. And Apple is taking some loss with the new subscription tier because it really wants to gather vast amounts of data. When I tweeted this theory, my colleague Alex wondered aloud why wouldn’t Apple just make the subscription free? I suppose Apple, a $2.5 trillion company, can technically swallow that much of a hit on the balance sheet, but it doesn’t want to attract more criticism from standalone music streaming firms such as Spotify. It’s already facing scrutiny for anti-competitive behavior on a number of fronts.

Tech firms feed their AI models with vast amounts of data to improve the services’ capabilities. Even as Siri has considerably improved over the years, the general consensus among many people who work in tech and the masses alike is that Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are far superior.

It’s likely that Apple has already been gleaning such voice data from existing Apple Music users, but as a friend suggested, “the point is this — this feature always existed. It’s just that they’d put a high paywall. They’ve lowered that wall now.” In addition to lowering the barrier to entry, making Music voice-only via the new plan means people have to engage with Siri to make use of it; Siri is a feature for standard Apple Music subscribers, but it’s highly likely that most users primarily or exclusively access the content via the app’s UI.

If you want an example of what can happen to voice-powered assistants when you require that users treat it as a voice-first or voice-only service, look at Amazon’s Alexa. Out of the gate, Alexa had to be accessed by voice. This allowed Amazon to not only collect massive amounts of training data for its Alexa algorithms, but also helped train users about how to use it to maximum effect.

Understanding accents and dialects

Another reason why I think my theory works is the markets where Apple plans to offer this new subscription tier first: Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Having India, Spain, Ireland and France in the first wave of nations suggests that Apple is looking to amass a wide-range of dialects and accents from across the globe. On a side note, voice search is very popular in many markets, including developing nations such as India, and in markets like China and Japan where text input can sometimes be unnecessarily complex versus spoken word. (A Google executive told me once that the surprising mass adoption of voice searches in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market and where Android commands about 98% of the pie, helped the company improve Google Assistant and prompted more aggressive approach to innovate on the voice front.)

Siri is often framed as a bit of a laggard in terms of its competence versus the rest of the voice assistant competition, and Apple’s latest move in services could be an attempt to help it close the perceived gap, while offering customers a discounted way to onboard to its music streaming service.

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