The iPad Air is a fine device for a number of things - but you might not necessarily think that calling is one of them. But with the addition of Facetime Audio, and the improved Facetime HD camera, this is a great device for when you're marooned in a hotel room and desperate to say goodnight to your child / cat / favourite potato.
The camera on the front of the iPad, a 1.2MP option, shows your whole face very nicely, with a detailed level of sharpness. Of course, it depends on your internet connection as to whether this detail is transmitted to the person on the other end of the call, but it's a great way to keep in touch with other iUsers.
And with Facetime Audio now an option, you can have free voice calls with other enabled users thanks to VOIP technology. Once in the app you can set up your favourite people as instant contacts to call - and helpfully they can also be set to call through voice or video by default.
While there aren't that many other ways to talk to people over the iPad Air, the Contacts app is still obviously on board, giving access to all the people you've spoken to and saved over the years. However, be careful when adding accounts, as you'll likely have a few on there and it's very easy to have information from Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail and iCloud all jostling for position in your list, as well as those from Facebook too.
It's not as easy as on Android to change these though, as you'll need to jump into the external Settings app once more to check the right boxes. However, when this is done things are nice and simple, showing the friends you've saved as well as their Facebook picture (or other that you've tagged) if you've linked the accounts.
However, here's an issue we're not sure why Apple hasn't fixed as yet: contact linking is nigh-on impossible unless you drill right down through the editing menu. You can pull all manner of social network account info into a contact card, but when adding the names in you're not going to link to the right person unless you're exact with your spelling.
It's confusing as to why your contact lists aren't pulled from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and more when you're trying to perform this task, but it's very diffucult to tag people together, which is irritating when you want pictures to go alongside each name.
While it can be hard to find the people you want (or at least have all the social networks linked) messaging on the iPad is a much better experience. There's iMessage and the decent inbuilt email app on offer as standard, and the variety of other chat apps you can download is mind blowing.
iMessage remains a slightly confusing app in that it can pull in information on your phone number and email addresses and use these to connect to other users - however, this isn't always accurate when you're trying to share details and can result in people trying to contact you in the wrong way. It's better than it is on the iPhone, which has texting to worry about too, but it's never the most reliable system to set up in our eyes.
Thankfully, the Mail app is a lot better, with a wide and expansive view that makes full use of the screen size. You get a decent column down one side to see all your missives, and a gentle swipe across allows you to move or edit the mail or send it to the trash can.
On top of that, emails are grouped together nicely when in conversation flow, email folders are easy to use and you can have all your messages in one inbox, even with a variety of accounts being used.
We also like the VIP setting, allowing you to tag only your boss and colleagues, so you know when to panic should you see a mail arriving there.
The Apple keyboard on the iPad Air is an odd experience. Not because it's inaccurate or poor to use - far from it, we found that we could get up quite a speed thanks to the larger keys - but because of that strange plastic thud when you strike the screen each time. It's most off-putting, and lacks the quiet rigidity the early (and much weightier) iPads used to offer.
However, we do like the keyboard, as it's easy to split and move, which is great for both portrait and landscape use - it's nothing Earth-shattering, but it's features like this that open up the scope of the iPad so much.