I Have Seen the Future of the iPad and It Is Mini

I love my iPad, but I have long grumbled about its weight. When you pick up a 10″ iPad, you know you have picked it up. At 651 grams, it’s a hefty device. I’ve always found it a bit too heavy for reading, and the 207 gram Kindle Touch is much more comfortable to hold, and its smaller screen is not a problem when reading books.

In the article I linked to above from July, 2012, I explained why I wanted a 7″ iPad. I use my iPad for consuming media and playing games, not for creating. The larger display doesn’t add anything for me, and the extra weight makes it a bit of a drag.

When I got my iPad mini yesterday (which finally has a 7.9″ screen), I realized that this is the iPad I had been waiting for all along. Not only is it smaller and lighter, but it’s thinness makes it feel like a totally different device. The lack of heft means that you pick it up easily, with less strain and gravitas than the heavier iPad. At 304 grams, it’s less than half the weight of the full-sized iPad, and, while it’s not that much thinner (7.2 mm compared to 9.4 mm), the difference is notable.

Following some of my fellow tech writers on Twitter yesterday, they all had good things to say about the iPad mini. It’s cute, it’s easier to type with two thumbs, and it’s much better for reading than the Kindle Paperwhite (the backlit Kindle) because the light is more even.

There are a couple of things that could be improved on the iPad mini. First, the display could be better. It’s better than the iPad 2, but not as good as the retina display of the iPad 3 and 4. This said, it’s fine for reading, even if the fonts aren’t as crisp as one might like. Apple most likely decided to forgo the retina display so they have a feature they can add to new year’s model, and I think this is a shame.

Second, everything on the iPad mini is just as it is on the full-sized iPad, but scaled down. I think that the interface could be re-designed so icons are a bit larger, and interface texts a few points bigger. There’s room to do this, but it does mean a different version of the interface than the standard iPad. Many interface elements have small fonts, which would be more readable at a slightly bigger size.

The iPad mini, which you can hold in one hand if you have large enough hands (as I do), is the right size and weight for usage on the go. It’s a portable iPad (sure, the large iPad is portable, but lug it around in your backpack, together with the rest of your everyday belongings, and you notice the weight). And it’s the future.

I will gladly predict that the iPad mini will become the standard iPad, and that, in the future, we’ll look back on the early full-sized iPads with a smirk, the way we look back at the first portable computers. If you already have an iPad, go check out the mini. If you don’t have either, compare the two. You’ll see that, unless you want to use the iPad to create – to work on images or videos, for example – there’s no reason to buy the bigger model. The iPad mini is really just right.

Note: See this post for some observations on color differences between the iPad mini and the iPad 3.

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8 replies
  1. Bryan Schmiedeler says:

    Kirk,

    I couldn’t agree more. Bought my wife one last night (we are trading in her iPad 3) and she was VERY happy.

    Reply
  2. David Toub says:

    I think you’re right but in some ways, the future of the laptop is the full-sized iPad. I have been using my 1st-gen as a MBP replacement for short trips overseas and it’s much easier to type on than my iPhone (on which I’m typing this). I’ve also gotten to love watching movies and reading Kindle books on it, which I used to do on my iPhone. I had been interested in the Mini, but opted for the iPad 4 when I looked at the price/performance ratio.

    With the non-retina display and the same CPU as my iPhone 4S, I’d probably be disappointed come next year when a mini comes out with a better display and CPU. As the original iPad won’t run iOS 6 and is considered EOL by Apple, I give the current Mini two years before it’s done, which seems a shame.

    If I only used an iPad for consuming content, it might make sense, although it’s still pricey for a 32 GB model. But as a laptop replacement, which is where I think the iPad 4 is heading, that makes more sense to me. My 32GB Verizon model should be here later this month.

    Reply
  3. yet another steve says:

    I think you’re wrong that retina display was held back just for something to add next year. I think manufacturing the displays at that size and density would be very difficult. Word is that manufacturing the current display is responsible for supply constraints. And the iPhone 5 might use the assumed pixel density for an iPad mini with retina, but it’s a much smaller screen.

    There’s also the issue of system balance… driving a retina display means pushing around 4X the number of pixels, which means you really want the latest Apple A6X.

    Had Apple gone this way, you’d have a situation where its costs in manufacturing the iPad mini would probably be HIGHER than the full sized iPad 4.

    I doubt that many people really wanted an iPad mini that cost as much or more as its big brother. If anything, it seems that a lot of people want Apple to cut corners and get the price under $300.

    Reply
  4. John Francini says:

    I do not understand the constant drumbeat of “make it smaller, make it smaller, make it smaller”. For me, the standard iPad 3/4 is the perfect size — close enough to that of an 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper or a standard-sized magazine. And, with older eyes (I’m 52), the larger screen, especially with Retina resolution, is a godsend.

    Then again, I prefer full-size hardbound books to trade-size paperbacks, and trade-size paperback books to high-volume paperbacks.

    And my Mac Pro has a 25″ monitor. I prefer to consume and create digital information on the largest screens I can.

    There is room in the Apple product universe for the full-sized iPad as well as the iPad mini.

    Not everyone on the planet is a hipster 20-30 something that has 20/10 eyesight and revels in being able to read 5-point type on really tiny screens on devices that weigh less than an ounce.

    Oh yes — if you haven’t noticed, the average age of US citizens is rising. Soon (if not already) more people will have presbyopia and various other vision problems than people who wont.

    Reply
    • kirk says:

      So you’re saying that I’m a “hipster 20-30 something?” Nice try, but I’m on the other side of 50, and need reading glasses too.

      Reply
      • John Francini says:

        Judging from the other comments here, I think that part of my point is confirmed: there’s room in the market for both sizes. Actually, I wouldn’t mind if there was an iPad ‘maxi’, which had the same size and form factor of a legal-sized sheet of paper.

        (I was very upset to see that Apple discontinued the 17″ MacBook Pro when the 15″ Retina MBP came out; I really value immense amounts of screen real-estate.)

        Reply
  5. Sheldon says:

    I have had both the IPAD 2 and 3 and went to see the Mini yesterday. Bottom line – I love using my IPAD and use it all the time. However after playing with the Mini, I have come to believe that the Mini is a preferred product. While it blows away competition, from a user perspective I prefer it to the IPAD. The size weight etc etc are better. It’s screen is the IPAD 2 and that’s fine for the initial release. I believe APPLE Mgt realizes this and that is why the product has its pricing. Apple does not want to give it away and wants to maintain its margins as the volumes grow. I also believe, the next Mini will have the more advanced screen and that the just released mini will then be lowered to around $250. At that price point, competition would be killed, and they would then have a full line of IPADs at $250 IPAD Mini regular screen, $329 IPAD mini better screen, $399 IPAD 2, $499 New large IPAD.

    Reply
  6. Mark says:

    I think your argument is full of holes. Why would you assume that it is an either/or situation, because it’s not? These devices will serve two distinct purposes, I can’t see me trying to create the documents I do on a Mini.

    Apple doesn’t compete with Apple. They don’t create products to compete with other offerings, they never have since Steve came back. I see the iPad Mini as a reader or POS (Point of Sale) device. As was mentioned in other articles, doctors will become early adopters since it passes the lab coat test. It could also be valuable to emergency services for the same reason, but it won’t be a laptop replacement.

    As an adult educator, I could see using one to teach from, but that will be difficult to justify since I already have a full sized iPad that is nearly always connected to one hand or the other.

    It will serve some purposes fine and others not so well, just like its larger sibling. Your article fails to accept that.

    Reply

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