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Apple Stealthily Releases iPad Mini with Retina Display

Apple has quietly released the iPad mini with retina display, making it available on its online stores in a number of countries.

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I have not yet heard of it being on sale in Apple retail stores; it’s possible that it will be available in very limited quantities. It is thought that Apple is proceeding with this soft launch because of production problems, leading to a very small number of the units available. As you can see from the shipping times in the US Apple online store, it’s not available right away:

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So if you want an iPad mini with retina display, it may not be easy to get a hold of. Check your country’s online Apple store and order now, or wait until Apple gets its production up.

For what it’s worth, I’m happy with my iPad Air, and don’t plan to buy an iPad mini with retina display. I do, however, have a 16 GB iPad mini first generation for sale, if anyone’s interested…

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Further Thoughts About the iPad Air: Should You Upgrade?

On Friday, when I got my iPad Air, I wrote some first impressions about the device. I’ve now had the Air for a full weekend, which included an overnight trip (to see yet another Shakespeare play), where I brought the Air to have something to read in my hotel. I’ve had time to get to know the iPad Air, and it’s time to share some more thoughts on this new tablet. I’ll also make some suggestions about whether you should upgrade to this new model.

First, the iPad Air is fast; as Jason Snell says at Macworld, it’s the Fastest iOS device ever. (You should follow Jason’s iPad Air diary: I find myself in agreement with most of what he says.) But that speed is not an issue. I’ve never felt that the iPad was slow, and I don’t see a speed bump as a reason to upgrade to a new model. However, if you have an old iPad – say the first or second generation – and you play demanding games, you may find the speed necessary to keep up with the latest apps.

002.pngAs for storage, there’s nothing new about the iPad Air. Apple had been offering a 128 GB iPad since February of this year; the iPad Air doesn’t exceed that amount of storage. Personally, this is the first iPad I’ve gotten with more than the base 16 GB. I don’t use my iPad to store large files; while I’ve taken videos with me on trips, to pass the time traveling on trains and planes, I’ve not had to worry about having enough episodes of Breaking Bad to tide me over. I’ve always been able to download videos either from the iTunes Store, or from my Dropbox folder, when needed, over Wi-Fi.

But what changed my mind this time was the fact that I have a number of apps and enhanced ebooks that take up a lot of space, and I’ve been finding the need, at times, to delete some items to add new ones. For example, Touch Press’s wonderful The Sonnets by William Shakespeare and The Liszt Sonata take up 1.5 GB and 637 MB respectively. And I’ve bought a number of books that are as much as 1 GB each.

General apps are getting bigger too. I don’t put all these apps on my iPad, but as you can see in the screenshot to the left, at several hundred megabytes per app, a 16 GB iPad – which really only has about 13 GB in free space – will quickly get cramped. (And that’s without music; I don’t put much music on my iPad.) Add to that the amount of space taken up by magazines – 100 – 200 MB per issue of The New Yorker, and a couple hundred MB per issue of Macworld – and the space fills up pretty quickly. Also, with the larger display, I’m likely to subscribe to other magazines, so I will need the extra space.

While I was busy this weekend, I did have some down time to read in my hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The iPad Air was very comfortable, lightweight, and with a crisp retina display, making reading much easier than my iPad mini (without a retina display). I’m sold by the larger display size, and, while the pixel density is a bit lower than the iPhone – 264 ppi for the iPad Air, compared to 326 ppi for the iPhone 5s – I don’t notice the difference. (It’s worth noting that the iPad mini retina will be the same pixel density as the iPhone.)

So, after a weekend with the iPad Air, I’m convinced it was a good choice. Should you upgrade? If you have an older iPad – especially a pre-retina display model – I’d say definitely. If you need more storage than your current iPad, then it’s a good time to upgrade and get a lighter device at the same time. And if you’re using a full-sized iPad and your arm aches, then you should definitely switch. If, however, you’re using an iPad mini, and the lack of a retina display doesn’t bother you, then you don’t need to upgrade. Or, if you absolutely want a smaller device, wait for the new iPad mini with retina display.

Bear in mind that iPads have good resale value. If you don’t have a family member or partner to hand yours down to, you’ll find it pretty easy to sell on eBay, Amazon or to a friend or co-worker.

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The iPad mini is a Book; the iPad Air is a Magazine

I wrote about my first impressions of the iPad Air yesterday, and posted that article about two hours after I got the Air. Later, I posted an update, saying:

new-yorker.png“Aside from the use of the iPad as a content creation device, which is not my use case, it seems to me that the full-sized iPad is a magazine and the iPad mini a book. You may disagree, but the size of the iPad Air, to me, makes reading magazines much easier. I can still read books comfortably – and surf the web, answer email, scan Twitter – but I find the iPad mini a bit small for non-responsive layout magazines, such as The New Yorker.”

This, to me, is the biggest difference between the two devices. Jason Snell, writing at Macworld, corroborated my thoughts, saying:

“In my past year as an iPad mini user, there were two kinds of reading that I basically stopped doing on my tablet: digital editions of print magazines and comic books. These are both formats that just work better with a larger screen, because everything is larger. The iPad Air’s screen is simply closer to the intended page size of those periodicals than that of the iPad mini.”

And that, to me, is the key difference between the two devices. Notwithstanding any type of content creation, or the mere desire to have a bigger display for reading web pages or playing games, the iPad Air, for me, is ideal for reading magazines; the iPad mini still shines as a book-reading device. Naturally, I use my iPad for more than just that, but, like Jason, I had stopped reading magazines on the iPad mini, because they were too small.

Looks like it’s time to catch up with those back issues of The New Yorker

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Comparing Colors Between the iPad Air and iPad Mini

Earlier today, I posted my first impressions of the iPad Air. I like it a lot. But I noticed something: in comparison with my iPad mini, the colors are different. The blues are much bluer, and the reds seem a bit more muted. It’s hard to see it in a photo, but here’s one I shot of the two next to each other:

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To my eye – both when I look at the iPad Air, and when I look at the above photo – the different in the blue is obvious, but the red less so. I don’t have any other iPads to test, but I did publish a post last year, comparing the iPad 3 to the iPad mini. Have a look at those photos, which looked more at the difference in whites than other colors.

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iWant: Dvorak Keyboard Layout on iOS Devices

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I use a Dvorak keyboard layout on my computers; you know, the one that has a more logical layout than QWERTY. I’ve been using it since I became a freelancer in 1996: at that time, I realized that I needed to learn to touch-type, and did some research about keyboard layouts.

But when I use my iPod touch, I have to use that darned QUERTY layout. Why can’t Apple provide a Dvorak layout for their mobile devices? It’d probably be pretty useful, actually, since, with all the vowels on the left side, you tend to go from hand to hand more often, and you’d go from thumb to thumb.

And with the iPad, it would be a boon to be able to touch type rather than hunt and peck. I know I can use an external Bluetooth keyboard, but that defeats the purpose. Please, Apple, start including a Dvorak keyboard layout on iOS.

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iPad Air: First Impressions

iPad-Air.pngI recently wrote about my hesitation as to whether I would buy an iPad Air or an iPad mini with retina display. Since I had gotten an iPad mini, I was convinced that the smaller form factor was the future of the iPad. Part of that reason was the weight; the previous full-sized iPad was much heavier than the iPad mini. Nevertheless, I longed for the retina display of my iPad 3.

I went to my local Apple dealer (Stormfront, York, an Apple premium reseller), and tried out the iPad Air. When I picked it up, I knew that I was going to switch back to a bigger screen. It’s heavier than the mini, but not enough to make a difference. (And that was comparing it to the current iPad mini; the iPad mini with retina display will be 23 g heavier.)

When I took it out of the box, it certainly felt heftier than my iPad mini, but not by that much that it will bother me (I hope). I’m currently restoring it from the latest backup of my iPad mini, and I’ll be able to have a better idea what it’s like in an hour or so.

This time, I bought a 32 GB model. I don’t put a lot of stuff on my iPad, but I’ve got a few apps that are 1 GB or more – such as this The Sonnets by William Shakespeare – and I would rather not have to delete and reload apps when I want to use them.

I also bought a smart cover. I had one with the original iPad, and found it quite ingenious. I never bought one for the iPad mini, because it didn’t need it; and I found a good pouch that was sufficient, and much cheaper. But I’m going to see if I can do some of my writing on the iPad Air, and the smart cover doubles as a stand, so it will be useful.

So if you’ve been hesitating, check out the iPad Air. You may find, as I did, that it’s not that much heavier than the iPad mini. If you want the bigger display, then it’s a good choice.

Update: Since I wrote this article, I’ve been setting up my iPad Air – I had some problems getting music to sync, but it’s sorted out now – and I’ve come to the following conclusion. Aside from the use of the iPad as a content creation device, which is not my use case, it seems to me that the full-sized iPad is a magazine and the iPad mini a book. You may disagree, but the size of the iPad Air, to me, makes reading magazines much easier. I can still read books comfortably – and surf the web, answer email, scan Twitter – but I find the iPad mini a bit small for non-responsive layout magazines, such as The New Yorker.

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iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina Display? Good Reasons for Either

I’ve owned iPads since the first model was released. Back in April, 2010, I wrote about the first iPad, saying, “The device itself is very attractive, easy to hold, but it’s heavy. I can’t see using this while standing in the subway, or even using it for a long time without being able to rest it on something.”

What I didn’t write then, but thought, was that it wouldn’t be long before the first iPad would seem clunky. Seeing the current iPad models, and especially the new iPad Air, it’s clear that the iPad has made big leaps in just three and a half years.

So, with the new models on the horizon, which to choose? Just under a year ago, I wrote, I Have Seen the Future of the iPad and It Is Mini. When I took my iPad mini out of its box, I was immediately sold. I said, “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.”

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But, now, with the iPad Air weighing as little as it does – 469 g, or 1.03 lbs – it’s tempting to consider getting a larger screen. Most of my iPad use is reading: books and magazines. It would be nice to read the New Yorker on a larger screen, as you can’t change the font size, and web pages will be easier to read as well.

Interestingly, the iPad Air and iPad mini have the same number of pixels. This means two things: first, the iPad mini will be crisper than the iPad Air, with 326 ppi compared to 264 ppi for the iPad Air. But it also means that the iPad mini is simply a smaller screen, where everything will be scaled down from what the iPad Air displays. Those fonts in the New Yorker magazine app; they’ll be the same number of pixels, but will look smaller on the iPad mini.

As much as I like the smaller size of the mini, the lighter weight of the iPad Air may sway me. I’m looking forward to holding both of them in my hands to see if the difference in size or weight is an issue. It is for the current iPads I own: my iPad 3 is much heavier than the iPad mini (which gains 23 g on the previous model). But with the new models, the iPad Air will only be 138 g heavier than the iPad mini. That might not be so much.

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iOS 7 is Coming: Back Up Your iOS Device

With iOS 7 due for release today, it’s time to do something that you should do often: back up your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Whenever you install a new operating system, whether on a computer or a mobile device, there is a risk of problems which could cause data loss.

It’s easy to back up an iOS device, and it’s just as easy to restore that backup if something goes wrong. Connect your iOS device to your computer, and launch iTunes, if it doesn’t launch automatically. Click on the device, or click on the Devices button in iTunes, then choose that device. On the Summary screen, you’ll see the following:

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Click on This Computer, then click on Back Up Now. If you generally back up your iOS device to iCloud, switch it to This Computer for now. An iCloud backup is great to have if you’re on the road and need to restore an iOS device, but a local backup is much quicker. The backup won’t take long, and you’ll be safe in case of any problems when you update to iOS 7.

If you don’t sync and back up your iOS device regularly, try and remember to do so in the future; it protects you against losing data, but also your settings and home screens. It’s a quick, painless process, so don’t forget to do it often.

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