Does the world need a newer, smaller iPad that’s practically the same price as the existing iPad 2? I mean, looking at it on paper, the iPad mini uses the same hardware as the iPad 2 — the same processor, same amount of RAM, same screen resolution — and it’s only $70 less expensive. Why would consumers choose this over the iPad 2 or even a regular iPad? The answer is immediately obvious from the moment you pick up the iPad mini.
Apple (AAPL) isn’t a stranger to methodically dominating different areas of the tech industry. First with the iPod, then with the iPhone, and now with the iPad. The strategy of refinement while broadening the company’s product line very slowly is executed with succinct precision every time. Compromises have to be made in order to push a product category further and further. To make smaller iPods, Apple offered very little storage compared to the original iPod, and it wasn’t that much less expensive. But it also was mostly responsible for Apple’s complete takeover of the media player market and it allowed the company to keep pushing the boundaries of what a media player was supposed to be.
The iPad mini follows the same strategy, though not exactly. Instead of offering less storage, the iPad mini is on par with the other iPad models. It also uses the exact internals of the existing iPad 2, so it’s on the same level there. In fact, because the display is smaller and the resolution the same, it’s crisper and sharper than the iPad 2.
It’s also thinner and lighter than anything you could imagine, and it feels like you’re holding a slab of aluminum and glass in yours hands, which you are. It only shaves $70 off the price of an iPad 2, but this isn’t because Apple wants to gouge people. It’s because the company doesn’t think it needs to compete in a race to the bottom, and because the iPad mini is not inexpensive to manufacturer since it’s a quality product.
The major difference between an iPad and an iPad mini is that the size, weight and thinness can dramatically change how you use this device. It’s half as light as the iPad (third- and fourth-generation) and thinner than the iPhone 5. I have found myself carrying my iPad mini with me everywhere I go. In the car, to a friend’s house, to my office… it’s perfect. It adds practically no weight to your bag and it makes sense to have a smaller device especially when you already have a computer.
The iPad could be considered a computer replacement. In fact, it is in various homes around the world. The iPad mini could be as well since it offers the same experience that the iPad does, but as an additional device it’s just perfect.
Imagine travelling… you’d take your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and your iPad. But you’re carrying a large tablet with a large screen just to use in situations when you don’t want to use your laptop. The iPad mini is a perfect companion in that scenario. It’s better suited to use in cozier settings because of the size. You don’t get fatigued holding it in one hand while reading or using it in bed, or on the sofa. You also hold it closer to you due to the smaller screen, which to me results in a more personal experience with your content and what you’re doing.
If there is one downside to the iPad mini, it’s certainly the display — though it’s relative. Most people will not know or mind that the display isn’t the same pixel density as the larger iPad. In fact, most won’t even know what that means.
If you’re coming from an original iPad or iPad 2, the iPad mini’s screen will blow you away. If you’re used to the latest iPad, it certainly feels like a step backwards at first, but you do get used to it. The screen itself is very high quality, offering up great colors, black levels, contrast and brightness. There is no doubt Apple will eventually include a Retina display on the iPad mini, though it’s not clear when, as it would offer even higher pixel density than the fourth-generation iPad due to the smaller screen size.
As far as the design identity of the iPad mini, it makes the third- and fourth-generation iPads look old. With its chamfered edges and thinner bezel, this iPad looks amazing. Especially compared to the competition. It just makes other tablets around the same size look outdated, cheap, and well, cheap.
While using an iPad in public to take photos happens, and I cringe each time I see it, Apple has included great cameras on the iPad mini. The same camera that’s in the latest iPad is in the iPad mini, and it takes solid pictures. The front camera is also high quality — it’s a FaceTime HD camera at 1.2 megapixels and is capable of 720p video capture.
Battery life has been absolutely amazing on the iPad mini. I used it for two days straight — literally non-stop usage except when I was sleeping — before I even needed to charge it, and it still had battery life left when I did. The battery also charges very quickly even with the included 5W charger, though you’re able to use the larger iPad charger for an even quicker charge.
At the end of the day, Apple’s model of constant refinement and carefully planned expansion of its iPad product lineup has resulted in the best iPad yet. This is the real iPad — the one meant to be taken everywhere with you, the one that’s simplest to read and use, the one that’s impossibly thin and light, and the one to buy.
Most people will likely pick this over the larger iPad and I expect it to be Apple’s best-selling iPad ever. It has completely changed the dynamic of the iPad line, where the iPad becomes a speciality purchase for a specific need, and the iPad mini is the iPad people buy without giving it a second thought.
Apple is selling a Wi-Fi model and LTE model, though the LTE version doesn’t ship for another couple of weeks and it’s an additional $130, but it’s well worth it if you’re always on the go.