It's just a runty iPad, but the new iPad mini somehow manages to establish its very own identity. I've been using the latest from Apple for a week now and I have to say: This little guy may be small but he performs big.
When the first iPad launched two years ago, people joked that it was just a big fat iPod Touch. And they were right, it basically was. But it was unique at the same time. So unique in fact that it became the industry standard for tablet computers. And the fastest selling consumer electronics device in history.
Likewise, the iPad mini is just a smaller iPad -- but it's such a cozy little device that it gives you the feeling of holding the Internet in your hands with an intimacy that the Mama iPad simply doesn't provide.
With the launch of the iPad mini, Apple is looking to sell to users who wouldn't otherwise own an iPad but want one, luring them in with the smaller form factor, lower price, and stunning hardware.
A brief history of the iPad
The 7-inch iPad mini is the kid brother of three full-sized models. Here are Apple's iPad releases since its debut in 2010:
At 7.8 inches, the mini is much lighter and more portable than the original 9.7-inch iPad. I don't usually feel burdened by my iPad but some users complain that it is too heavy to read in bed with, and it certainly isn't sized for a purse. The mini fits nicely in my man purse, but I'm speaking for the ladies here as well. The iPad mini is far more lady-purse friendly!
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Hands-on with Apple's iPad Mini
Using the mini with one hand opens new possibilities: reading books and articles while holding a pole on the bus or subway, for example. Or browsing the web while enjoying a nice warm cup of coffee, perhaps. One-handed reading is a cozy habit that is precluded if you use a larger iPad.
The 7-inch screen allows for easy thumb typing in portrait mode, although I didn't really enjoy typing in landscape. My hands are a little too big for that. You know what they say about a man with large hands? It's hard to type on 7-inch tablets, of course!
Despite the cheaper price, the iPad mini doesn't feel cheap. Quite the opposite. When I picked it up, I was reminded of the first time I held a first-generation iPhone. It feels sturdy. Hand-crafted. Expertly made.
As for apps, by now most users are familiar with the variety in the App Store. There are hundreds of thousands of apps that were designed for the iPad which scale down beautifully for the mini's smaller screen. Even iPhone apps that never looked quite right on an iPad look less awkward on the smaller device.
After a few days I started to prefer the mini to my larger iPad despite its lack of a Retina screen. It even made my larger iPad look old fashioned. Awkwardly large. The mini is fast, impressively light -- weighing in at just over 10 ounces -- and easy to keep with me at all times. The only thing I don't enjoy as much with the mini is watching videos. It seems the crystal-clear Retina display in the newer (and larger) iPads has spoiled me.
The iPad mini comes with a 5-megapixel camera on the back and an HD camera in front, which is great for FaceTime chats. It also comes in both Wi-Fi and LTE configurations with plans on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.
To get your hands on an iPad mini you'll pay $129 more than you will for Google's Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD. Apple no doubt wants to compete with those 7-inch tablets -- so why did the company price its offering above these competitors?
Because Apple can.
Those tablets don't have the complete experience that the iPad does. Come on: The iPad is still the gold standard for tablet computing after all. With stellar hardware and hundreds of thousands of apps, the iPad is the Kleenex of facial tissue. The Tivo of DVRs. It has all the perks of using an iOS device: AppStore, iMessages, FaceTime, etc.
It's the iPad. Just runtier.