About my iPad Mini

On November 2nd, when the iPad Mini was launched worldwide, I was, together with Robert, one of the first people in Romania to own one. The nice guys at the store hadn’t even unpacked them, so Robert kindly unboxed his in front of them. Me, I unboxed it at home together with my wife.

I’ve owned an iPad 1 since April 2010, which I later sold in february 2012 in order to get an iPad 2. One month later, the iPad 3 came along and I got it as well. I now have the last 3 generations of iPads: iPad 2, iPad 3(retina) and the iPad Mini. I also own a Blackberry Playbook which I gifted to my father and a Kindle 4th gen. All this bragging so you understand that I’m not a tablet noob :)

About my Mini

The iPad mini is the best looking of the bunch, the lightest and cutest. People tell you it’s light but you really can’t imagine just how light it is until you hold it: 308 grams, almost double the small Kindle or the iPhone 4S – but, because it’s so slim and has a larger surface, it feels considerably lighter. Mine is the white model, which makes it feel even more weightless.

The form factor is great. I loved the comfort of holding the Playbook in one hand, and the Mini takes this to the next level. First of all, because Mini feels, as I said, weightless. Then, because Mini feels like almost entirely screen – the slim slide bezels make it more immersive – it doesn’t feel like holding a Tablet, the way I did with the Playbook, but rather like a Kindle – you get immersed in the content, instead of feeling the object around it.

The screen is (according to what people write online) exactly the same as in the iPhone 3GS. It looks different than the one in the iPad 1 or iPad 2, it’s brighter, and compared to the retina screen it feels a bit blurry for a second when your eyes try to adapt to reading small text on a white background. Still, it’s just for a second and only for this use case. When moving around the homepage, going inside apps, playing games or watching movies, you get used to it quickly and no longer notice anything different – everything feels extremely natural.

Speed-wise I couldn’t tell any difference from iPad 2 or 3 – since they share similar specs.

Why I think you should buy the Mini

Just as with my first iPad, it was hard at first to justify it. After all, I did have a computer for serious stuff and an iPhone for games on the go. But, slowly, the iPad got its place in my life and family, and we ended up fighting over who has it when browsing, playing, reading recipes in the kitchen or looking something up online before going to sleep. Two iPads solved this conflict but introduced others: compared to the iPad 3, the iPad 2 had a longer-lasting battery, was thinner and lighter and more comfortable to hold, and charged faster. On the other hand, the iPad 3 was incredible for reading anything, but as downsides it was heavier, thicker and also got hot when playing resource-hungry games.

In my Singapore+Bali+Gili trip I had taken the iPad 2 with me – its being lighter and faster to charge made it better suited for traveling. It was a good decision, and after a bit I no longer missed my gorgeous retina iPad at home. Now, if I were to go on a similar adventure anytime soon, my choice would be iPad Mini all the way. Its smaller size and lightness make it the perfect traveling companion. It’s easier to pack and store safely (no need for big protection covers while in the backpack, just store it inside the travel guide book); it’s also faster to charge than the iPad retina, and the battery seems to last at least as long. It’s also easier to hold, while just walking around. Plus, it can be stored in the inner pocket of most jackets and even in the back pocket of some jeans (not the best idea when you’re traveling, but it helps when you need your hands free).

When at home, I find myself waiting for my wife to be busy so I can watch movies on the Mini (streamed from my laptop using AirVideo ). I carry it with me around the house, so I don’t need to pause my movie when going to the kitchen for coffee or drinking it on the balcony.

Like I wrote above, it’s kind of hard to explain why you should get one. The difference between the Mini and the regular size iPad is similar to the one between the iPad and the laptop – they do similar things, but because one of them is lighter and smaller, it’s just quicker to grab and carry it around, instead of the bigger/heavier alternative.

The Retina screen Mini

… will probably never come. Or it might come, but I don’t think it will be any time soon. Yes, there are rumors that a retina Mini is on the way, spread probably by Apple’s competitors, but I don’t believe them. Here is why:

  1. The non-retina screen allows a lighter and thinner device. And this is what Mini is all about – lightness and thinness. Had it been heavier or thicker it would be less tempting to use – you’d just use a iPad 3 instead. But because it’s not, you can just grab it effortlessly. If Apple offered a heavier, thicker Mini for the same price, I sure wouldn’t be tempted to get one – it defeats the Mini’s purpose – to be even more comfortable than the big-sized iPad.
  2. Screen Resolution.
    The greatest thing about the Mini is how it has the same screen resolution as the original iPads – 1024×768 pixels, allowing full compatibility with all the iPad apps on the store. A retina-display version would have to: either double that resolution and bring it on par with the retina iPad, or break this compatibility.
    Breaking the compatibility is impossible – the one thing Apple shouldn’t do – it pisses off developers, increases the sizes of the Apps in the AppStore (since developers would have to pack even more graphic assets inside the bundle) and removes the main competitive advantage over Android – lack of fragmentation (or at least a very minimal one).
    Using the same retina display resolution as the full size retina iPad means having the exact same screen type as the retina iPhone(326 dpi) – but 5 times bigger, and consequently powered by a 5 times more powerful battery. Extrapolating, it would have to weight at least 4 or 5 times as much as the lightest iPhone. The math matches what we see for the retina iPad, which weights 650 g compared to the iPhone 4S’s 140 g or the iPhone 5′s 112 g.
    A retina iPad Mini would therefore need to weight almost as much as the retina iPad if it were to pack the same screen resolution – at least 450 g, according to the latest weight achievements of the iPhone 5. The bad news is that it’s still just a bit out of reach to get that retina iPad Mini to a decent weight of at most 350g. The good news is that weight+battery aspect seems to improve yearly, but we are not just there yet.

Now, I think I might have babbled a bit too much. So the short version of it would be:

  1. I don’t think there will be a retina iPad Mini for at least another year. Most probably it will appear in 2 years from now; next year’s model will probably just improve the processor.

  2. I think that it’s totally worth to buy the iPad Mini right now – even if, by miracle, a retina one will appear by next Christmas, the current iPad Mini will have found lots of great uses in your home – and you might not want to part with it, just as I find mine. And its resale value will be still good.