A week with the iPad mini
I wasn't sure how I would get along with an iPad mini.
I wavered back and forth on it from the day it was announced. First, it was the price. US$329 is easier to swallow than $499, but I had a perfectly good iPad 2. Then, after deciding I'd give it a shot, I wondered if I made the right call. Like Jim Dalrymple, I wanted to see if I could fit the iPad mini in my life without it being forced. After a week with the iPad mini, here's what I love about the device.
The smaller form factor: I didn't think I would love a smaller iPad more than I loved the original one. However, from the moment I first held my iPad mini -- you can see the unboxing on the British Tech Network's latest Mac Show, which was hosted by our own Kelly Guimont -- I knew it was going to be different. It easily fits in one hand, which was amazing since I have small hands. Even my Android-loving husband was impressed with the mini and said it was the perfect form factor for a smaller tablet. While I mostly used my full-sized iPad in landscape mode, I tend to keep my mini in portrait mode. I tried out a Nexus 7, and while I felt it was a very good Android tablet, it was too small. The .9-inch size increase on an iPad mini really does make a difference.
It fits in my purse: This is a huge thing for me. I tend to go for scaled-down messengers as my day-to-day bag, such as a Timbuk2 Metro Mini (sadly no longer made) or a Tom Bihn small cafe bag. I want my purse to fit my iPhone, wallet, a Moleskine and a Kindle or paperback. Everything else is icing on the cake. However, I can easily tuck the iPad mini in the either bag and find myself reaching for it more than I do my Kindle. If I wanted to take the iPad with me, I needed a larger bag.
It easily integrates into my work routine: The picture above shows my desk at The Patriot-News on election night: iPad mini with Twitter feeds, my MacBook Pro streaming NBC, various page dummies and my work computer. It takes up far less room on my desk, which helps when looking at paper proofs and using the iPad to browse the AP stylebook. I've used my full-sized iPad for managing paperwork at work for months, and the smaller footprint makes taking from desk to desk easier. I've found within the past couple of days that I'll grab the iPad mini to quickly check my work email or references while discussing work in progress with an editor.
It's easier to manage in the kitchen: I like using Paprika as a digital cookbook, but I have a small kitchen. The iPad mini is small enough to where I can prop it up on something else and have a little more counter space to work with than the regular iPad.
Relaxing at home or working on crafts: When I'm in bed, I can hold the iPad mini with one hand or lay on my side and read, just like with my Kindle. Instead of automatically flipping it to landscape mode, I find myself mostly using it in portrait mode because it's narrow enough to where I can comfortably type on it with my thumbs, like my iPhone. I've long used a full-sized iPad for storing knitting patterns and other project instructions, but it wasn't as easy to toss in my knitting bag and take with me. The iPad mini is the perfect size to fit in my knitting bag in one of the size pockets or underneath yarn so it's not such a tempting target for would-be thieves.
The battery life is amazing: The iPad mini is my only Lightning-powered Apple device at the moment, but the battery life is so good that I'm comfortable with leaving my adapter at work. I didn't charge the device from early Tuesday evening through early Thursday evening, and the battery life had only dropped to 69%. I could probably tote this around for a week or more without needing to charge it.
But here are some things I don't like about the iPad mini:
The selection of cases to date: The Smart Covers are too expensive for the smaller form factor (more on that below), and the back (just as scratchable as the iPhone 5) is exposed. Third party companies had to guess at the size, and the one company that nailed the first batch of third party cases was Belkin. The Targus case I picked up from Best Buy didn't latch properly, and the other cases on display were poor fits. I'm currently using the Belkin Classic Tab cover ($29.99 on its site, it was $39.99 at Best Buy), and it's a perfect fit. My one quibble with you, Belkin: I wish there was more colors other than pink, purple, and black. Sadly, my Best Buy didn't have black. The picture above shows the Belkin cover next to a Moleskine notebook for size comparison.
The cost of the iPad: I think Apple could have done a solid and dropped it to $299, and expect the refurbished models to be around that price. While $30 doesn't make much of a difference in the long run, psychologically it makes a difference. I understand, and I didn't mind paying it. Try telling that to my parents, who just want to know why it isn't $299.
The cost of the Smart Cover: The iPad mini Smart Cover is $39, just like its larger sibling. While I felt $39 skated around the edge of costing too much for the larger Smart Cover, it was the best cover for that price-point for awhile. But not now, and definitely not for the iPad mini. There are a number of good case options in the $30-$40 range, starting with the Belkin I referred to above. Once Targus and other case makers get their sizes tweaked, their cases will be just fine. Macworld's Lex Friedman took a look at the cover and found it frustrating to use. I'm not even going to bother.
Things I'm ambivalent on:
No Retina display: The lack of a Retina display isn't a problem for me. I never used a Retina-enabled iPad to begin with, and the screen is still crisper than an iPad 2. If I had used the iPad 3, I'm sure I would be singing a different tune.
While the iPad changed the market, the iPad mini is going to do what the iPod mini (and later iPod nano) did -- put it into the hands of the masses. I think $329 is still too high, and that Apple could have dropped it down to $299, even if it was just to hit a psychological price point. The full-sized iPad will not fade into the distance, but like what a number of reviewers have said, the iPad mini will become Apple's big seller.
Am I going to keep mine? I knew by the end of the first hour I was going to. My iPad 2 will be making its way to a new home in Canada shortly.
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