Four Weeks with the iPad Mini

It’s been about three weeks since I got my iPad Mini. I was positive a few months ago that a smaller iPad would suit me really well, but after the Mini’s release, I was reluctant to purchase one due to the slightly higher than desired price tag. After reading numerous reviews, though, I realized I had to have one.

I procured Mrs. Hippo’s Wi-Fi only iPad 2 when she decided she preferred to have cellular data built-in, and was happy that I had the opportunity to have one of my own. It was an amazing device, and was very excellent for several tasks. Because it never really turns off, and comes awake so quickly, it was also faster for simple web searches, or to read e-mail or that kind of thing. But it always struggled for any time of writing, even a few sentence long email. It was great for watching video, but was bulky to hold for extended periods of time. After a while, it became a permanent resident in my ZAGGfolio keyboard case and rarely, if ever, came out.

Once I made this move, the iPad became nothing more than a laptop of sorts. It definitely excelled at being a single task device, perfect for focusing on one task at hand. But when I was packing for a trip, weekend or whatever, I found myself struggling to decide which device to take. The iPad with the keyboard wasn’t that much smaller than my MacBook Air, and since there were things I couldn’t do on easily on my iPad, I rarely found myself just taking that. After a few months, I came to the realization that the iPad is a little to close to a laptop and not close enough to the iPhone. I even wrote about this issue back in September.

When Apple released the iPad Mini, I was disappointed in the price. I was hoping it was going to be $250 instead of $330, but that is out of my control. So I thought I was going to be able to resist buying one, but the reviews were good and I eventually caved. So how is it?

Believe what you’ve heard. It really is an amazing little device. If the iPad were intended to be a full-on laptop replacement device, the original, “full-size” model would be perfect. But as a complimentary device, or as a tablet, the iPad Mini is so much better. It’s so much easier to hold, especially for long periods of time. That was the biggest issue with the original iPad.

Everything else about the iPad Mini is the same for the most part. The screen is smaller, but because of the way the resolution is shrunk, everything is just smaller, as opposed to new apps being required. The lack of retina display is unfortunate, but I personally don’t find it to be the deal breaker that some people do. I have an iPhone 4S, and the display looks great. But my iPad 2 doesn’t have a retina display, and that is likely the biggest reason I don’t notice I think.

I had concerns about the the fact that the apps were just scaled down, and therefore on-screen buttons were smaller than on the iPad 2. Thus far, this hasn’t proven to be much of a problem. I haven’t had issues hitting buttons or anything like that. I don’t know all that much about iOS development, but I would assume that is a way to determine if the device is an regular iPad or an iPad mini, so it’s possible that at some point someone will write apps specifically for the iPad Mini, but it doesn’t seem like that will be required.

Another concern I had involved the on-screen keyboard. I always found the iPad 2 keyboard to be pretty rough. Portrait mode was unusable for me, and while landscape mode did allow for some touch typing, it wasn’t really something I ever did. When Apple release iOS 5 in 2011, it included a “split” keyboard, which basically means the keyboard splits and half and gets smaller and closer to the sides. The keyboard on the iPad Mini works the same way, but because the device is smaller, the typing seems to resemble thumb typing on the iPhone much better than the split keyboard on the original iPad. I still haven’t typed more than a few short emails, but the typing I have done has gone pretty well.

Overall though, the iPad Mini is the future. The original iPad is great, but it’s a little big for what most people are looking for. If tablets eventually replace full-on computers as we know them, the bigger iPad could still make sense. But as far as tablet computing goes, the iPad Mini is the sweet spot. It’s likely exactly what every other tablet manufacturer was fearing. The price will continue to be a bit of barrier to entry for some people, but this is the future.