I am an iPad owner. I bought the original shortly after launch, I waited on line at Best Buy for the iPad 2, and I have been using an iPad 3 for several months. The iPad is a frequent companion at home on the couch and a best friend on flights.
When Apple released the iPad Mini I wondered as to its purpose. Why would I forego my iPad for a smaller version? Were they two different animals altogether serving different purposes or would one win out? After a few weeks of using the Mini I have come to the conclusion. But before sharing it, I think it is important to give a quick review of the Mini itself.
1. The Mini is true to its name. The Mini is unbelievably thin and light. Much like my first interaction with the original iPad – amazed at how think it was - you have to see it to believe it. The smaller bezel results in a tinier package despite only losing 1/3 of the screen space. The smaller size also makes the iPad easier to use and hold. Many a night I have been sitting in a chair with my 14 month old but couldn’t use my iPad because it was difficult to maneuver with only one hand. I don’t have that issue with the mini.
2. The Mini feels very personal. I’ve found that the smaller form factor makes the device feel more personal. I have tried and failed to read a book on the iPad – I prefer paper books (remember those?) – but the nature of the Mini is similar to those novels you read in bed and I can see myself downloading an e-book any day now.
3. Battery Life. Last week I took a flight from San Francisco home to Boston and used the Mini practically the entire way to play games, watch some movies, and even download some things at the airport. After the 5+ hour flight I still had over 60% battery life.
4. There is an abundance of apps. Apple has over 200,000 tablet apps. This is a benefit in and of itself but as an iPad owner it’s great that all the apps I have downloaded in the past can be used on the device without additional purchasing.
5. Fit and finish. The Mini feels more rugged to me than the iPad. I’m not constantly worrying about scratching the back if I put it down on a table which any iPad owner will note is a real concern.
My only gripe with the Mini is the screen. As I have mentioned in past posts I am a retina display snob and frequently curse Apple for ruining my eyes for all lesser displays. While the screen on iPad Mini is good it’s not retina. I understand Apple did this for a reason – to lower the price - and they are very clear in presenting the device as exactly what it is. But if they want the iPad Mini to be perfect – for me – add a retina display and it would replace my iPad in an instant.
In short, I’m a fan of the iPad Mini. Its industrial design, the size, the weight, and the apps all make it attractive. But the size of the Mini and the many 7” competitors out there got me thinking about how I would use the various tablets and sizes.
To me, regardless of size the tablet – a tablet in its tablet form factor – is not a productivity tool on par with the PC (either laptop or desktop). When I travel for work I bring my iPad and my laptop. At home, I have almost exclusively used the iPad (Mini or regular size) as a consumption tool.
Now I know there are many options for creating content on a tablet – be it movies, photo editing, drawing, word processing, etc. And while I have seen stories of users that have filmed and edited movies on an iPad, tapped out tomes, completed reports, and created music on their tablets I for the most part am not one of those people. When I need to be productive – which I often define as building excel models, PowerPoint slides or lengthy reports - I need a computer. Yes, in a pinch I can crank out a few paragraphs of a report on a tablet but I still need more. I need true multi-tasking, a full fledged keyboard, and a larger screen to be truly productive.
So, for me a tablet is really about consumption and the 7” iPad Mini is perfect for that. It’s light. It’s small. The screen is still large enough to comfortable watch movies, browse the web, play games and I can hold the device for long periods of time. It also takes up almost no room in my bag when I travel and I can use it comfortably no matter the situation. I feel that what I’m losing – 3” of screen real estate – is not nearly as much as what I’m gaining in ease of use and portability. We now have a choice over increased portability versus increased screen size giving consumers the choice of what best fits their needs.