Pros: The cost, size and build quality you wanted since iPad was released...
Cons: ...unfortunately it took over 2 years to make and the competition caught up.
UPDATE: iPAD MINI 4G/LTE
When the original iPad was released during April of 2010, many people derided it as "just a big iPod". That's exactly what it was... a big iPod. Samsung attempted to capitalize on criticism of the iPad's size by releasing the Galaxy Tab - which met many of iPad's specs and even excelled in certain areas. Its main benefit being its smaller size and 7" screen. However, it turned out that many people actually preffered the larger 9.7" screen and the iPad (and it's successors) went on to sell very well. what didn't help, however, was its price (over $499). As time rolled on and the cash strapped economy fell deeper into despair, smaller tablets and large screened smart phones started to steal iPad's thunder. While Apple shipped over 26.9 million iPhones last quarter, the iPad only managed 14 million units – well below predictions (not necessarily bad though considering its popularity).
How would Apple keep its record profits rolling in?
Just in time for Christmas, we now witness: The iPad Mini.
The iPad Mini continues to deliver the luxurious build quality we’ve all come to expect from Cupertino. The mini sports a handsome display and measures just 7.9” tall × 5.30” wide × 0.28” thick. It won’t fit in most people’s pockets, but it will fit in many coat pockets, women’s bags and most importantly: student book bags. At just 308 grams (312 for the LTE equipped models); the mini is almost half the mass of iPad3. You can hold it in just one hand and your wrist is less likely to fatigue after an hour or two.
The exterior of the device features the same exterior build as the new iPod Touch. Personally, I think Apple actually overdeveloped this one. At $330 the iPad Mini is priced to sell, but only when compared to the iPad3 which starts at $499. iPad Mini stands out as overly-expensive when compared to the ever growing line of sub-$300 Android-based tablets. Why couldn’t $30 have been shaved off the entry price? Why not make the back cover the same plastic used on the iPhone3G? Even better: why not make the back cover plastic user replaceable so people could customize their iPad minis with artful designs? If a plastic cover got damaged, this would allow the user to simply get a new one. How about a user replaceable battery while we’re at it? OF COURSE NOT… those are things you don’t get from Apple and one of the reasons why many people have chosen Android based tablets and smartphones instead. The iPad Mini is the iPad model that should have been introduced a year ago so iPads could be put in more hands of people with wallets suffering through a cash-strapped economy.
What you won’t get out of the iPad Mini, at least not until its next generation, is the Retina Display now found on the iPhone, iPod and iPad3. iPad Mini misses out on iPad 3’s infinitely sharp 2048 x 1536p display and is left with the obsolete 1024 x 768p display technology of the iPad2. Like iPhone5, the iPad Mini features a brightness improvement over iPad2. Pixel density is slightly higher on the mini: 163 pixels per inch vs. iPad2’s 132ppi, but it’s just not as vivid as the newer devices because the Retina Display manages to improve color reproduction in HD photos and videos. . It’s not necessarily a deal breaker because the display is still gorgeous and the individual pixels won’t be noticed by people who don’t have excellent vision, but the moment you wonder why Apple didn’t field a Retina Display Mini in the first place… the only answer you can come up with is: “so they can sell it to you next year!”
The Mini does get the new 802.11 wireless-N antennae and supports wireless synching through iOS6. The LTE equipped version (16GB for $459/ 32GB for $559/ 64GB for $659) offers users on Sprint, AT&T and Verizon high speed internet.
Unfortunately, no voice calls can be made on iPad Mini which keeps its usability stuck in the “tablet-zone” rather than giving you the option to use it as a smartphone like the stylus-equipped 5.5” Galaxy Note II.
Unless you purchase your iPad Mini with cellular services, you won't be able to make use of Apple's voice assistant: SIRI. Siri can understand spoken English, tell you lots of factual information, do math problems, give you movie reviews and even sports scores. without WiFi available, however, you'll only be able to use Siri to perform local functions - at which point you'll want to turn it off and use basic voice commands because Siri is too slow.
People who take lots of voice notes or use speech-to-text will appreciate the s-t-t button on the virtual keyboard. For the most part, Apple's s-t-t technology is very accurate.
iPad Mini includes a 5 Megapixel camera on back and a 1.2 Megapixel camera in front. Using the camera sensor on back offers roughly the same experience as I’ve gotten on iPad2. The shutter speed is quick (for a tablet) and you can selectively focus on specific parts of the image by tapping the screen. This comes in handy when you are trying to focus on text on a picture or sign. The programming features face detection and auto focuses on the multiple faces of people in your shot. The software works well even if you try to take picture of people in a picture.
The 5MP camera doesn’t perform as well in low light situations as the 8MP camera on the iPhone4S or iPhone5, but its video recording capabilities are roughly equal. You can record up to 1080p using the back sensor and up to 720p using the front sensor. This comes in handy if you are video blogging or using Facetime to talk to a friend. Stills taken with the front facing camera are limited to 1.2MP and appear grainy in anything but well lit situations.
If you do buy a Mini iPad and have any aspirations whatsoever on making videos for Facebook or YouTube, I recommend you download the $5 iMovie App as soon as you get it. iMovie is the best mobile video editor I’ve come across – allowing you to edit music/effects/text and credits into a video in mere minutes. Every photo and video can be geo-tagged which will allow you to keep track of places you’ve been on vacation. Personally, the iPod5 will make a better digital camera than the iPad Mini due to its smaller size. The iPad Mini doesn’t support the Panoramic mode in iOS6, but you probably won’t miss it.
CAN iPAD MINI OBSOLETE THE TEXTBOOK?
Since the launch of the original iPad, there has been debate as to whether or not an iPad (or Tablet computer) was better than a true eBook Reader (i.e.: Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook). The free market has proved through sales figures that tablets are preferred due to the fact they offer multitasking - even though their prices are generally higher. A true eBook reader uses e-ink technology and typically has a black&white screen. Battery life can range between weeks and months on a single charge, there’s no glare and the LED backlit screens allow reading in the dark. The problem comes when you want to do more than read a book. Some eReaders don’t support all audio-book sound formats/ digital media formats, most of them don’t offer web browsing, and almost none of them allow casual gaming beyond a handful of game apps.
iOS6 on iPad Mini offers everything I’ve come to expect from the iOS line: eBooks, a built in iPod - to listen to music and watch videos, YouTube, access to Sirius XM radio (and several dozen radio apps), access to Television guides, access to online shopping apps, access to over 300,000 games and access to over 100,000 utilities including turn-by-turn GPS Navigation, scientific/graphic calculators, conversion calculators and the amortization loan calculators I need for my mortgage/real estate business.
Unfortunately, Apple's mapping system (since they dropped Google Maps in iOS6) is HORRIBLE (I got lost yesterday using it).
My family’s school going children have been issued iPad1 and iPad2 by their schools so they can stay abreast of school work, email teachers, check their grades online and have access to internet resources for their school work. The iPad Mini will be far more cost effective for schools. At the Mini’s price, they are cheaper than laptops and easier to replace/update than entire class sets of books. However, with the average price of a netbook under $299, I actually think they make more sense in the long run.
VERSUS A NETBOOK
A netbook nowadays carries the same functionality as a larger laptop or PC desktop. Compare the iPad Mini to the HP $295 10” netbook (WZ288UT) with a 2GB of RAM and 250GB Hard Drive. Need a bigger screen for work? Just use a VGA cable to plug it into one of the many inexpensive LCD monitors available on the market You can even connect a USB keyboard and mouse if you have a project you need done. The iPad line can only consume content while a netbook can produce content. Sure you can watch videos, listen to music and browse the net on iPad, but when you want to actually get work done on it, things get really complicated pretty quickly. It is for this reason, I would rather order a set of netbooks than a set of iPads for my business.
VERSUS OTHER MINI TABLETS
A while back, I reviewed the Kindle Fire. Currently, the one I reviewed sits in the hands of my 12 year old cousin Jon-Jon who uses it for general internet browsing and watching Youtube videos. Since then, Amazon released the 7” Kindle Fire HD (which I’ve used but haven’t reviewed yet). The KFHD retails for just $199, has a higher resolution 1280x800 display, stereo sound, 12.6GB useable hard drive, micro-HDMI out, wireless –N WiFi and a front facing camera for the SKYPE app. It took me roughly 3 and a half hours to fully charge the KFHD (from 0%) and I saw slightly less than 10 hours battery life with it.
The KFHD is slightly heavier than iPad Mini (395 grams vs. Mini’s 308 grams) and slightly smaller: 7.6”x5.4”x0.4”. that being said: the Apple offers higher tactile build quality.
There’s also the $200 7” Google Nexus 7 ($299 for the 32GB) with: a 1280x800 display, 1.2MP front camera, similar battery life to the KFHD, an unmolested version of Android “Jelly Bean” and a higher build quality than its Amazon opponent. The browser loads images and webpages very quickly – even if they contain Flash content – and all animations are smooth and fast. Nexus7 has superior Flash player playback performance. And I like holding it more than the KFHD. The back has a rubber grip that feels almost like synthetic leather.
While the KFHD and Nexus7 are a whole $130 less than the iPad Mini, you won’t get a rear camera/camcorder or access to Apple iOS’ apps. Both tablet’s pricing make them more palatable for a school budget, but for most trendy buyers, the iPad Mini will be the popular device. The KFHD is probably the better “eReader”: it has a simple eBook interface and with the Immersion Reading Service, you can add spoken words to your book purchase for a few dollars more. Add to that the fact KFHD’s browser allows you to view Flash Player content while the iPad Mini’s iOS software continues to disallow Flash support and you’d rightfully be steered more towards Amazon’s baby.
The iPad Mini comes packed with Apple’s new 8-pin Lightning cable and a 5-Watt AC adapter. Lightning is roughly a quarter the size of the old 30-pin connector and uses all-Digital signaling. You can plug it in either way and the internal chip assigns each pin a job. I’ve noticed that Lightning charges the iPad Mini, iPod5 and iPhone5 quicker than the old 30-pin. Unfortunately you won’t be able to buy cheap Chinese-made cables on the open market due to the fact apple has installed an authentication chip in the head of the wire which allows charging only with Apple devices once they recognize it. For the time being, you’ll be forced into buying expensive plugs to connect your iPad Mini to your other equipment: Lightning-to- HDMI, Lightning –to –VGA, Lightning-to- SD card, etc will all set you back at least $29. To make matters worse, you won’t be able to connect your iPad Mini to older docking systems unless you purchase the Lightning-to-30 pin Adapter.
What’s disappointing is that you won’t get a pair of Apple’s new Earpods in the box unless you spring $29 extra to snag a pair from Apple’s in-store rack. Had earpods came with the Mini, it would help justify the $30 premium on the price. Audio playback on the iPod Mini’s exterior speakers is slightly louder than on iPod5, and slightly lower than on iPad3. You’ll want to have to have some form of headset to get the most out of this pad in louder public spaces. I recommend the Motorola S9HD.
Though the iPad Mini doesn’t feature the new A6 CPU like my iPhone5, it feels every bit as smooth running iOS6. The A6, as I’ve mentioned in my iPhone5 review, noticeably improves battery consumption and standby time over the iPhone4S. The iPod Mini’s A5 doesn’t have as much display area as the iPad2 and manages to return over 11 hours of battery life with 2 hours of standby. That’s very impressive – probably the best battery life I’ve seen thus far.
Today - I sat on a post-apocalyptic NYC "GASPOCALYPSE" gas line from 4:30AM till 2:30PM. My iPad Mini kept me company and I was able to see over 11 hours 29 min from it with the battery enetering critical at 5%. Watched The Maclaughlin Group and listened to the Jason Lewis show - among other uses. Battery life is EXCELLENT.
Name recognition is everything. When someone asks for an “iPad” this Christmas , they don’t want anything else but an “iPad”- regardless what the competition is offering. That is why I’m gifting the iPad mini for at least two of my close relatives. Only a tech-head recognizes the superior usability of other lower-priced tablets on the market. If you wish to use the iPad as a GPS Navigation system for your car, you’ll need to purchase the LTE model which starts at $459.
The iPad Mini is an evolution of iOS devices rather than a revolution. There is really nothing new here besides the smaller dimensions of the device. Had apple offered Minis a year ago, they wouldn’t now find themselves sandwiched between other, more-competitive tablets, big-screened smartphones and netbooks. The 7” Nexus 7 and 7” Kindle Fire HD are arguably better buys than the iPad Mini.