If for nothing more than to have a record of the latest gadget/lifestyle change in my life, I thought I’d briefly explain my reasoning for pre-ordering Apple’s new iPad mini.
The reason became self-evident as soon as I started considering how the mini could be of use. I looked at what devices I currently use and which of them I use in during the day. I have both a grown-up iPad 2 and a Google Nexus 7. I’m an Apple man at heart and my iPad is my primary ‘casual’ computing device. I use it for the usual sofa-based activities of web, reading and streaming, and when I first got it I took it to work, read my RSS feeds on the tube and did a few work activities such as meeting notes when away from my desk.
After a while though the novelty wore off and I stopped taking the iPad to work – it was too big to be convenient on the heaving London Underground. I don’t carry a bag to work, so it meant I had to just to put the iPad in. So it stays at home now and is used for casual stuff – as soon as I need to look at something on a computer, I flip open my 11″ MacBook Air, which continues to the best computer I have ever owned, 2 years on.
Then I received a Nexus 7, given to me in the spirit of experimentation It was not expected to become a major part of my routine, but almost instantly, due to the size of it, I started taking it to work. It could fit in my jacket pocket so I didn’t need to carry a bag, and it could do run all my usual reading apps like Kindle and Pocket. I found myself disliking the 7″ Android app experience intently in comparison to the effortless nature of iOS, but the convenience of the smaller form-factor outweighed this. Stil, it was always in the back of my mind that if I could somehow have iOS instead I would be a much happier technobunny.
What was interesting was that I never, ever took my Nexus 7 out of my coat pocket when I got home. The 7 inch screen was in no way useful at home, compared to my iPad – I can’t think of a single example where it does something better than an iPad at home. So I ended up with three devices in use during the day – the Nexus 7 for the commuting, the iPad for casual use, and the MacBook Air for anything a bit more specific.
When the iPad mini was announced, after a short period of thought it became very clear that it is a very strong contender to bridge the gap between these two uses. It is small enough to fit in my coat pocket (yes, I measured it), yet with a large enough screen to benefit from iPad apps and actually still be useful for browsing and other sofa-surfing. I don’t watch movies or tv shows on my iPad, and the portability was far more appealing than a larger screen. The fact it gets full iPad-length battery and runs iPad apps is fantastic. I’ve never used a Retina iPad so the screen will actually look better than what I’m used to (it retains the same resolution but on a smaller screen, increasing the pixel density (PPI) and therefore the screen clarity).
I love improving and investigating the way technology is a part of lifestyle, and I’m more than happy to swap out the old for the new in the spirit of supporting exploring this. So I’m selling both my iPad 2 and my Nexus 7 to replace with a single device that I can casually use at home, and take on the tube as my reading device.
Which iPad mini?
My first iPad was a 3G model and I never used the 3G. My second iPad was wifi only, and I tether it to my phone when needed. However, in thinking about the use case for an iPad mini it became clear the primary benefit is getting iPad quality experience in a portable form-factor out and about. No matter how small the iPad is, it is still a fairly big device and so spends most of its time near wifi signals rather than being constantly moving. The iPad mini, on the other hand, begs to be used wherever it is, as it is far more portable. I wasn’t going to stifle its ability to do a good job by limiting it to only work on wifi, so I chose the cellular model. I’ll get a nanoSim on GiffGaff which gives 500MB of data for £5 a month with no contract, happy days.
As I love app and games, I went with 32GB, because once you run out of space, you can’t upgrade. This is going to be a very capable device I feel, I’m quite excited about the implications.
The two most memorable things I’ve read on the topic of the iPad mini are:
Marco Arment, on the lack of retina:
I don’t mind the lack of a Retina screen in the first version. As we can see from the iPad 3 and 4, lighting and driving a 2048×1536 screen just can’t be done well in a small, thin, light, inexpensive device yet. Maybe next fall, or maybe the year after that.
Exactly. By virtue of the fact that the iPad 4 is still thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, it is clear the retina screen is a beast to power. It doesn’t look like Apple can make a retina iPad mini at this stage while retaining the desired size, weight and battery life and, of course, a profit. Hopefully we’ll see this upgrade with the 2nd generation, which I’m sure will coincide with a thinner retina display iPad.
I’ve said before and I still think I’m right on this: a sub-10″ device makes a wonderful adjunct to a computer. A 10″ device can replace it.
I find this a very astute sentiment. My iPad was so close to replacing my MacBook Air, but there were still a few computer–only things I like to do from time to time. By having both an iPad 2 and a MacBook Air, there was some serious overlap in devices that could do similar things in my home. With the iPad mini, I’ve hopefully addressed that balance, giving each device more of a defined purpose.
As I ordered the cellular version, it won’t arrive until late November, so I have plenty of time to mull over the decision!