I posted earlier this year about my first impressions of the iPad Mini, and since then, I’ve remained on the fence about whether or not I would get one. I use my devices so much, and I really welcomed something smaller and lighter and nimbler.
On the other hand, the price point horrified me a little, and I was having trouble justifying the purchase. Then I got a gift card to a mall I wouldn’t otherwise shop at, and it was time to cash in the tech jar, and there was nothing else I especially wanted…
…and so I bit. And after two days of exploring, here are my thoughts:
1. Setting Up the Mini
No complaints here. I have a full-size iPad already, and over the break, I upgraded my phone to an iPhone plan as well, so I knew the ropes here. I set the device up over Wi-Fi because I wasn’t home and wanted to play, and it was just a few simple steps to activate it and get to the basic home screen.
It came pre-installed with the same apps my iPhone had, and it was easy to use Wi-Fi (or transfer via iTunes) to get whatever else I needed. One annoyance: It made me update iTunes on my Macbook before I started, and I loathe the new interface. Not the Mini’s fault, but even so…
2. Score One for the Cloud
The Mini can share apps seamlessly with my other iDevices, which makes the genius of the cloud so profound to me. I spent about five minutes tweaking some preferences, and then all my contacts and calendars were there. While I was downloading the Kindle app, I got a phone call about an appointment I was trying to make. I added it to the calendar app on my iPhone, and saw it pop onto my Mini seconds later.
And it’s not just calendars and contacts, either. I save notes, outlines, lists, ideas and so on to a special folder in Google Docs that syncs to an app called Notemaster. It’s brilliant. I can work at a computer, then take the iPad and keyboard out with me and seamlessly pick up right where I left off. And if all I have with me is the Mini, I can work in offline mode and as soon as I am back online, everything updates.
And of course, there are the reading apps. Start a Kindle book on the iPad during my lunch break at school, finish it and buy a new one over cellular with the iPhone while I’m on the bus, and then tuck into bed with the Mini and have everything ready to go…
3. Form Factor Pros & Cons
On the plus side, I found the Mini much more comfortable for reading PDFs and magazines than its full-size brother. I was doing a ton of Web and Zinio reading this summer on my full-size iPad and started to get wrist issues; the Mini is much more comfortable to hold, and it was nice to be able to use those apps again.
On the minus side, the small bezel was an issue, primarily because it was really hard to find a properly-fitting case. I tried two and looked at reviews online for several others, and they all looked fine and seemed to be OK for general usage. But as soon as I tried to do anything near the corners or edges (for instance, moving an app to another screen), it got tricky.
I haven’t settled yet on which case I’ll be using—I need something to cushion my hands from those angled corners, and I like to keep it protected in my bag, but anything that wraps around the bezel is going to have this very same usability issue. I may have to go with a book-style case with elastic-looped corners, even though that’s not as optimal for non-reading tasks.
4. Usage Scenarios
I realize I’m fortunate to have the gadgets I have. I do plan to streamline down the road, though. For my personal use, I much prefer the smaller size and form factor of the Mini. I think that I will most likely not buy another full-size iPad again; the Mini will be the one I keep and upgrade. Given how fast technology depreciates, I’m not sure I’d get much for my iPad 2, so I’ll keep it for work use, and for those times when I want to have the keyboard with me as a laptop replacement.
In the meantime though, I have to admit, it’s a bit handy having more than one of them. When I only had the iPad, I had to load things on and off all the time because I’d run out of space on it. Now, it’s easier—I can keep all the work stuff on the big one and have the Mini free for the games, multimedia and personal use stuff. Both my iPad and its new little brother now have tons of free space.
5. Final Verdict
I’m happy with the Mini. It was, for me, most definitely a want—not a need. This was not an indispensable purchase, and it doesn’t add anything to the iOS experience beyond a smaller form factor. But I’ll use it, a lot. And when I’m ready for an upgrade, the Mini be a cheaper device to replace. No regrets on this purchase! I’m set now, for quite some time.
* * *
I bought two for my children for Christmas. I also got them Belkin Dot Covers. The Dot Cover holds the iPad Mini only at the corners (very securely). The magnetic clasp holds the cover in place if you fold it around the back and the multi-angle stand works very well. The only negative I’ve found is that, unlike its full-size brother, the Mini Dot Cover does not have magnets to turn the iPad on and off.
When the iPad mini came out, I did wonder if should have not bought my ‘too heavy to hold in your hand for long’ iPad 3.
But for writers there’s a big plus to that large retina display. The common 6×9-inch print books are easily proof read on it, even for tiny typos like a comma for a period. That wouldn’t be true with the iPad mini, although it might be good enough for casual reading.
In the past, I’ve already tried to do at least one proofing pass on a different media before releasing a book. With paper as that other media and page counts running into the 500 range, that can get pricey. That may make one of the newer full-sized iPads a better deal for some writers.
Also, I ‘m one of those eagerly awaiting the iPad/iPhone version of Scrivener. I suspect for drafts and editing, the iPad version will be as good as that on a laptop at half the price of a laptop. And since that writing means carrying about a full-sized keyboard, I might as well also carry a full-sized iPad.
Let us know when you find the right cover.
–Michael W. Perry, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments