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Petite But Powerful

If you buy the mini, you’re doing it specifically because you like its size

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With iPhones and their Android peers already pushing mid-six-inch screen sizes, one would rightly think it is downright counterintuitive to update the iPad mini after almost three and a half years of neglect. I mean, here was a much-loved product that had its loyal fan following due to its petite form factor, but the lack of love from Apple had even the most faithful give up hope on seeing an update. Why then does the new mini even exist in the iPad portfolio?

The answer lies in the details. While the iPad mini has retained the much adored form factor, Apple’s updated the internals with a 7.9-inch Retina display and the A12 Bionic chip (complete with all its Neural Engine smarts), which brings it almost to the same level as this year’s iPad Pro. There’s even Apple Pencil support for your note-taking and doodling. The only thing “less” about the mini this time around is its size, finally decoupling the size-and-price equation. This isn’t about a cheaper, smaller tablet, but about miniaturizing components into a smaller form factor, which in this case comes at the not-insignificant mini price point. You want a cheap iPad — pick up the entry level regular iPad. If you buy the mini, you’re doing it specifically because you like its size.

Yet, by ensuring the mini isn’t a pushover performance wise, the size takes on an altogether new dimension, one which lends itself rather well to taking everywhere, even to places where the larger iPads or laptops would be a squeeze. Reading, taking notes, playing the odd game and even watching video content in a cramped economy seat suddenly doesn’t require the calisthenics of a gymnast with the iPad mini.

Coming in alongside the new third generation iPad Air, the mini rounds out arguably Apple’s most complete product lineup, even though at first glance it may seem a tad confusing. At the top end you have the unapologetically high-end and pricey iPad Pro which go as far in computing terms as iOS allows them to. The low-end in iPad is the most affordable offering for the education segment or for most casual buyers.

The latest iPad Air/mini fill in the gap in between, targeting folks who crave for the additional power but don’t want to pay that much extra for all the Pro bells and whistles. Five different iPads at five different price points to serve just about any set of needs – all of them united by support for the Apple Pencil. Bit of a shame that Apple didn’t allow Pencil 2 compatibility for the new Air and mini, so that folks who also own the new Pros in the family could simply switch Pencils while switching between iPads.  

As of these launches, it finally feels like Apple’s turned the iPad ship around, and the family is now headed in the right direction. The timing of these upgrades is by no means a coincidence. Apple needs a portfolio of screens, a wide one at that, in time for its video and news service launch…and having a diversified set of touch-first iOS devices will certainly grow service usage and engagement.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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