I’ve been using the iPad Mini for the past few days, and boy was Steve Jobs wrong. The Apple co-founder, before his passing, derided the sort of smaller tablets being pumped out by competitors two years ago as inferior and undesirable. Here’s what he said:
One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a seven-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right; just 45% as large.
If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on the seven-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.
Even more damning was his conclusion that people would have to file their fingertips down in order to use a smaller screen properly:
Apple’s done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.
Time has passed, competitors’ smaller tablets have indeed done well and Apple has been forced to respond. The iPad Mini, as many reviewers have remarked, may in fact be the tablet we’ve all wanted without even knowing it.
It’s super thin and ultra light. The regular iPad, which I never really thought was that heavy to begin with, now feels like a lumbering oaf in comparison. Sure, it’s got a bigger screen, but over the past few days I’ve been hard pressed to come up with scenarios where that really matters when compared with being able to hold the device easily in one hand. I’ve comfortably read books, browsed the web, looked at photos and watched videos on the Mini.
There is, of course, one major flaw with the smaller iPad: its lack of Retina display. If you’re not yet used to it, you won’t miss it, but if you’ll excuse the modification of an old saying, once you go Retina, you never go back. Text looks blurrier while photos and videos are not as sharp. I like to read comic books… er, graphic novels… on my iPad, which is where the sharpness discrepancy is most noticeable. Not only does the smaller size make it harder to read them, the resolution lag really craps on the experience.
If I was in the market for a tablet, I’d wait a few months for the inevitable second-generation Mini, which will doubtlessly have Retina super-powers. The technology is certainly there—it’s in the much smaller iPhone, after all—so it’s only a matter of time before Apple adds it to the Mini.
The question, then, is why bother buying a full-sized iPad?