Apple iPad mini News, — October 31, 2012 14:09 — 0 Comments

ipad mini; tablet; spec; launch, apple, review

Apple’s iPad mini, more expensive than rivals’ tablets and no retina screen for now, but still looks like being a success

Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire got into the mini-tablet market first – so can Apple’s newest tablet successfully play catchup?

Powered by article titled “iPad mini – review” was written by Charles Arthur, for on Wednesday 31st October 2012 08.33 UTC

Remember the iPod mini? When Apple launched that in January 2004, at a time when a huge swathe of the fast-growing digital music player market was still up for grabs, people thought Apple was crazy. Only 4GB of storage – less than in the original 5GB model launched in 2001? A 9 price tag – only less than the base level "iPod". Well, said the critics, Apple had finally messed up after a couple of years of getting it right. It was doomed.

Turned out it wasn’t; the iPod mini became the best-selling iPod (until the iPod nano in September 2005).

Why point this out? Because much the same critique has been applied to the iPad mini, Apple’s 7.85in device. It’s just smaller (though nobody seems to be calling it "a big iPod Touch" – perhaps that wore thin after the first few thousand times following the original iPad’s launch). It’s too pricey; there are others which are already in the market.

As I’ve said earlier, there are some key differences between the iPod market of 2004 and today’s mini-tablet market. The key one is that in the 2004 market, all the rivals needed to make a profit on their hardware; they couldn’t make it up from selling music. This time round, Amazon and Google in particular can sell the hardware at a loss in order to goose their market share, if not immediately their profits. So Apple has a fight on its hands in pricing, not just design.

But let’s by dealing with the iPad mini as it is, on its own terms.

Build quality: seamless

Jonathan Ive doesn’t like seams. He doesn’t like any sort of break in the surface of objects, even manufactured ones. One of the notable things about the first iPod was that there was no obvious way to break it open, and the trend in all of Apple products – including the computers – is the same.

You’ll do well to get a scalpel blade between the iPad mini’s screen and its bezel. There’s no flex in the body; it’s really solid. I was using a black model; it isn’t obviously metal until you touch it. As with its bigger sibling, the headphone jack is on the top – unlike the iPhone 5, where it has migrated to the bottom.


This is worthy of mention because everyone has been focused on the Amazon Kindle Fire in comparison to the iPad mini (and of course Google Nexus 7). I compared an iPad mini beside a Kindle Fire, and was surprised to find that they’re almost exactly the same size in both width and length, though the iPad mini is thinner.

Similarly, compare it with the Nexus 7. Here are the figures for the iPad mini: 199mm x 133mm; the Nexus 7, 198.5mm x 120mm. You get 1.3cm – that’s half an inch – width difference between the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. This surprised me – I thought that the iPad mini would be substantially wider. But it’s not, and at that width you can slip it into an outside jacket pocket or a roomy coat pocket or, of course, a bag.

How though does the iPad mini manage to be so small if it has a 7.85in screen, while the others have just 7in screens? By having a much thinner border along the long edges. It’s 20mm wide at the short edges, but just 5mm on the long ones. This isn’t just a shrunk-down iPad, where the borders are 20mm and 17mm (short, long). Apple has made a definite effort to create something that can be slipped into generous pockets.


What will surprise you is the weight. The specs already show that the iPad mini is lighter than the Kindle Fire, 308g v 395g (and 340g for the Nexus 7); even if you add on a Smart Cover, it’s still lighter than the uncovered Kindle Fire. It’s thinner too. This is a device that will be ideal for holding in one hand for reading on train rides or other commuting; or you might even forget it’s in that coat pocket.

What the iPod mini demonstrated, and what the MacBook Air demonstrated, and pretty much every breakthrough in mobility demonstrates, is that lighter is better – and if you can do lighter and bigger, you’re really onto a winner. (This is part of how the Samsung Galaxy S3 has done so well: big screen, light phone.)

The iPad mini (308g) feels like it isn’t really there. Certainly you’ll not get tired of holding it, which could happen with the iPad (652g).

Battery life

As with previous iPads, battery life is easily in the nine-hour-plus mark. Charging is via the new Lightning connector, and as with the iPhone, the iPad now recharges very quickly – half an hour will easily add four or five times as much use. I didn’t get a chance to try it out on a 4G/LTE network, so don’t know how that affects battery life. (Mobile versions sold in the UK will initially be compatible with EE’s 1800MHz network, and Three’s next year.)


It’s not a retina screen! It’s only 1024×768, so that the resolution is 163ppi. This has been a big complaint (or snark, in some cases) that I’ve heard from people who haven’t laid eyes on this device. If all you read is specifications, then the iPad mini screen is far worse than the Kindle Fire’s or Nexus 7′s, right?

Well, put them beside each other, and the story changes. Web page rendering on the Kindle Fire is, frankly, awful. It’s blocky, and there’s a yellowish cast which personally I dislike. The iPad mini is bright, and white, and the text rendering is good – and there’s no obvious pixellation. Kindle books look as good on the iPad mini as on the Kindle Fire. (The latter is optimised for reading those, but not for the web; Amazon would rather you bought books than surfed the web.) Icons on the iPad mini look sharp; on the Kindle Fire, not really.


With long lists, it’s smooth and untroubled; this is something Apple has prioritised. Again, the comparison with Android, where scrolling has always been a bugbear, is stark; get a long article with lots of comments on a website, and you’ll get a smooth scroll. That’s not always the case on Android devices, where some will give jerky performance, no matter how many cores their processor has. Specs, eh? They can lead you astray.

Setup experience

If you have an iOS device already – iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad – then you can log into your iCloud account and all the apps and content you’ve already bought, plus all your settings including alarms can be transferred wirelessly. (If you’ve got multiple devices backed up, you get to choose which it’s restored from. Alternatively, you can just use a wire and an iTunes backup.) Android tries, but doesn’t quite get to the granular level that iCloud does, and that’s a big difference in user-friendliness.

User accounts

There aren’t any. This is the biggest failing in iOS at present. Now that Google has announced that Android will support a form of user accounts on tablets, and Windows Phone 8 offers "Kids Corner" (fenced-off apps you can let the kids use), and Windows RT tablets support multiple signins, iOS is starting to look like the odd one out. One tablet per person is great for Apple, but it’s not so great for the squeezed middle. Single-user iPhones yes; multi-user iPads, yes please.


Of course, there isn’t an inbuilt keyboard. But the question is, is the onscreen version too small to type on? No – used in landscape or portrait, the keys are large enough even for my hands. Despite the smaller screen, touch targets aren’t too small either. In short, you can still type quite accurately (and certainly more accurately than on an iPhone) and manipulate onscreen objects. I don’t think that many app developers will be redoing their existing iPad 2 apps.

In fact, games developers are quite excited by the idea of the iPad mini, because they reckon it will mean more players using the device in landscape mode who will be able to span the bottom of the screen with their thumbs (personally, I could) – something that was impossible with the iPad, which anyway gets too heavy.


Available front and back – here’s an example shot with the camera on the back. There’s no Panorama option with the rear camera, which is a strange omission.


Existing iPad apps work perfectly well. I tried the Brian Cox Wonders app, which includes videos. I criticised the Nexus 7 for the extent of letterboxing on its 16:9 screen, so will I do the same for the iPad mini?

Yup – you get some pretty hefty letterboxing here too. Here’s the thing, though: because the border around the long edges is so much thinner than at the edges, the overall effect is no worse than the Nexus 7; given that proportionally less of the space is lost to the border, you could argue it’s a less compromised experience.

For comparison, here’s the Nexus 7 letterboxing:

It might not be immediately obvious, but if you look closely then you can see that the physical border is much wider in the Nexus 7 than on the iPad mini.

iPhone apps’ behaviour can be hit-and-miss: some fit the screen neatly when expanded to the "2x" size, others overlap the edges (I’m looking at you, Tube Deluxe), others just look blocky (hello, Amazon – though there is a proper Amazon iPad app). There isn’t the spare room that the larger iPad has around the edges when you expand the size of the iPhone app on the mini’s screen. Then again, with the huge number of iPad apps available, this probably won’t be a problem.


Yes, let’s talk about the price. As mentioned above, Apple isn’t looking to race to the bottom on price, because its objective (make a profit on hardware) isn’t aligned to that of Google and Amazon (sell hardware near cost, profit on content or from users’ web browsing). That said, at £269 for the 16GB model, you’re getting an impressively light, small tablet which (if you buy the connectors, or have them) can take your camera pictures, or just take pictures itself. There’s AirPlay, the wireless audio and video connection – if you have an AppleTV (£99) then you can run iPlayer on the iPad and "throw" it over to the AppleTV and watch it on a big screen; no wires. And it’s not hugely more expensive than the Nexus 7, though the Kindle Fire is much cheaper. If price is your only consideration, though, an iPad probably hasn’t been on your shopping list anyway.


Those in favour: excellent build quality; very light, comparatively large screen, not significantly wider than competition (for putting in coat pockets), excellent text rendering, huge selection of apps, music, books and films, pain-free setup from iCloud backups for existing accounts; 3G/4G LTE option; fast-growing range of accessories.

Those against: price is higher than rivals – at £229 £269, it’s £40 £110 more than the £159 16GB Nexus 7; no expandable storage; letterboxing of films; no HDMI out (though AirPlay is a wireless equivalent).

Lining those pluses and minuses up against those for the Nexus 7 – which garnered four stars – there’s no doubt that this is indeed a five-star device. The 20% 70% difference in comparative price is more than made up by the difference in build quality and software selection. (Update: I originally had the relative prices of the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini wrong – the mini too low and the Nexus 7 too high. I apologise for the error, which was significant. Is the difference enough to justify buying the Nexus 7 instead? If budget or OS is the single driver of your decision, then certainly the Nexus 7′s price is a substantial saving on the iPad mini.)

Apple is going to sell a lot of these – quite possibly more than the "large" iPad – in this quarter. The only way Apple could improve on this product would be (as some people are already agitating) to give it a retina screen and somehow make it lighter. That might happen at some point. You can wait if you like; other people, in the meantime, will be buying this one.

Apple iPad mini: available in black or white.
16GB Wi-Fi: £269;

32GB Wi-fi: £349;

64 GB Wi-Fi: £429;

With 3G & 4G/LTE (compatible with EE in UK):
16GB & 3G/4G: £369;

32GB & 3G/4G: £449;

63GB & 3G/4G: £529

Corrected: price and relative difference was wrong in final paragraphs. Added: prices for various models.

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About the author

Tony Myers has written 866 articles for Smart Movie Making

Fooling around with the iPhone since 2010. Taking it to the next web by writing about new media, new technology, new wave cinema and the digital revolution.

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