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Tuesday
Jan222013

The Apple Beat: iPad mini slowly but surely rules the roost

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Two months down the line and the iPad mini has been elevated as my go-to tablet of choice, which is surprising for someone who relies on the larger iPad for so many things. The iPad mini's dynamism and incredible portability really makes me rethink the 7 (ok, 7.9) inch tablet form factor as a viable productivity-focused mobile device.

Unlike many iPad users out there, I didn't think an iPad mini was a good idea. Just like how the original iPad ran iPhone apps in blown-up mode with distracting jagged graphics and ill-fitting interface touches, I feared shoeboxing the iPad's 9.7-inch interface into something smaller would suck. It didn't.

Apple matched the iPad 2 pixel for pixel and they made the iPad mini just as powerful and responsive as the larger model. They also added some smarts in the multi-touch functionality to compensate for the narrower bezel. This way, the iPad mini would tell actual input from involuntary resting of fingers and palms.

I've owned every iPad released since the first one (bought on eBay). The iPad 2 had me driving to Buffalo to line up an entire day and my LTE-enabled iPad 3 with Retina Display has been part of my reporter's arsenal for over a year, a true notebook replacement when coupled with Logitech's Ultrathin Bluetooth Keyboard, oh and I can Click.Type as well.

The iPad mini was a harder sell for me. I already had and adored the Nexus 7 (the best Android tablet experience hands down) which fulfilled all the eReader, mobile gaming and non-work related content consumption needs. It was my travel companion and often the only other device (aside from my smartphone) that I'd take with me out the door.

Here's the thing. In a household of multiple tablets, three full-sized iPads (some are work, school issued), a sad and forlorn (never been OS-updated) LG Optimus Pad Android, a Nexus 7 and the iPad mini, why is it that the mini is the one that always goes missing? It is the one people love to use.

It doesn't have the power or the Retina Display resolution of the larger iPads but the iPad mini somehow feels 'just right' for general tablet use. Running quick searches, referencing a recipe for Beef Stroganoff, watching episodes of The House of Lies and serving as a second screen for Twitter during the Golden Globes, it is a perfect fit. 

I'll admit that staring at any iPad screen sort of reminds me too much of work (that's why the Nexus 7 is my goof off device) since there are interminable app updates needing my attention and a long list of apps that are in various stages of review. There's PDFs to read, article drafts to edit, photos to tweak and emails to write. The iPad really has become the most complete and closest to a notebook or desktop experience of any mobile device.

All my blogging apps are there, cloud apps, writing and social media apps and many work really well. To have all that in a smaller and more portable device is just too sweet. Sure, the smaller size does present some compromise but this is easy to live with. The only thing the iPad mini lacks for me right now is a really good bluetooth keyboard. Even if those are coming, and I am sure they are, I am still skeptical that it will be a full-featured solution.

Given the iPad mini's size, we can't expect full-sized QWERTY keyboard, but any physical keyboard is preferable to typing on the touch screen. At worst, it will fell like a multi-touch netbook, which works just fine for me.

Some users simply love the generous size of the 9.7-inch iPads and the Retina Display is like the tree of knowledge, once you've eaten its fruit, its hard to go back to non-retina devices. Most bespoke corporate and educational apps are written for the larger iPad's size as well so those markets are pretty locked in to the bigger screen size.

An increasing number of users are about portability and being able to do the same stuff with something smaller and for that reason, I think the iPad mini's ascension as keystone device for Apple is just beginning.

Wait until the accessory ecosystem catches up and offers new and exciting (probably overpriced) ways to use the iPad mini, the sky is the limit.  Here's the best part, the iPad mini is on its first iteration with an update expected later this year (or earlier, with Apple nowadays, who really knows) we can only expect it to get better.

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Gadjo  Cardenas Sevilla has covered Apple's business, users, culture, events and products for over 15 years. The Apple Beat is a regular opinion column focusing on the latest Apple news.

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