iPad mini – Star Teck Tech At A Premium Price

A few Sundays ago I just happened to be within a stones throw of an Apple Store. Long story short, I walked in, hailed down a blue shirt and bought a black 64GB Wifi iPad Mini. On opening weekend, it was all that was left. I paid $529 for it. I immediately took it home, unboxed it, picked it up and thought to myself, “Where’s the rest of this thing?”

In case you haven’t held one by now, the iPad mini is super thin and feather light. As in, when I hold it I have to periodically remind myself that I am actually holding something in my hand. It is the mythical data pad from Star Trek TNG that promises to help extricate its users from any and all impossible situations.

For a week, I put aside my faithful iPad 2 and used the mini pretty much exclusively doing all the things I do with an iPad; watch netflix, check email, use twitter, remote into an occasional windows server, look things up on the internet and read. All in all I found the iPad mini to be on par with the iPad 2 in daily use with a few annoyances:

  • During the first few hours of use, the system would often become unresponsive to touch. I think it was having a tough time downloading and installing all of my purchased apps.
  • Trying to tap on URLs and things on the edges of the screen sometimes took multiple tries. Everything is smaller on the mini.
  • It’s light so holding it in one hand was easy but I found myseld holding it in landscape mode over portrait because it’s just a bit too wide in portrait for comfort.
  • No retina display, which didn’t bother me since I use an iPad2 mostly, until I decided to compare it to my 4S screen and then it started bothering me.
  • During some game play I noticed a bit of lag in the transitions. Specifically playing Fruit Ninja HD.

And some highlights:

  • It’s light. So light it feels like a toy. But it is easy to hold one-handed for prolonged movie watching or reading.
  • I had much better wifi reception compared to the iPad2.
  • Every app I tried looked great and just worked.
  • After the initial responsiveness issues, it seemed fairly snappy.

Primarily I bought the iPad mini to see if it would be suitable for use in the classroom. I quickly decided that for only $70 more, an iPad2 makes more sense. Size and weight are not issues with iPads in classrooms. Usability, accessibility, durability, deployment and ongoing management are. For the bigger screen (easier to share, show and create content), bigger virtual keyboard and (in my opinion) more durable device makes $70 insignificant. If the mini had been in the Nexus 7 price range, I may be singing a different tune but alas it is not. Apple still has momentum and ecosystem going for it in Education but the $329 price opens the door for android tablets which only continue to improve. Open systems will always win our over closed ones.

In the end, I decided that $529 for a non retina, A5 based mini, 64GB and all, was just ridiculous. I ended up returning it after 10 days. Did you know apple has a 14 day no questions asked, no fee return policy? Crazy! I’ve decided to wait for a mini with a Retina display before handing over my own money for one. I feel like with iPad2 hardware, Apple is selling an old product that will be obsolete in six months. Yes, it’s the lowest entry point for an iPad, and it is definitely an iPad experience, but it’s last years experience which will be out of date in only a few months.

I still have a work iPad mini that I am using. Mostly to show people why an iPad2 or iPad (4th generation) is really the way to go for the classroom for now. And I’m also using the Nexus 7 quite a bit more now. The 4.2 update with multiple user sign on has potential, especially in a shared cart based deployment. Apple may have brought us future tech from one of my favorite universes but it missed the boat on pricing and educationally, I think the larger screen works better in the classroom. Now if only they’d make a full-sized iPad that looked and felt like the mini. I guess I just have to wait a few months for the iPad (5th generation, or will it be The Next Generation?) to come out and really obsolete my 3rd generation iPad. Got to love planned obsolescence.