The iPad mini might be on its deathbed.
The 7.9-inch tablet, a recent report says, is cannibalized by the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, which is big enough for those late-night reading binges, and more powerful in some regards.
On the other hand, it appears that Apple is positioning the tablet as a larger device, one that competes with your laptop. According to rumors, the next tablet Apple launches will be bigger, not smaller than the iPad, and the iPad mini will likely go into oblivion.
But ask many iPad mini aficionados, and they will tell you that the mini is the best iPad. I’m one of them, and I’d rather stock up on iPad mini 4s right now than get a bigger, newer variant, regardless of the price.
My reasoning is simple: The iPad mini is the only iPad that’s nearly as portable as your phone.
All the other iPads the 9.7-inch models and, definitely, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro basically need to be carried in a laptop bag. They’re great for lugging around the house for a quick read or a YouTube session, but if you want to go outside, they’re as about as practical as your laptop.
The pocket-sized tablet
Not so with the iPad mini. It fits in cargo pants pockets. It fits in larger purses (and murses), and (if you’re brave enough to carry one) even an occasional fanny pack. It can be stuffed in pockets of many jackets and coats. It’s small enough for you to casually carry it around in your hands, like you do your phone, as you wait in line at an airport or on your daily commute.
The iPad mini is the only iPad that’s nearly as portable as your phone.
This may seem like a minor difference, but it’s a crucial one. A few years back, I bought an iPad Air, but I soon realized that I need some sort of backpack for it. And if I’m going to carry a backpack, I might as well take my MacBook Air. So I sold the iPad Air, got an iPad mini, and never looked back. The iPad mini found a place in my life as a device that offers me a better experience than my phone, but it doesn’t compete with my laptop. I carry it around on weekends, to coffee breaks and when I travel I carry it when I don’t intend to do serious work and when I really, really don’t want to lug around a backpack and a laptop.
And let’s not forget the fact that the iPad mini is a lot lighter than the iPad 0.65 pounds vs. 1.05 pounds. It’s the only tablet in Apple’s lineup that you can comfortably hold with one hand when you’re lying down.
It’s true: The iPad experience is better on a larger device. And the way Apple is currently pricing the iPad mini it’s more expensive than a “regular” iPad it’s no wonder the mini is not selling. Apple is probably looking at numbers, and if the numbers don’t work, the iPad mini is going to get cut regardless of my rant.
But consider this, Apple.
If the mini gets discontinued, I and (based on a short survey of my mini-loving colleagues) a lot of other users will not buy a bigger one. Once you’ve settled into the mini lifestyle, there’s no going back. If it doesn’t fit into a waist bag, the tablet is just not practical enough for me to use. Yes, the iPad sales have been in decline for a while now, but killing the mini will likely alienate a number of customers who simply won’t want to switch to a bigger iPad.
As for the larger iPhone, well, it’s not the same thing. Just try playing Hearthstone on the iPhone and the iPad mini and tell me which experience was better. Or try reading a book on both devices. Yes, in some cases, the iPhone is good enough, but the tablet is just so much more comfortable to use.
A bigger screen for all?
There’s one great solution to this conundrum. Rumors claim that Apple is working on a 10.5-inch iPad variant that’ll basically be all screen, with significantly smaller bezels than current models. If this is true, and that same bezel-less design later trickles down to the 9.7-inch iPad, that model will effectively become the new iPad mini, as its physical dimensions would be in that same ballpark.
This would be an all-around win, but is it going to happen? I’m an optimist. Tiny bezels are a huge trend right now, and it’s one direction that the iPad could certainly go to. Some manufacturers have tablets that are basically all screen check out Hisense’s Vidaa Mirror, for example, and tell me that that’s not sexy.
If this scenario plays out, I won’t cry over the iPad mini’s inevitable demise. I don’t need Apple to actually call it “mini”. I just need it to really be, you know, mini.
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