The iPad mini is Still My Favorite iPad
Over the last year, I’ve tried basically every iPad currently available, from the 12.9-inch iPad Pro to the latest iPad Air, and I’ve finally figured out which one I like the best. And you’ll never guess which one it is.
Ok, you will, because I said it in the title. It’s the iPad mini. Yeah, the tiny one. The outdated one. But dammit… I still love it.
Allow me to explain.
As I tried the various sizes of iPad, I started thinking about what I wanted out of my tablet. Did I want it to replace my laptop? Or did I want it to be a supplement to it?
If I had gone for the former- which I very nearly did a few times- I would have ended up with either the iPad Air or the iPad Pro; I found that the 12.9-inch was a good size to use as a computer but was just too big to work for me as a tablet, but the 11-inch iPad Pro and similar 10.9-inch iPad Air were just the right size to do both.
But ultimately, I decided that the M1 MacBook Air was the better choice for most of my computing needs. So where did that leave the iPad? While I found that I did most of my writing, web-surfing, and even media consumption on the MacBook, the iPad still found a lot of use in editing my photography or drawing or making hand-written notes.
And the 10.9-inch iPad Air did a good job of this; it was a big enough canvas for all of my artistic needs, but at times I still found it a smidge too big and heavy, particularly when I wanted to just sit back and read something on it or watch YouTube.
It was around this time that I started looking at the iPhone 12 series, and that’s important because it would solidify for me where the iPad would fit into my daily routine. My first shot was the iPhone 12 mini, which I found to be the perfect size for a phone. And because my phone was so small, the iPad easily became the go-between for when I wanted a bigger screen than my phone but didn’t need all of my MacBook.
Due to unforeseen circumstances (which you can read about here), I ended up having to return my iPhone 12 mini, and before I got a replacement, I tried out the iPhone 12 Pro Max. I found that the Max took over most of the responsibilities that the iPad had been fulfilling. Most, but not all. For mostly unrelated reasons (which you can read about here), I ended up going back to the 12 mini in the end, and once more, I was left to find the iPad’s place in my world.
At this point in time, I very nearly chose the iPad Air again; after all, it worked with the latest and greatest Apple Pencil, and it could even use the Magic Keyboard, which was, as described, magic. But before I settled, I had to really come to terms with what I needed my iPad to do, what I thought I needed but didn’t need, and what I didn’t want.
What I thought I needed was easy: I thought I needed a keyboard. In fact, Apple’s advertising seems to suggest that the keyboard is a necessity; the ads for the iPad Air feature the Magic Keyboard fairly prominently. Most of the reviews I read (and wrote) about the iPad Air and the iPad Pro featured the Magic Keyboard as one of the main benefits of the device, even if it was a relatively pricey peripheral.
But when I had it, you know what I discovered? Either I didn’t use it at all because I was using my MacBook, or I only used it while my MacBook was gathering dust. And no matter how I sliced it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that having the Magic Keyboard with my iPad was entirely redundant.
And on one hand, redundancy is ok; I mean, if something ever happened to my MacBook (like that time I was getting a critical battery warning on my new M1 Mac… you can read about that here), the iPad with the Magic Keyboard could easily step in and replace it. But I didn’t really need that redundancy in my day-to-day life (that MacBook battery issue was a fluke, not the norm). Instead, I was left choosing which device I wanted to write on or surf the web on, and I ended up feeling like I’d bought two computers when I only needed one. And that was something I didn’t need.
Sidebar: I want to talk for a moment about the Magic Keyboard. I do absolutely love it, but after using it off and on for the last couple of months, I have some issues that I want to bring up. Now, the Magic Keyboard is, without a doubt, the best typing experience available for the iPad. That said, there are a few things Apple should fix when it comes to making the sequel. While I love typing on the keyboard itself, I absolutely hate the material it is made out of. The rubbery surface collects every particle of dust it can find and is a pain to clean off. And I have some real concerns about the long-term durability of it, notably around the hinge. I’d also prefer to see some color options other than Apple’s boring dark gray (especially since it is now paired with the colorful iPad Air). And I wouldn’t mind an option to have TouchID in the keyboard itself, because having to reach up to unlock the iPad Air with the power button just feels cumbersome. I know… it’s a first-world problem if there ever was one. But still.
After determining that I didn’t need the Magic Keyboard, I began wondering why I needed the iPad Air itself. I mean, I gravitated towards the Air because it used the Magic Keyboard (and was considerably cheaper than the iPad Pro). But once I removed that from the equation, the iPad Air no longer seemed to be necessary. Everything else I needed from it- Pencil support, a screen larger than my iPhone, and portability- I could easily get from the iPad mini.
And despite the iPad mini sporting a much older design (although rumor has it that could be changing soon), I found that in a few key areas, I really preferred it.
Firstly, let’s talk portability. The iPad mini is, well, mini. It is barely bigger than my Kindle Paperwhite, and that means it can slip into whatever bag I want to carry with me. And since it doesn’t have the Magic Keyboard doubling its size and weight, it isn’t a burden in any way.
And as far as having a screen bigger than my phone, well, since I’m using the 12 mini, any iPad has a bigger screen than my phone. And while at first I did think 11-inches was the way to go, for my personal needs I often found that canvas to be too big; maybe if I was used to writing and drawing on 8x10 sheets of paper, it wouldn’t have irked me, but I’ve always used smaller notebooks, like the Molskines they sell at Barnes & Noble, so the smaller screen of the iPad mini felt much more natural.
What sealed the deal for me was that the iPad mini now supports the Apple Pencil. Granted, it is the gen 1 Pencil, but that’s all I really needed; when I used the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I reasoned that a capacitive stylus would be enough to get the job done, but in reality, I found that I still wanted the precision of the Pencil from time to time.
With it being smaller and less capable than the iPad Air with the Magic Keyboard, I found that the iPad mini was more of a supplemental device; it wasn’t replacing my MacBook in my day-to-day usage, but rather it was adding to my experience with both of my other Apple devices. And to me, that’s what an iPad should be.
But all of that is why I chose the iPad mini over the iPad Air or the iPad Pro. None of that tells you why it is my favorite iPad out of all of them.
Ok, the size of the iPad mini was a major contributor to it being my favorite; I mean, I could have easily chosen the bare-bones iPad, which is a bit larger, has the same processor, and supports more accessories like the Smart Keyboard Cover. But I don’t love that iPad. I love the iPad mini.
Inexplicably, however, the thing that kept me coming back to the iPad mini was the bezels.
Yeah, you heard me right. The bezels.
Look, there’s a lot to love about the redesigned look of the newer iPads; the squared-off edges are sleek, the minimal bezels around the edge make it look modern. And I know many tech reviewers seem to view thick bezels as outdated and aesthetically unappealing, but the thicker bezels on the iPad mini give you something to hold onto while drawing or watching videos or whatever you are doing. And the curved edges make the iPad mini feel much more comfortable and thinner in the hand than their flat-edged cousins.
I know it looks dated, but it doesn’t look bad. There’s a reason that the iPad stuck with this design for years- it works. (and it also has a headphone jack, if anyone’s interested)
Included in that bezel was another unexpected bonus: TouchID. I love the new TouchID power button on the iPad Air, but I found that its placement just didn’t work as well as having the button right next to the screen- right where I was holding the device. And the fact that it still doubles as the home button means I can still use the old shortcuts if I want to, like double-tapping the button to see all my open apps.
So yeah, the iPad mini is still my favorite iPad, even though it is a couple of years old, has a “dated” look, a smaller screen, and doesn’t support the newer accessories. But it has an advantage over all of the other iPads for me: it is all the iPad I need in my life.
Ok, so the iPad mini is my favorite iPad. Big whoop. It’s two years old, and rumor has it Apple may be updating it in as little as two weeks.
And I’m honestly very excited to see what updates they will bring to the table. Granted, those updates are very likely going to remove a few of my favorite features- namely the bezels and the home button- in favor of making it look like an iPad Air that had a run-in with Rick Moranis. And I’m fine with that.
I think the iPad mini’s size will still make the newer iPad design easier to hold in one hand. And I’d be very curious to see if this new design language means the iPad mini will support the Apple Pencil 2 and maybe even its own version of the Magic Keyboard (or even just the Smart Keyboard Folio). Who knows; maybe once Apple announces the follow-up, I’ll be eager to trade my iPad mini for the new one.
Ever since Apple released the first iPad mini, the smaller tablet has been the one I’ve gravitated towards time and time again, and I’d wager that it will always be the one I want for as long as Apple keeps making them.
It is the perfect device to work with both my MacBook and my iPhone. It doesn’t try to replace either, but instead, it just makes the experience better for me. And that, at the end of the day, is all I really ask of my technology.