I Have Seen the Future of the iPad and It Is Mini

I love my iPad, but I have long grumbled about its weight. When you pick up a 10″ iPad, you know you have picked it up. At 651 grams, it’s a hefty device. I’ve always found it a bit too heavy for reading, and the 207 gram Kindle Touch is much more comfortable to hold, and its smaller screen is not a problem when reading books.

In the article I linked to above from July, 2012, I explained why I wanted a 7″ iPad. I use my iPad for consuming media and playing games, not for creating. The larger display doesn’t add anything for me, and the extra weight makes it a bit of a drag.

When I got my iPad mini yesterday (which finally has a 7.9″ screen), I realized that this is the iPad I had been waiting for all along. Not only is it smaller and lighter, but it’s thinness makes it feel like a totally different device. The lack of heft means that you pick it up easily, with less strain and gravitas than the heavier iPad. At 304 grams, it’s less than half the weight of the full-sized iPad, and, while it’s not that much thinner (7.2 mm compared to 9.4 mm), the difference is notable.

Following some of my fellow tech writers on Twitter yesterday, they all had good things to say about the iPad mini. It’s cute, it’s easier to type with two thumbs, and it’s much better for reading than the Kindle Paperwhite (the backlit Kindle) because the light is more even.

There are a couple of things that could be improved on the iPad mini. First, the display could be better. It’s better than the iPad 2, but not as good as the retina display of the iPad 3 and 4. This said, it’s fine for reading, even if the fonts aren’t as crisp as one might like. Apple most likely decided to forgo the retina display so they have a feature they can add to new year’s model, and I think this is a shame.

Second, everything on the iPad mini is just as it is on the full-sized iPad, but scaled down. I think that the interface could be re-designed so icons are a bit larger, and interface texts a few points bigger. There’s room to do this, but it does mean a different version of the interface than the standard iPad. Many interface elements have small fonts, which would be more readable at a slightly bigger size.

The iPad mini, which you can hold in one hand if you have large enough hands (as I do), is the right size and weight for usage on the go. It’s a portable iPad (sure, the large iPad is portable, but lug it around in your backpack, together with the rest of your everyday belongings, and you notice the weight). And it’s the future.

I will gladly predict that the iPad mini will become the standard iPad, and that, in the future, we’ll look back on the early full-sized iPads with a smirk, the way we look back at the first portable computers. If you already have an iPad, go check out the mini. If you don’t have either, compare the two. You’ll see that, unless you want to use the iPad to create – to work on images or videos, for example – there’s no reason to buy the bigger model. The iPad mini is really just right.

Note: See this post for some observations on color differences between the iPad mini and the iPad 3.