iPad Mini: The iPad in the Palm of Your Hand

by Ben Bajarin   |   October 23rd, 2012

Today’s Apple event was perhaps one of the more interesting to me for a variety of reasons. Apple made a number of announcements that in my opinion give them a strong lineup for this holiday season. Apple has made advances in almost every one of their products in just the last few months. But all eyes today were on the newest member of the iPad family–The iPad Mini.

It took me a long time to come to grips with the reality that Apple was making a smaller iPad. If you have read much of what I have written over the past few months, I explain my belief that the iPad has not yet reached its full potential, and I was concerned that releasing a smaller iPad may deter or delay the iPad reaching its full potential. I was also very keen on some specific and unique positioning for the iPad mini as I stated in a column last Friday. I still believe specific features for families and communities are important going forward but after soaking in the breadth and depth of the Apple announcements from today’s event, my thinking has altered slightly.

It Fits in the Palm of Your Hand

For me the moment of clarity, was when they showed a slide of the new iPad, the iPad Mini, being held comfortably in the palm of a hand. This slide was articulated with the key point that this iPad, the iPad Mini, can do something the iPad can not–fit in the palm of your hand.

This has clearly been a benefit of the 7″ tablet experience if you have ever used one. There was something to being able to hold it easily in one hand. In fact in many of my columns on the 7-8″ tablet form factor, many of our smart commenters remarked on their excitement, or anticipation, of the 7″ tablet form factor because of it being lighter but also easy to hold with one hand.

This is certainly the draw back of the iPad in some but not all use cases. For example, reading on the iPad while laying in bed, reclined, or any position where you are holding the tablet with one hand can be uncomfortable if done for long periods of time. I was thinking about this the other day as I was reflecting on how much I like reading with the Kindle Paperwhite. The primary reason being because it is very light and holding it up for long periods of time during reading requires almost no effort. Paper books are light, and easy to hold. Smaller tablets and e-readers mimic a very natural book like feeling because they are light. This is one of several clear advantages of the smaller tablet form factor.

The first thing that struck me with some of the time I spent handling the iPad Mini was how light it was. By contrast the Kindle Paperwhite with 6″ screen size is .47 pounds and .36 inches thick. The iPad mini is .68 lbs and .28 inches think. I brought my Kindle Paperwhite to the event and held them simultaneously. It was tough to tell the difference in weight.

By taking on the task of delivering a smaller iPad to the market, Apple has in turn designed one of their best iPads yet. But the smaller form factor and cutting edge design is not the only part of the story.

How is it Different than Competing Smaller Tablets?

The answer–as is the case with many platforms–is apps. I was wrong (at least for now) in my initial assumption that the smaller screen size would require custom made apps for the small screen. Apple, by making the screen 7.9 inches, was able to keep the identical resolution as the iPad, so all apps run and look exactly the same. Although slightly scaled down, the apps function and look exactly the same on both the iPad and the Mini. The iPad Mini is literally a full iPad experience in the palm of your hand.

As I reflected on this, I realized I have never personally experienced scaled down tablet apps on a smaller tablet. This is because 7″ Android tablets run scaled up apps built for the smartphone. This means you are running a small screen app and user interface on a larger screen. Apps built for the small screen, were built for just that, a smaller screen.

Yelp on Nexus 7 vs. iPad Mini

Apple showed side by side comparisons of the same smartphone app running on the Nexus 7 and the same iPad app running on the iPad mini. This image is the only one you would need to see to grasp the full value of Apple’s approach with the iPad Mini. The difference in the software experience between a smaller tablet running smartphone apps and a smaller tablet running tablet apps is night and day. The bottom line is that there are only a few hundred tablet apps for Android and several hundred thousand for iPad. This alone gives the iPad Mini a clear and distinct advantage in my opinion. Whether that experience is worth the extra money for consumers will be up to them, but I know it would be worth it to me.

This experience is so new, that it will take time to form a more lengthy analysis of its potential impact. However, what Apple has done with the industrial design is more than impressive. At .68 lbs, 7.2 mm thin, with a 7.9″ screen, running all the over 250,000 iPad apps, Apple has brought the full iPad experience to the palm of a hand. And with an entry price of $329 my guess is it will get into more palm’s than ever before.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • pawhite524

    Ben, congrats on being the first (and only) site as of 11:31 PDT to write about this event.

    I am about 30 minutes into digesting the iPad mini having watched the feed live on the Apple site. While it is a terrific engineering and design feat I do wish it was less expensive as many/most pundits speculated it would be (is that egg on your face sir/madam) and I have to state I much preferred John Gruber’s speculation of iPad Air as this lovely device’s name. IMHO, it more analogous to the MacBook Air:MacBook Pro than is the MacMini to any Apple desktop. Oh well, it is not the 1st time Apple leadership has not asked my opinion and look what it’s got them ;^)!

    Given how much info leaked about this event I was delighted to note no one “predicted” the new iPad (4). I read speculation of the shift to the Lightning connector and what a dumb idea that was midway through a product cycle. Its the new chip, enhanced Wi-Fi and boosted LTE caught folks unawares just like the good old days when gifts were opened on one’s birthday or respective religious holidays, not before.
    All in all, it has been a great day for Apple and the people who appreciate their work.

  • mhikl

    Ben, I am still just getting accustomed to my iPad; I’m taking is slow and sure. But so often I find that what I can do on my MB, I can do as well or well enough on the iPad. Just the other day I was hunting down my compass and rather than hunt through drawers I checked out the App Store. Had I gone for my compass I would have had to guesstimate True North but found a free app that did it all for me. I then hunted out a Periodic Table app and found a number that were free. I grabbed them all and found a great one amongst the wall flowers.

    The weight of the iPad is the only problem but that will be addressed as time goes on and in the meantime, I like to read on my iPt using an older version of Stanza that gets the maximum number of words to a page along with enough white space. I’ve been reading ebooks since the old Palm TX first came out.

    But to think that when Apple was to bring out its first iPad every Tom D & H seemed poised to jump into the game. The price was speculated to be around a thousand bucks and when Apple announced the price at half, promise and brag from the Me-Tooers quietly slipped back to the closet. Apple continues to amaze but what amazes me the most is that its stock fell before, during and after the new product event.
    Design as an original art is not cheap. For those who want cheap, there is always Amazon and Facsimile Sam. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” definitely stays current in the field of technology. Fortunately, Apple updates, builds quality with an eye beyond the ‘here and now’ and has great after sales service. In the end the happy ones pay the quality tax. Others find the toys at the bottom of cereal boxes are not meant to last past breakfast.

    • http://twitter.com/qka qka

      “Facsimile Sam”

      +∞!

  • Kyrke

    Ben, the price is better and worse than I had thought. I had thought there would be an 8 gig version for $250 and a 16 gig for $350. Instead we get 16 gigs for $330. It is certainly a fair price, and as I say, better than I had thought. But I think many had so fixed on companies that give their hardware away that they are disappointed at the $330 price.

    As far as the size, it will be perfect for my special needs daughter. I will enjoy checking out hers when it comes. For me, I will wait with my current gear. As you say, the Kindle PaperWhite does a good job with night time reading and I love the clarity of my iPad 3.

  • alexkhan2000

    I look forward to trying out the iPad mini once it hits the stores. Living in Southern Cal and already having two iPad 2′s in the household, I don’t really see the need for one. Well, except when I’m traveling in Asia on business visiting dense cities like Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong… I commute in these mega-cities like most other people there: ride the crowded subway trains.

    I tried getting around with an iPad 2 in tote but that device only becomes comfortable and useful to pass the time away if I’m lucky to find a seat to sit on. Most of the time I’m standing with virtually no elbow room and one hand holding onto the rail. Well, I tried to get through a 45-minute ride with the iPad 2 in such a situation and I really couldn’t use it for more than 15 minutes. I put it away in its bag and whipped out the iPhone to kill the time.

    This is when I thought an iPad mini would be ideal – a device I can hold with one hand for extended periods of time and which I could put in a jacket pocket while walking around the streets and catching buses and subway trains to get somewhere. I’m sure this is the reason you see far more of those funny-looking Galaxy Note devices there as well as the 7″ Galaxy Tabs. It’s useful in tight spaces.

    I believe the iPad mini will be a big hit in Asia and Europe – more so than in the US. The great majority of Americans commute in cars and have ample space, relatively speaking. I rarely ever need to mount the iPad on the dashboard of the car for GPS purposes. The iPhone is good enough for that.

    For me (and I suspect most Americans who commute in their own automobiles), the iPad is an ancillary device to the notebook computer. But in China, what I’ve noticed is that the smartphone is their primary device to connect to the internet. Sure some of them use the PC’s at work for dreary accounting work and such, but at home, they don’t want to touch a PC even if they have one. It’s the smartphone and, for some of the lucky ones who can afford one, the iPad (or knockoff).

    The iPad mini could become *the* primary (and perhaps the *only*) internet device for many millions of people in China and other emerging economies like India, Brazil, Russia, etc. Seriously, even with a large screen phone, the internet experience is rather cramped and limited. But the mini’s size of 7.9″ seems like the perfect compromise in terms of balancing exceptional portability and having acceptable screen real estate.

    I expect to get one mainly for use during my frequent trips to Asia. It may also become my primary e-reader as well and replace the older 6″ Kindle with the keyboard. The only thing about the iPad screen is that it’s virtually unusable outdoors in bright sunlight and I like to read at the beach a lot. So I’m considering the new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite as well, which I find appealing because it seems better at low-light reading than the older e-ink Kindles. Man, they sure have a way of making you want virtually everything they put out!