The iPad mini Dividing Line

The iPad mini has been out a few days now and it seems everybody is going bananas over it. Because I’m weak, I pre-ordered one as soon as I could. My wife received the delivery and did the initial set up for me. (iCloud makes that so easy.) As a result, it got handed to me as I sat down to record the Mac Power Users After Dark episode that published earlier this week. That is an interesting bit of tape in that it captures my immediate reaction “on air”, which was twofold: 1. “Holy Crackers, this is really nice”, and; 2. “This is definitely not a retina screen.”

After now having used it for several days, my immediate reaction hasn’t substantially changed. The small form factor is great. The smaller device footprint and lighter weight make it much easier to carry this out the door and even carry around the house. Nevertheless, I don’t see the iPad mini replacing my retina iPad for a couple of reasons.

  1. The Retina Display is a Really Big Deal (to me)

I don’t think I can overstate how much I love the trend towards high pixel density in iThings. The retina display iPhone, iPad, and now MacBook Pro are all gorgeous. I spend a lot of time reading and working on my iPad and the retina screen makes this easier. Crisp, sharp text makes a huge difference in my ability to spend hours working in front of a screen. Looking at the iPad mini, the non-retina display is immediately apparent. I understand why Apple made the decision not to include the retina display with this first iPad mini. I would not like a heavier, more expensive iPad mini but the lack of a retina display is a significant difference and one particularly relevant to the way I use it. I’ve heard people explain how you “get used to it”. I haven’t.

  1. Content Creation

While content creation certainly is possible on the new iPad mini, I still think it is easier on the larger iPad screen. Creating mind maps, writing words, annotating PDFs, and the other things I do with an iPad to pay for shoes are all easier using the larger screen. It is not impossible to work with these apps on the iPad mini but just like it’s easier to carry the iPad mini out the door, it is easier to create on the retina third-generation iPad. (As an aside, I believe the iPad mini may be a superior device for wireless presentation. I’m looking forward to trying it out in that capacity at my next speaking gig.)

For now at least, I think one of the big dividing lines between the iPad mini and the larger size iPad is content consumption versus creation. If someone is just going to be reading books, surfing the web, checking email, the iPad mini is perfectly adequate. If someone is going to do significant writing, digital art, or any of the other more traditional “creation” tasks, there’s a really good case to be made for larger iPad.