May 16, 2017
I had the first iPad in college as my primary computer and loved every bit of it. The size and weight were phenomenal, and the only change I wanted to see in the screen was a retina resolution, not a smaller screen. The 9.7” screen was perfect for writing papers, reading books or essays, and watching Netflix in my dorm. When rumors first started flying about the mini I dismissed the idea that I would want an iPad any smaller than what I had.
When the Retina iPad finally launched I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and as much as I loved the screen I remember sitting on a couch reading King Lear and thinking “Man, this thing is heavy.” It was actually slightly lighter than the original iPad it replaced (0.04 lbs.), but perceptions and expectations change when you’re getting a new device compared to a 2 year old model. But every time I struggled to balance it while also sitting in a comfortable reading position I thought about the weight and balanced it in my mind with the massive increase in screen quality that I enjoyed, and it was a worthy trade in my mind.
When the iPad mini launched later that year (along with a new 4th generation iPad, making mine outdated only 6 months in) I was still reluctant to really get behind it. Yes, the screen was much larger than most 7” Android tablets it was being confirmed to, and it kept the resolution and ratio of the iPad 2, which allowed apps to run without being scaled down ‘mini’ versions of themselves, but to me that only meant that this would be better than other Android tablets of the day, which was not necessarily high praise.
I remember very clearly the moment I changed my mind. I was walking around Manhattan a few weeks after the iPad mini launch and passed a store where a line had formed for some event. There was a woman in line reading something on an iPad mini with LTE with one hand and holding onto her purse with the other. The line started moving forward and she adjusted her bag and took a few steps, without having to shuffle her iPad around in her hand at all. By the end of the block I was convinced of the value. Where the iPad made great leaps in the tablet form, the iPad mini brought those exact concepts to a truly mobile form factor with very few compromises. At the time the iPad and iPhone experiences of iOS were still very distinct, so being able to use an iPad when out and about had some distinct advantages that I was very excited about the more I thought of it.
By the next year I had started taking more CS classes and was using a MacBook Air as my main computing device, and my 3rd Gen iPad was being used for reading and note taking in class and not much else. So when the iPad mini with Retina Display launched in October I was very quick to downgrade to the far lighter device for these tasks. That iPad took me through my last semesters at college, and as newer and newer models, including the much lighter iPad Air and Air 2, came out I never found a reason to upgrade.
I’ve recently retired my iPad mini, giving it to Rosalee to use as an educational device in her classroom. I realized that my computing needs no longer have an iPad shaped gap to fill, but I will always remember the moment when the iPad mini finally clicked to me and the feeling when I first pulled up a book for class on the far lighter device.
These days I don’t think I would disagree with the notion that Apple should discontinue the iPad mini, between iPhone getting larger and larger screens and the rumors of a smaller 10.5” iPad in the works the iPad mini very likely does not make sense. But I sure will miss it.