To Mini Or To Air, That Is The iPad Question

Comment

Pop quiz, hot shot. You walk into an Apple Store to buy the new iPad. But there are two new iPads. The iPad Air and the new iPad mini. You can only buy one. What do you do? What — do — you — do?

The new retina iPad mini is great. It’s everything you loved about the first iPad mini, but upgraded in the two most important ways: a sharper screen and faster speed. Both are amazing updates by themselves, made all the better when you consider that the device is largely the same size (it’s ever-so-slightly heavier and ever-so-slightly thicker) and maintains the same excellent battery life. It’s clearly the class of smaller tablets.

That one paragraph, roughly 75 words, is pretty much all you need to know about the new iPad mini. If you’re at all debating getting one and have the means to do so, you should. End of story.

The more interesting question about the new iPad is the one I’ve gotten over and over and over again on Twitter and elsewhere: iPad mini or iPad Air? That, is the question.

It’s a hard one to answer because it obviously depends on many factors. And it’s actually even harder to answer this year because the new iPad mini and the iPad Air are basically the exact same machine on the inside. So it simply comes down to size.

But since so many people were asking, I figured they’d want an actual answer other than the “it depends” cop-out. So, it’s time to be subjective.

I’ve been trading off using both devices over the past few weeks. At first, I was carrying around and using the iPad Air (since it came out first). Then I started carrying around and using the new iPad mini. And for the past few days, I’ve been swapping between the two, trying to get a better sense of which one I’m more naturally drawn towards.

It used to be that at home, the 9.7-inch iPad was my go-to machine on the couch. Meanwhile, the iPad mini is the device I’d take on the road. The larger iPad was more powerful, while the smaller iPad was more portable. All made sense in the world.

Then Apple threw us a curveball.

Not only did they shrink the dimensions of the 9.7-inch iPad enough to give it the “Air” moniker, they boosted the innards of the 7.9-inch iPad enough so that it was every bit as powerful as its larger cousin. The result is a befuddling predicament of choice.

photo-1

The new iPad mini is now sharp enough and powerful enough to do everything I want to do on my couch. And the iPad Air is sleek and svelte enough to throw in my bag without worry.

To answer this question for myself, it comes down to both the past and the future. First, the past…

The new iPad mini provides a great experience, but it really takes using it next to the original iPad mini to appreciate how much faster it is. Every application I tried loaded significantly faster on the new iPad mini — which you’d hope were true given how much more powerful it is. But using it day-to-day, I honestly didn’t notice the speed improvements all that much for the majority of apps. That may be because very few apps are yet optimized for the new A7 chip. Or it may be because I’ve been spoiled by the speed of the iPad Air and iPhone 5s (which have the same A7 chip).

Side-by-side, it’s no contest. The original iPad mini seems pokey compared to the new model. But day-to-day, at least right now, the speed difference is not something I think the majority of users will notice simply because they’re not going to be comparing the two side-by-side.

To some degree, the same is true with the new retina display. Side-by-side, there’s no comparison. The retina display is so much nicer than the display on the original iPad mini. It’s like looking at a printed page from a glossy magazine versus looking at the same page out of a dot matrix printer. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but not by much. The old screen looks pixelated and blurry next to the new one.

But because the 9.7-inch iPad has a significantly larger screen, the jump to retina-level was more pronounced on that device. There also seemed to be more complaints about that old iPad screen since Apple had just made the move to the first retina display in the iPhone 4 as well. All screens looked bad in comparison.

But again, day-to-day, unless you’re comparing the old and new iPad minis, I’m not sure the screen upgrade is going to be hugely meaningful to the majority of consumers. If you do a lot of reading on the iPad, then sure. Otherwise, it’s simply not as big of a jump as it has been to retina in the past, in my opinion.

Which brings us to the future…

I can’t help but wonder if we’re on the verge once again of a new, larger screen iPhone. The rumors are swirling and while some may be bogus, some may not be. And if indeed we do see something like a 5-inch iPhone later this year, the gap between that device and the iPad mini will obviously be far less than it is right now.

Would I still feel as compelled to use a 7.9-inch iPad mini in a world where a 5-inch iPhone reigns supreme? Hard to know for sure. Perhaps for some of the iPad-optimized apps. But my sense is that in such a hypothetical world, I’d be more drawn to the 9.7-inch iPad Air in the times that I’m not using my iPhone.

And the truth is that I’ve already found myself more drawn to the iPad Air in the past week. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why other than the obvious: the larger screen mixed with the newly impressive size and weight. In day-to-day usage, it feels like the iPad Air is a bigger upgrade to me versus the new iPad mini.

It’s always going to be easier to perceive a difference in physical size and weight than it is in speed and resolution. The former two can take advantage of muscle memory (size, in particular) while the latter two often need points of comparison to be truly appreciated.

That’s why I’d vote for the iPad Air if someone were to ask me what iPad I’d recommend getting if I had to pick only one. To me, it feels like the more impressive upgrade this year and perhaps even more so next year, if a larger screen iPhone were to be unveiled.

That’s a big “if”, of course. You can never be sure what Apple is going to do. In fact, the only thing you can be sure of is that both of these new iPads are going to get upgraded in some way next year again as well.

But aside from sitting on the sidelines forever or upgrading every single year, you need to take the plunge at some point and get an iPad mini or an iPad Air. And this year, again, I’d vote for the Air. But it’s close. Real close.

photo-2

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

16 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

18 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android