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Why I just dumped the iPad 3 (Hint: iPad mini!)

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“So long iPad 3. We’ve had a fun time these past eight months and I’m sorry to see you go. With your Retina display and speedy A5X processor, you’ve served me well. And it’s not you; it’s me. See, almost two years ago I dumped the first iPad model in favor of a smaller model. Even though you trounce the new iPad mini on some specs, portability is pretty high on my  list of desired features and, well, as I said in January of 2011: Size matters.”

Ok, so I really didn’t have that conversation with my iPad 3. At least not out loud! But it is true: The new iPad mini is replacing my iPad 3; lack of Retina display, be damned! Before I share more thoughts on the two tablets and what led me to the decision, let me bring back some salient points I made nearly two years ago on Apple(s AAPL) missing out on the small tablet market. That post, along with the great reader commentary, was read by Apple executives who then decided to enter the small tablet market.

What’s the big deal about small tablets?

Here’s my summary from back then when describing the experience with my 7-inch Galaxy Tab:

“I’m not suggesting everyone dump their iPads; I’m simply explaining my own decision making process to help you make your own. And aside from our own Darrell Etherington at the GigaOM Apple channel who tried, and then returned a Tab, I’ve heard from at least a dozen Tab owners who are also finding less use for the iPad (and other devices) based on the 7-inch form factor. Darrell’s experience with the Tab ironically made him realize that he wants a 7-inch iPad. I’m inclined to agree and would consider dumping my Tab if Apple were to sell such a device. It would be the best of both worlds, regardless of Steve Jobs’s insinuation that it will never happen.

Darrell’s sentiment highlights a key point I’m trying to make here: We often look at the features of a device, but I contend that form is just as much a feature as the CPU clock cycle or the amount of memory in a mobile device. Of course, you never know that until you try a new form factor to see how it fits in your lifestyle. I’m glad I did that with the Tab.”

Perhaps the most important point here is that without the experience of using a small slate, it’s easy to miss its biggest benefit: portability.

But it doesn’t have a Retina Display!

Dooming the device without experience is of using it has already been seen: iPad mini naysayers were decrying the device for its 1024 x 768 display before the device even shipped. I can’t argue with them that the Retina display on the recent iPads are outstanding. But the screen on the iPad mini isn’t as bad as the ones found on the first two iPads.

Wait, aren’t those all 1024 x 768 resolution? How can the iPad mini screen be better than the first two iPads?” I’m glad you asked, and it’s a pretty simple answer really. Because the same 786,432 pixels of a display with this resolution are crammed into a smaller screen, the pixel density is greater. That means, all things being equal, things on the screen will look clearer. Not by much, but enough to see a difference. So no, the iPad mini display can’t compete with the screen on the newest iPads, but it’s better than the iPads from two or three years ago.

Just as I said when I dumped the first iPad in favor of a 7-inch tablet, I don’t expect everyone to follow suit. After all, thanks to a myriad of applications, the iPad is used differently by everyone. For example, I actually don’t create much content on an iPad, outside of emails and social network updates, that is. If I actually used my iPad to write my daily blog posts, I might feel differently as I find that activity better on a screen larger than 7 or 7.9 inches.

Instead, I do far more content consumption: ebook reading; web browsing; watching TED videos, television episodes and movies; using various apps and games. All of these activities fit nicely on the iPad mini and I’m already doing them in more places: my “large” iPads always tended to stay at home, but the iPad mini can easily go anywhere. And as I noted in early 2011, the best tablet is the one you have with you.

A full iPad experience in a smaller package is a huge selling point

As far as the iPad mini’s usage, performance and feature set, I feel like I’m getting the full iPad experience in a package more suited to my particular needs. Based on a visit to the local Apple Store in King of Prussia, Penn. over the weekend, I suspect many others are starting to see the light. I watched person after person enter the store and walk up to the iPad mini display units with a quizzical look on their face, as if to say, “What’s the point of this smaller iPad?”

More often than not, those looks melted away after a few minutes and it was as if I could actually see the light bulbs going off over people’s heads. Between the portability, the lower price and the full iPad experience, I suspect Apple will sell more iPad mini tablets this holiday season than any other iPad model.

So, goodbye, iPad 3. You were great; whenever I had you around, that is. The problem is a slimmer, lighter model provides the same utility in more places for me; even with that lowly 1024 x 768 display.

25 Responses to “Why I just dumped the iPad 3 (Hint: iPad mini!)”

  1. Andreas Ødegård

    I just sold off my Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus to get a mini. I have an iPad 2 and a Galaxy S II on the side. When it first launched, the iPad mini annoyed me because I felt there were two major issues: No way to compensate for the lack of screen real-estate vs bigger iPads in regards to handwriting on the screen, which I do a lot, and that damned Lightning connector that isn’t compatible with my HDMI, VGA, USB, and SD adapters.

    I ended up replacing my Galaxy Tab instead of the iPad 2,which basically avoids those two issues by keeping a second device. I don’t know if there’s actually any point to doing that, or if the iPad 2 will also go. Right now my iPad 2 is jailbroken, meaning everything from mouse support to wifi based auto unlock, features I really miss on the mini.

    That being said, the mini is great. Size is everything. The mini has to be the first tablet ever that truly realizes the concept of a PADD from Star Trek. It’s a device that simply feels so natural – more so than a larger iPad ever did, in my opinion. It’s in many ways the first iPad since the original that’s different. The iPad 2, 3, 4 made the iPad 1 experience better. The iPad mini puts the iPad into situations where its size would normally prevent it from being used.

  2. I don’t know. I guess the Mini’s price is a big selling point. But I mostly use my iPad 2 to surf while sitting on the couch. A bigger screen is a big bonus in that usage case. Still not sold on a Mini.

  3. I am an Android user and for the first time, I think that iPad Mini is my best option for my business and media tablet. I can actually do 40% of my everyday work on a 8″. And then enjoy a big screen media device when not working on the go.
    The truth is that I held one, and hardly gave it back ;)
    So now I think about why I even need a phone. I can go LTE data only VOIP and try making whatever mobile calls I do over that. But even if that fails, I am pretty sure I can go with a feature phone. As my personal opinion is that messages and emails are not something you should do with a 4″ device, if you can carry you mini with you.

    • Tal, I’d consider VoIP over data and no voice again – just like I did last year – but I’m still finding coverage holes / traffic congestion that holds me back. But I’m betting you could pair this with a feature phone for voice only and be happy. :)

  4. Agreed 100%. I had a Blackberry Playbook which I loved (granted it was, at times a tempestuous relationship). Part of that love was due in part to the form factor (although the hardware and the UI were also very good).

    Now my firm has moved from being a Blackberry shop to and Apple shop and I dashed out to get a Mini on it’s release day. I am VERY pleased with it! Would I perfer to have a retina display and an A6X processor int it? Sure. But despite a few specs falling short of the iPad 3 and 4, I would not trade the smaller for factor for the better screen of faster processor of the bigger iPads.

    For my needs, the Mini is almost perfect, and a hands down choice among all other currently available options.

    P.S. The screen really is quite nice, despite much of the hand-wringing in the press. I do not have any significant complaints over its quality.

  5. Do any of you have kids and I mean little kids15 months and up? They don’t care what IOS device they play on, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iPad Mini. As long as they can watch their cartoons, play games, etc, you can repurpose your BIG iPad for your kids without blinking an eye, plus it will save you at dinners, in cars, and other places where yours kids don’t sit too well.

  6. Good and informative post. However, I just can’t bring myself to take three technical steps backwards for one step forward. I’ll wait for a Retina display and a better camera because I know that the wait won’t be a long one. Eight months is not long to wait when your current arsenal includes an iPad 3 and a Nexus 7.

  7. Kindroid

    Kevin….when you are watching letterboxed video, doesn’t that resolution fall to 1024 x 576…making it just barely more than SD. And I have read the color gamut is an ancient 62%, making color reproduction unreliable. Also, the display is said to have a much higher reflective ratio.

  8. Solomon Kim

    Just played for 40 minutes with one at the apple store. The mini is amazing and it feels so fast and loading games is fast as well is like the A5 chip was revamped or something. In any case, there were times where I could NOT tell the difference between the retina ipad or the iPad mini display. It was just weird to see how the “lower” resolution feels very good. Now I want one even with an iPad 3 on my desk. Sold out though. I guess I’ll try tomorrow

  9. Angel McNairs

    Are you going to keep the wifi version or exchange for the LTE version?

    I am going to keep my iPad mini, plus my iPad 3. However, once the iPad mini releases with a Retina screen, I think I will be done with 10-inch tablets.

  10. I have a smart phone, a kindle fire and an Ipad 3. The easiest to use is the Ipad 3. I don’t have to strain my eyes to see it and it is just as portable for me as a kindle fire. Each serves its purpose.
    Would I rather have the IPAD 3 or the new mini Ipad…. there is no question IPAD 3 wins out.