Reconsidering the iPad Mini

Last night, I shared my views of the iPad Mini on the MacRoundtable. Overall I was impressed with the mini but just didn’t think it was for me. I'm very happy with my third generation iPad and it does everything I want it to do. I watched the keynote, reviewed and all the Apple news and weblogs and went to bed confident that nothing that happened at the Apple Special Event impacted me personally. Something happened overnight. I woke up this morning, as I do every morning, and reached for my iPad on my night stand to check my email, RSS feeds and social networks. It felt clunky. I took a shower and brushed my teeth and picked up the iPad and walked into the kitchen to read the online paper and the iPad felt heavy. I ripped the leather case off my iPad thinking that must be the problem  but I just couldn’t get comfortable. What’s wrong? I do this every morning.

As I'm driving into work this morning I think back to the two day business trip I took last week where my electronics bag was almost as big as my overnight bag. I was giving a major presentation and also planned to catch up on some office work so I brought along my iPad and my MacBook Air. While I would have loved to travel with the iPad only, this was a “business trip” and I needed access to our server back at the office, create long form word documents and share documents and files with colleagues both at my meeting and back at the office. I could have done these things with an iPad, but having a computer made things so much easier.

I started to think about how I use my iPad. For me, it’s still primarily a consumption device and a personal computing device. It’s the computer I keep by my bedside, in my kitchen or on my coffee table. I use it for basic web browsing, reading, catching up on RSS feeds, social media and communication. When traveling for pleasure, I prefer to leave the laptop at home and travel iPad only. But for my day job, although I have snuck a Mac into my office, I still almost exclusively use a computer to handle the heavy lifting. Before you send me emails - I know the iPad is a great work device. My friend David Sparks wrote the book on that topic. I've found that the iPad fits well with my workflow where I control the ecosystem (or rather I use the nice little ecosystem Apple has setup for me), which doesn’t necessarily integrate well with my day job’s setup and business colleagues.

For all the ways I use the iPad, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps smaller is better? I can’t think of a single task I do today on my iPad that the iPad mini wouldn’t easily handle. Although the iPad mini is less powerful than my third generation iPad, I don’t use my iPad for anything processor or graphics intensive. A smaller iPad may mean I take it on the go more often and may even be easier to use around the house. The great unknown is physical comfort of using a smaller device. I find using the 9.7” iPad to be fairly comfortable for both browsing and using the on screen keyboard in landscape mode. Until I've actually had qualified hands-on experience with the mini, I have no way of knowing whether I’ll find the screen too small for browsing or the keyboard too cramped for everyday typing. Those things worry me.

The only way I'm really going to know whether the iPad mini works for me is to give it a real try. I could wait a few weeks and try out an iPad in a local retail store, but a few minutes of hands on time with a tethered down display model isn’t going to be enough to make an informed decision. One thing is clear, I don’t need two iPads. So I'm considering trading in my current 3rd generation iPad and giving the mini a try. Because my iPad still has significant value, I won’t lose much, if any, on the deal. If it doesn’t work out I can always go back to the full size iPad when they’re refreshed next year.

Pre-order day is tomorrow. Am I caught up in the reality distortion field and just rationalizing the desire for the latest toy? Or does any of this actually make sense?