At yesterday’s Apple Event, one of the most anticipated updates happened to be kind of a letdown. Now granted, the iPod, iPhone and iPad, when first introduced, were blue-moon types of products… meaning, you only see these type of galvanizing gizmos once in a great while. During the second coming of Steve Jobs the company may have been on an innovative streak, but behind the scenes the main focus has always been to perfect the products over the long. Each incremental update is actually a major step forward for making their laptop, desktop and mobile computers closer to absolute perfection.
Nevertheless, we live in a fast-forward culture and the excitement and hype over new product announcements can be deafening. Now that hoopla over the Apple event has died down, it’s worth taking a closer look at the iPad Mini with Retina Display.
While it received the most obvious upgrades that consumers and Apple analysts have been clamoring for— the iPad Mini upgrade comes with the new 64-bit A7 processor (and M7 co-processor), and Retina Display (finally!) —it managed to inspire yawns, which led me to think of several reasons to shun the iPad Mini with Retina Display (which we’ll call the Mini 2 for brevity’s sake).
1. NO CAMERA UPGRADE
I had thought that Apple might offer a significant upgrade of the iPad line’s camera, at the very least on the Mini 2 which is easier to tote around, but instead of an 8MP iSight camera, bigger pixels and a larger aperture the Mini 2 keeps the specs of the previous camera: 5 MP backside iSight and 1.2 MP front facing FaceTime HD.
Granted, the Mini still beats most small tablet competitors. For instance, the Kindle Fire finally comes with a camera, but it’s only a front facing HD (probably 2MP at most) camera meant for video chats. The smaller Samsung and Google tablets also sport either the same specs as the Mini 2 or worse. Nevertheless, the lack of better camera specs is a big strike against the Mini 2.
2. STILL NO LED FLASH
On the iPhone 5S, Apple introduced the True Tone dual-LED flash for better color accuracy and improved indoor, low-light shooting. Apple should have included it on both iPads, and it would have been ideal on the Mini 2 due to its more portable size, but the Mini 2 still does not have a flash. Good luck using the Mini 2 to take quality indoor pics without serious noodling on a photo editing app. What a shame.
3. TOUCH ID? NOT YET
The Touch ID security feature was introduced for the recent iPhone 5S, and should have at least been included on the iPad Air that was announced yesterday in keeping with Apple’s premium product approach (then later, they would port that feature over to the Mini), but nope… neither iPad was given that feature, which either means Apple still thinks it’s not ready for prime-time and/or they wanted to keep costs down on the tablets. In any case, the iPad Mini 2 could have benefited from this feature, since the smaller your device, the more prone you might be to leaving it behind for prying eyes to find.
4. WIFI AC IS MISSING
Apple introduced its new Wi-Fi upgrades featuring dual antennas that use MIMO (multiple-input multiple-output) technology. However, the newest Wi-Fi improvement on the verge of being standardized across the technology spectrum is 802.11ac. Apple is still using 802.11 a/b/g/n, but should have upgraded the Mini 2 to the ac standard as well, at least to future-proof its smallest tablet.
5. MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS WOULD BE NICE
The iPad, and especially the iPad Mini has come to be known as a family device because of its size. While the iPad is too large for little hands, kids tend to love playing around with the iPad Mini to watch movies, play games, work and with educational apps. The Mini gets toted around with Mom and Dad, too, and it would be nice if Apple included multiple account support for families that use the iPad Mini as the main family “computer”. The Mini 2 lacks this, and while its competitors have yet to introduce such a feature, Apple could get ahead of the pack by making the Mini 2 in its next upgrade a true family tablet.
6. APPLE STILL HATES NFC
iPad Minis are increasingly being used in retail establishments to accept payment. While apps like PayPal, Square and others have very good payment functions without using NFC (near field communication), no one payment service yet dominates the others. It can be an irritating experience to find that a shop can’t take your wireless payment because it doesn’t use a particular app. NFC is the solution if widely adopted, and Apple could have taken the plunge, making NFC more officially acceptable, but they refuse to do so. In any case, this would have been a great feature to test on the Mini 2, and I’m sure many retailers would have embraced it in conjunction with other app-based payment systems.
For $399 you get 16GB of storage (Wi-Fi only), from there it’s $499 for 32GB, $599 for 64GB, and $699 for a whopping 128GB of onboard storage.
Mini 2s that can handle data plans begin at $529 for 16GB, while it’s $629 for 32GB, $729 for 64GB, and $829 for 128GB.
Ouch, that’s a lot of dough! Of course, you can pick up the original iPad Mini from Apple for only $299 which is still higher than the competition, but does make for a nice entry-level iPad Mini.
[box_light]The iPad Mini with Retina Display does offer a great looking screen and that blazingly fast processor (though most app developers, including Apple, have yet to tap into its potential), but with only these upgrades to truly recommend it, it’s probably worth sticking with the original iPad Mini for now if you’re an Apple fan. Meanwhile, Android fans have pretty good choices ahead with the next generation of Nexus and Galaxy tablets due in 2014.[/box_light]
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.