The iPad mini and the iPhone

Like any good Apple junky, I’m doing the “to iPad mini or not to iPad mini” song and dance in my head right now. Despite being the owner of two of the three previous iPads (the first and second generation models for those keeping score), I’ve never managed to make the most out of them. I enjoy the iPad for mind mapping in iThoughts HD, OmniFocus reviews and now the new Camera+ integration, but it has always been more of a toy than a tool. However the latest offering is tempting and has the potential to be more than the toy of its larger, oft-neglected counterpart.

Travel and the iPad

When packing my bag for anything longer than an afternoon, there’s always a moments hesitation where I ask myself what I really need to take. I prefer the interoperability of OS X, so given the choice between an iPad and a 13" MacBook Air when on the go, I tend to grab my Mac. The difference in weight when in a bag is always negligible when compared to the bump in productivity. When traveling for extended periods of time (especially those that require flights), I tend to take both, so a lightening the overall load is also tempting.

The Daily Commute

I’m nowhere close to being a minimalist, but if there’s one way that I am, it’s in how I like to walk out the door… with as little as possible. Keys, phone, headphones, wallet and occasionally some walking around money. Any day I have to take a briefcase is rarely one of the better ones. This preference (which I may not have realized until I had the iPad) always kept the iPad sitting at home. That said, I still spend at between 80 minutes and two hours a day commuting on the subway so a slightly larger screen is tempting.

It’s Amazing What You Can Accomplish On An iPhone

For the most part, I’m right there with Brian Lam of Wirecutter:

The perfect iPad for me is the iPhone, aka, the iPad micro. It’s not for everyone, but it’s subsidized in cost and fits in your pocket and hand better than any tablet.

While this year’s iPhone was far from subsidized, my one minimal tendency has led me to use the hell out of it and I never question the purchase. I get tremendous value and enjoyment out of it. I do a surprising amount of my writing and reading on it. To quote my daughter’s favorite book, Eloise, it’s “my mostly companion” and has become a major part of many of my workflows. I’m enjoying the little bit of extra headspace that came along with the iPhone 5 and wonder if I really need another device (or, like most junkies, just want it). I’ve also been enjoying my iPhone 5 without a case (nonetheless a Morphie I’d need to get the kind of battery life I’d like), so lightening my usage with an iPad mini would help keep my iPhone as Jony Ive intended.

Smaller and Lighter Matters

It’s not just that this is a new Apple device that has me considering it (although let’s be honest, that’s a factor). The comparison in size between my current Air and iPad has always tipped me towards my Mac. The difference between the Air and the mini would likely lead me to lean on the iPad a lot more. The smaller form factor would likely fit in a few of my jackets, so that would help me crap rationalize it during the winter months and if I manage to work it more deeply into my workflows, I’m confident I can overcome the desire to travel light. The few times I’ve taken it on the subway, the iPad has always felt a little awkward, especially on the more crowded days, but in the moments when I enjoy using it on the couch, I’ve always wished for a bit more screen real estate on the go.

But So Does The Price

Apple products, at least in my estimation, deserve their premium. And while I had no problem paying an exorbitant amount for an iPhone that I know I’ll use, I’m finding it harder to rationalize the cost of a device I’m not quite certain about. While $329 may not seem like much compared to the cost of an unsubsidized iPhone (especially the 64GB model that I prefer), I’d have to add $130 for the LTE service and probably another $100 to bump up to 32GB hard drive to really get enough value out of the iPad mini to rationalize the cost.

It’s tempting, but for between nearly $500-$600, I’m not sure I want to chance that it will be a tool, especially in light of my past two iPads turning out to be little more than toys.

What about you, fellow junkies? Are you upgrading to something smaller, adding something larger or sticking with what you’ve already got?

  • BlackMacX

    I too am having that dance of iPad mini vs iPhone 5 (still awaiting it’s arrival from my Cell Provider, Rogers, 4+ weeks now waiting). For me, the iPad mini is a great size that give me what I need from an iPhone; but in a more useful size. Also, it gives me more powerful applications and a useful screen size. That said, it also has issues, that I like the iPhone’s greater portability and function (as a true phone). So, I may have to give in and stay with the iPhone 5 and give into my wife’s needs/wants and get the iPad (4) when it comes out.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Seems like a smart way to go. I know Federico Viticci is using his special lady as an excuse to get the mini as well :)

  • http://www.aaronhockley.com Aaron Hockley

    I’m very much on the fence. I have an iPhone 5 and a first-generation iPad currently. I also have an 11″ MacBook Air which is my travel & coffee shop computer. Since buying the MacBook Air about a year ago, my iPad has primarily been used for OmniFocus, the occasional notetaking, reading PDFs, and for games.

    I’ve realized that of these things, OmniFocus really is the killer app for me. OmniFocus on the iPhone just seems clunky to me; the UI seems much more limited than the iPad version. At the same time, I’d like a faster iPad that can run iOS 6. At $299 I probably would’ve bought a mini without too much thought, but there’s something about that extra $30 that I’m struggling with… and it’s making me question whether I buy one at all.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      And when you consider that OF is going to see a massive update in early 2013, that also helps slow it down. Even at $299, I still would have been talking at least an extra $130 for 3G, as I’d get no use out of an iPad without connectivity. Wi-Fi is hard to come by here in NYC :)

      • Scott Rychnowski

        I was just curious where you read that OF is going to have a massive update. I’m REALLY anxious for anything new.

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          They’ve been talking about it for some time now and have slated early 2013 as the timeframe. We’re actually talking to their CEO, Ken Case today for a future Mikes on Mics, so I’ll see what I can get out of him.

  • http://twitter.com/rsalermo rsalermo

    I travel about 80% for work. I use my iPad 2. It has replaced my laptop. I review and prepare presentations, check my email, and review all types of spreadsheets (budgets, forecasts, proposals, etc.) I’ve traveled to Asia, Latin America, and in the US.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I admire the hell out of people who have made the switch and I’ve tried to do the same on a few short trips, the slowdown due to lack of integration really kills me. I love my iPhone for this, but never found the iPad to cut it. The extra bulk of the Air always gave me so much more for so little weight.

  • Austin White

    There have been tons of articles written about the iPad as a creation device. I do use it as such sometimes but primarily it is a consumption device. Reading mostly and occasional movie. I have an iPad 3 but do not find it as enjoyable to read from for a long time. I find myself reading on the iphone 5 more and more. I think the mini fits an interesing spot – more than a kindle but not a full computer. I think it is worth a try – perhaps making me sell the ipad ?

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Same here with reading. Apparently the width of an iPhone is identical to the width of a magazine column, so for many it’s far more readable. I considered selling mine to do this as well, but the iPad 2 is only pulling in about $155 these days and that’s for 64GB 3g model.

      • Austin White

        Not sure if you are a big Amazon shopper but the trade in on the model you suggested in good condition is up to $375 and perfect is $420. It is for credit but they are very easy to work with. Just select return my item to me if they do not agree with the condition you feel it is.

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          That certainly makes things more appealing, but knowing me I’ll just get lazy :)

  • http://www.thinkinprojects.com Rafal

    For me the price sealed the deal. If I go for a tablet it will be Nexus 7.

  • Nick

    For me, the mini will also be my LTE hotspot for my MacBook Air 11″. Using my iPhone as a hotspot kills the power. For me, this got me over the hurdle of choosing between the iPad 4 and the mini. I wanted something I could always have with me.

  • Trontonomo

    I prefer to use my iPad over my 11″ Air when I can. And I can’t wait to get my iPad Mini on Monday. I got the 32 gb WiFi as I am mostly near WiFi and have my iPhone 4 when I am not.