The Next iPad Mini Might Be More Powerful, but That’s Not What It Needs

What it really needs is a better screen

  • The next iPad mini will arrive this year with a more powerful processor. 
  • Compared to other Apple devices, the current iPad mini has one of the worst screens.
  • iPad mini owners really, really love them.
iPad with black screen next to a pool

Maarten van den Heuvel / Unsplash

Apple's next iPad mini will pack a more powerful processor, but will it fix the screen?

Some of Apple's product lines get updated like clockwork. The new iPhone comes every fall, for example, and there's usually a new iPad or two every 18 months. But other models can go for years between upgrades. The Mac mini is one of these; another is the iPad mini. Which makes it a pleasant surprise that Apple plans to update the littlest iPad less than two years after the last model. It will, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, sport a faster processor. But what else could an update bring?

"A new processor? The mini is already ridiculously fast for what it does. The biggest reason to upgrade from the current mini would be OLED," software developer Daniel Dosen said in a MacRumors forum thread participated in by Lifewire. "Also—love the mini. Favorite Apple device ever."

Mini Marvel

The 2021 iPad mini was a massive update to Apple’s most-neglected tablet. That was the model that switched to the slab-sided, no-home-button design first seen in the 2018 iPad Pro and now in everything from the iPhone to the MacBook Air. This was an especially welcome change for the mini because it shrank the screen bezels, allowing for a larger screen (8.3 inches vs. 7.9 inches) while shrinking its height by a third of an inch. 

The straight sides also added support for the magnetically-attached second-generation Apple Pencil, which the one-handed iPad mini is just perfect for. 

iPad mini 6 and its camera with stylus

James Yarema / Unsplash

That mini also got better speakers and a better camera. What it did not get, however, was a better display. On paper, the new mini’s screen was just a larger version of the old one. And if you use it next to a recent iPhone, iPad Air, or iPad Pro, you’ll see just how bad it is. What’s more, the new screen added a significant hardware glitch: Jelly scrolling. This appears when you scroll through pages of text and the screen updates in a way that causes one side to lag behind the other, creating a wobbly, rubbery feel. Not everybody notices it, and Apple says it’s a non-issue

But even if you don’t perceive the jelly scroll, the screen is still one of the worst on a current Apple device. 

“With the same utterly crappy display, this will be another no-purchase,” ex-Googler and mobile product creator Ulf Waschbusch said on Twitter

Pro Mini

So, the first thing Apple should address in the iPad mini is the screen. A nice Mini LED screen like that in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro would be great, but the smallest iPad could also be a good fit for an OLED screen, which are also thinner and can use less power. And Apple’s most portable iPad could also do with the extra brightness because it’s otherwise very usable outside.

And while we’re on the screen, which is arguably the most important part of any mobile device, how about Pro-Motion, Apple’s tech that lets screens run at a motion-smoothing 12-Hz refresh rate and down to a battery-saving 1Hz (on the Apple Watch)? 

The biggest reason to upgrade from the current mini would be OLED.

But here we are, getting into iPad Pro territory. Which makes us ask, why not an iPad mini Pro? Better speakers, more RAM, and—here's the killer feature—Stage Manager support. Stage Manager is Apple's flawed-but-useful attempt at using multiple app windows on the iPad at once—like the Mac, but not as good. This is obviously less useful on a tiny screen, but Stage Manager comes with another feature: you can plug the iPad into a big USB-C monitor, add a trackpad and a keyboard, and use it like a desktop computer.

"What would be great for the mini is to have external screen support, but not only in 'mirror' mode. It would be great to hook a mini up to a higher-resolution external monitor/keyboard/mouse once in a while for specific tasks... Also, the A15 is a champ on the mini," says Dosen

Imagine having something small enough to fit in a jacket pocket that can be used like a notepad with the Apple Pencil but can also turn into a powerful desktop-style computer just by hooking it up to a big screen. That's a pretty amazing machine right there. 

Like many other iPad mini users, I totally love mine. But it could really do with a better screen. Get on that, Apple!

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