Why the Next iPad mini Could Be Your Perfect Pocket Computer

It’s all about the Pencil

Key Takeaways

  • Rumors say the next iPad mini will look like a tiny iPad Pro.
  • The iPad mini’s most significant advantage over the iPhone is the Apple Pencil.
  • Warning—it may be too cute not to buy.
A white iPad sitting on the side of a swimming pool.

Maarten van den Heuvel / Unsplash

It looks like the next iPad mini will be a smaller version of the iPad Air, which itself looks just like the amazing iPad Pro. And that’s fantastic news.

Apple has a weird relationship with the iPad mini. Updates are rare, and really, it’s hardly changed since the original in 2012. And yet users love it. I bought that 2012 original after seeing a colleague using one at CES.

It was just so cute, and I used it as my sole portable computer, doing all my work on it, for a year. The mini is Apple’s most portable iPad, and it looks like it’s about to get a long-deserved, and absurdly overdue, redesign.

"An iPad mini based on the iPad Air could be pretty affordable, and would then be a viable second iPad."

Pro mini

The rumor comes via long-time analyst-oracle Ming-Chi “Status” Kuo, and says that the updated "iPad mini Pro" will be a cut-down version of Apple’s newest iPad design. That is, it will have flat edges, slim screen bezels, and no home button.

For an iPad that’s already as small as the mini, this trimming of bezels, and the removal of the home button and the “chin” in which it nestles, is a huge deal, and could mean a bigger screen or a smaller device. 

As we suggested a month ago, an actual Pro iPad mini—one with an M1 chip and all the other Pro features—could be incredible. Imagine all that power, in a package that can fit into your pocket. 

But in some ways, a less-capable version, based on the 2019 iPad Air, might be even more attractive.

mini Air

An iPad mini based on the iPad Air could be pretty affordable, and would then be a viable second iPad. Yes, a second iPad. If you use the big 12.9-inch iPad Pro, you’ll know that it is the best iPad money can buy and that it's awkward to use in some situations. 

Someone drawing on an iPad with an Apple Pencil.

Balázs Kétyi / Unsplash

If the new mini costs the same $399 as the current mini, that makes it a viable option as a second iPad, one that could be taken out of the house, or just picked up when you don’t need that giant, beautiful 12.9-inch screen. Thanks to iCloud syncing, it’s really like having two different-sized views of the same data. 

One possible reason for Apple’s neglect of the iPad mini is that the iPhone has grown to a similar size. Back in 2012, the then-current iPhone 5 sported a 4-inch display. Compared to that, the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch screen was quite a step up. Today, the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch display, which isn’t far behind the mini.

So, why would 2021’s iPad mini be any different? First, those smaller pro-style screen bezels could mean a bigger screen in the same-sized shell. Or, the shell might shrink around the 7- to 9-inch display to make for an even more pocketable device. 

But the main difference between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the new iPad mini will be the Apple Pencil, which presumably will stick to the side of the iPad with magnets, just like it does with the iPads Pro and Air. This means that you always have an electronic notebook at hand. Or a tiny, pocketable sketchbook with infinite blank pages. 

Touch ID or Face ID?

Apple seems to have settled on Face ID only being available in the iPhone and the top-end iPads. Even the new M1 iMac, which is essentially just a really, really big iPad, doesn’t have a Face ID camera. Perhaps Face ID is on its way out, to be replaced by whatever the next big biometric ID technology may be. Or maybe it really is just too expensive to put in the cheaper computers. 

"If the prices stay the same, and the mini gets a complete modern makeover, then perhaps Apple could have a hit on its hands."

Either way, it seems likely, based on past trends, that any new iPad mini will use the same Touch ID power button that Apple first used in the current iPad Air. And that’s fine. The mini is a device for the hand, not for putting in a stand and using with a keyboard, which is where the bigger iPad’s Face ID shines.

And, remember, if you use an Apple Pencil, you can tap it on a sleeping iPad’s screen and wake it to the Notes app without having to authenticate first.

A Pro-shaped iPad mini, then, could be huge. Well, not exactly huge, but you know what we mean. If the prices stay the same, and the mini gets a complete modern makeover, then perhaps Apple could have a hit on its hands. I know I’d find it hard to resist the temptation of such a cute little device.

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