Wednesday, March 20, 2013

iPad vs iPad mini (vs the MacBookAir, sort of...)

Takeaway: in a mobile world, is it a fair fight between the iPad/iPad mini & the MacBook...? The iPad stands tall, the beloved Air stays home...

I just spent three days at the annual ACSD conference, this year held in Chicago. As I was packing, I was staring at my devices, trying to decide which to pack. Do I take the MacBookAir, the iPad, the iPad mini...? In the end, I couldn't decide, so I took all three. Here's how that shook out...

  1. My MacBookAir never got turned on. I no longer have a need for a laptop. My work life has become an iMac on my desk and an iPad everywhere else. If the MacBookAir was my only full OS device, I'd happily own it, but it would never leave my desk. Don't get me wrong, I love OS X & the Air is a fantastic form-factor, it's just no longer mobile-critical. I have made my mobile life about the iOS
  2. The iPad mini is a great device but it’s just not enough. If I indeed needed the laptop on the road, the mini would be a nice way to check email, Twitter, and have some fun without firing up the MacBook
  3. The iOS is one robust operating system and the iPad is a killer device

To elaborate a bit...

...Once I checked in to the hotel, I unpacked and looked at the three devices. I immediately decided two things: 1) the laptop was going back in the suitcase, and 2) I was going to commit to the mini and use it exclusively for the duration of the conference.

Three days later I arrived at point number one above: I no longer need a laptop as a travel companion. I also arrived at point number two: the mini just isn't enough. It's the same operating system and runs the same apps, but it’s just too small. As I was walking the conference floor, the size was great for email checks and to refresh the Twitter feed. The conference had an iPhone app with all the sessions and descriptions, so scaling it on the mini worked far better than if I had to scale it on the full iPad. A great device, but it fell short on many fronts.

First, in sessions I wanted to take notes, and in general I like to take notes in landscape, but the keyboard took up half the screen. In portrait it worked slightly better. I split the keyboard, but then I was typing with my thumbs, and I never thought I'd say thumb typing is easier on a phone than a tablet, but in this case it is. Second, viewing a single Twitter feed was fine, but when I fired up HootSuite and had my main feed, the #ascd13 feed, and the Mentions feed, I either got two of the three in portrait or all three slightly smaller in landscape. Neither was ideal.

All in all, the iPad mini was a trooper. I was on it constantly, with multiple apps open, downloading apps, note taking, tweeting. It never dropped below 50% battery and I think an app only crashed once (and that was probably more due to wifi issues than anything else). It is exactly what it is, a mini iPad. Every bit as robust and functional. I just think it’s too small.  If I were a road warrior and used my laptop for product demos, video editing, full OS type stuff I'd have a mini instead of a full iPad. But as someone who spends more time on his iPad than a full OS, the mini just isn't enough.

The iPad as a device and the iOS as a platform are amazing. I commend Apple for making multiple sizes, to appeal to the largest market. More importantly I commend Apple for making the OS virtually the same on all the devices. While I found the physical size of the mini limiting, I found the core functionality and apps just as strong. And despite my personal battles with it, I don't think I'll ditch the mini.  It served me well and might very well be called in to duty again sometime. After all, a tech geek Apple fanboy like myself can never have too many Apple devices...

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