Apple’s iPad mini, released last November, remains one of the best options in the 7-inch range of tablets and thus, it’s likely a device that many shoppers are thinking about buying. Before buying the current iPad mini though, there are a number of things that buyers must consider.
In July of last year Google struck first, launching its Nexus 7 tablet, a device that ushered in the Jelly Bean era of Android and a device that went on to have a solid one year life span. What the Nexus 7 also did was start a battle between three big name companies in the 7-inch tablet realm. For several months, the Nexus 7 was on shelves, unopposed. However, later in the year, Apple and Amazon both joined the fray.
In September, it was Amazon that released its Kindle Fire HD, a high-end yet inexpensive upgrade to its original Kindle Fire and a device that was clearly aimed at tackling the Nexus 7 and its success. That launch was followed a few months later by Apple’s November release of its iPad mini, a device that had been stuck in the rumor mill for years but finally made an official appearance.
Like rumors suggested, the iPad mini arrived with a 7.9-inch display and a design that took after the iPhone 5′s aluminum back. The device checked in with a more expensive price tag than the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7, starting at $330 and going all the way up to $670 for the 64GB version of the iPad mini LTE.
The iPad mini, despite its age, remains a solid option for tablet buyers and one that those in the market for a new slate should consider. However, this is 2013, not 2012 and there are some important things that iPad mini buyers need to consider before buying Apple’s smaller iPad.
iPad mini 2
The first thing that prospective iPad mini buyers must consider is the new iPad mini which is expected to make its debut sometime this fall. Apple’s iPads, over the years, have seen incremental improvements and the same should be expected from the new iPad mini. Rumors suggest that the device will come with a thinner design, improved camera, and a better processor that should help with battery life and gaming.
However, maybe the most important aspect of the iPad mini 2 that buyers need to think about before buying the iPad mini is that it will likely come with a Retina Display. This is huge.
Arguably the biggest flaw of the iPad mini was its lack of a Retina Display, something that came to the larger iPad several years ago. A Retina Display would mean better looking photos, video and more and it’s likely the most sought after feature of a new iPad mini.
Apple tends to cater to its buyers so while there are rumors that an iPad mini with Retina Display could be pushed to 2014, it’s more likely that we’ll see it launch this fall.
No release date is known but given that the iPad mini was released in November, that’s a good time frame to think about. A three month wait for a exponentially better display, and tablet, is probably worth it to many buyers at this point.
Google’s Nexus 7
Buyers also must consider Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet which emerged from hiding just a few short days ago and unlike the next iPad mini, is readily available on shelves.
The Nexus 7 is a vast improvement over the last version as it not only brings a 7-inch screen that is miles ahead of the iPad mini’s display but it also adds a sleek lightweight design, the latest version of Android, a good camera, 4G LTE data speeds that can be accessed on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and a price tag that undercuts the iPad mini in every way possible.
The iPad mini starts at $330, it hasn’t seen a price drop since its debut, while the Nexus 7 starts at $100 cheaper for its 16GB model Wi-Fi model. The 32GB model is only $50 more expensive while Apple charges $100 more. As for the LTE Nexus 7, which isn’t out yet, it will cost $350 which is $130 less than Apple’s 16GB iPad mini LTE. The Nexus 4 LTE only comes in 32GB form.
So the Nexus 7 has better specs, more wide-range LTE support and a price tag that undercuts the iPad mini. Plus, it’s available now. Indeed, this is something that iPad mini buyers need to consider.
Kindle Fire HD 2
On the heels of the Nexus 7 launch comes a huge Kindle Fire leak that includes news of a Amazon Kindle Fire HD 2, the rumored successor to the original Kindle Fire HD. Whether or not this was a controlled leak is unknown but it’s clear that Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 2 is going to be a serious competitor to the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini.
While it only exists in rumor now, BGR‘s information about the Kindle Fire HD 2 is likely credible given its track record. What this means is that consumers will more than likely be starring down a new Kindle Fire HD 2 that will come with a 1,920 x 1,200-pixel display, a Qualcomm 800 quad-core processor which is more powerful than the Nexus 7′s, 2GB of RAM, and both Wi-Fi and LTE models.
What’s more is that the Kindle Fire HD 2 may stay in the same price range as the company’s previous models, while also coming in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB form. That could mean that Amazon undercuts both the iPad mini and the Nexus 7 with a $199 starting price point.
Amazon’s devices are based on a heavily customized version of Android that includes tie-ins to all of Amazon’s services. But while this tablet may be aimed at Amazon users, with specs like that and a competitive price tag, it’s worthy of just about anyone’s consideration.
Rumors suggest that it could be out in September which means that buyers may only have a few weeks left to wait. Something that iPad mini buyers need to think about.
Maybe the iPad mini 2, Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD 2 aren’t appealing. Maybe the iPad mini is the final decision and for those who live in the Apple ecosystem, it might just be. Well, buyers that have their heart set on the current model need to consider Apple’s business practices.
The company typically drops its devices down in price after the arrival of a new device and in the case of the iPad mini 2, we could see the company offer the iPad mini for far less than $330. Granted, it may just offered the device refurbished, but Apple does a fantastic job of making sure that these devices work as good as new. There’s also a good chance that the iPad mini could go the way of the iPad 2.
There is a good chance that the older model will be much cheaper later in the year and that’s certainly something buyers will need to think strongly about before dropping over $300 on a device that will be replaced in the weeks ahead.
Buyers will need to take a good look at their use cases. While 7-inch tablets are good all-around slates, there are some users that may want to look more closely at a larger tablet like the iPad 4, Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, or the Transformer series from Asus.
In particular, gamers, and those users who never leave their house with a tablet might want to think about investing in a larger screened tablets as they might be more suitable. Games look and play good on the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display but they look and play better on a massive 9.7-inch like the iPad 4′s Retina Display.
It’s no secret that the iPad mini’s form factor is fantastic, but users will certainly want to consider opting for a larger screen before settling on a smaller tablet.
In addition to larger tablets, iPad mini buyers will need to consider the various “phablets” that are out at the moment and the ones that appear to be destined for arrival in just a few weeks.
The term “phablet” is a derivative of the words phone and tablet and it has been applied to big screen smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note series that offer the functionality of both a phone and a tablet. The Galaxy Note uses a 5.5-inch HD display and comes bundled with a S Pen stylus. Combined with key multitasking features, the Galaxy Note is as formidable as a small tablet when on-the-go. Oh, and it also acts like a phone.
Potential iPad mini Buyers will want to consider whether they want both a tablet and a smartphone or a device that attempts to marry the two. Just keep in mind that these devices do need a data plan and will likely cost way more over time.
The iPad mini is almost a year old and that means that it has received a year of software support from Apple. With a year down, it likely means that the device has two years of iOS support left. That’s still a lot but for those that want to get the most bang for their buck, consider the fact that devices like the iPad mini 2, which will be out later this year, will arrive with iOS 7 stock and will come with a year more of support. That translates into one more iOS update.
Google’s Nexus 7 should also get several years of support so buyers must decide if buying the iPad mini now, on iOS 6, is going to be worth it down the road.
Finally, prospective iPad mini buyers need to consider whether an LTE model is more suitable than a Wi-Fi only model. Apple charges more for access to LTE and buyers will find that they will need to pay for data, whether it’s on AT&T, Sprint or Verizon. So, it’s an important decision to make.
For those that don’t take the tablet out of the house, the Wi-Fi only option seems like the more logical choice. However, for those that are constantly on-the-go and plan to have the tablet at their side throughout the day, the LTE model is one to consider.
The LTE models don’t need a contract so for many users, it might be safer to buy the model with LTE support if the function turns out to be useful in the months, and likely the years ahead.
For those that want to save money and know that the device won’t leave the home often, the Wi-Fi model will be worth considering.