I used to have no trouble recommending the iPad Mini to people, but now I’m not so sure.
Ever since the iPhone started having a Plus size (and I started using it), the Mini has had a harder time convincing me of its utility. The Mini 4 is the latest incarnation, sharing much of its internals with the iPad Air 2, which was my main portable device before the iPad Pro appeared on the scene.
Since they both run iOS, iPads and iPhones are capable of accomplishing the same tasks, but their form factor makes one better than the other depending on what you’re doing. For me, it breaks down like this:
- Communication: messaging, calling, social networking
- Photography (capture)
- Apple Watch pairing
- Apple Pay
- Music and podcast listening
- Note taking
- Photography (editing)
- Video watching (YouTube, movies, etc.)
- Reading (articles)
- Gaming! (Thanks, Chris!)
- Brainstorming (Apple Pencil)
- Work (document creation, editing, Split View stuff, etc.)
The Phablet Killed the Mini Star
Before Plus phones, the difference in screen size between an iPhone and an iPad Mini was enough to justify using the latter instead for tasks like the ones I mention above. People loved the Mini for its portability; the benefits of an iPad without the bulk.
Now, I think the Plus-sized phone has made the iPad Mini size redundant. There’s just too little difference to justify having both. I find that I’m unwilling to switch contexts/devices unless it’s to my iPad Pro: while the Mini may be better, it’s not better enough to justify the interruption.
The 9.7” iPad (Pro or Air 2) is still the best iPad for most people, offering a solid combination of screen size, multi-tasking capability, gaming & productivity horsepower, and ergonomics. The Mini’s only remaining selling point is the lower price, but for iPhone Plus owners I’d still recommend saving up for a used Air 2 over a Mini 4.
If your phone is not a phablet, then the iPad Mini 4 remains a great entry into the iPad (and Apple) ecosystem. There are certain contexts where it still excels: it fits into smaller bags, it’s easier for elderly family members to wield, and it makes a great screen for drone flight controls (that’s what I’ve been using it for).
But its days are numbered.