Mini Me – Why I’m Moving to the iPad Mini

Mini me

Had you told me just two weeks ago that I’d soon be giving up my black 64 GB iPad 3, I would have called you crazy.

It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that I was doing everything in my power to ditch laptops and work exclusively from that very iPad. I retouch photos on it. I blog on it. I write on it. I design presentations on it. It’s my gateway to the book I’m reading, the games I’m playing, the people I’m following. 

And yet: last night, I wiped that iPad’s memory, boxed it up, and returned it to Amazon.com for $500 credit. Why? Because less than a week after picking one up at the Best Buy in Oxford, Alabama, the iPad mini has stolen my heart. 

When the mini was announced, I was skeptical. A smaller iPad? With a lower resolution screen and slower processor? That didn’t sound like good match for my forty-eight year-old eyes. But holding it in my hands — and five days of exclusive use — changed my perceptions completely. As it turns out, the iPad mini is big enough, clear enough, and fast enough. It’s everything I love about the full-sized iPad packed into a light, portable, device I can operate with one hand. 

Perhaps more importantly, the iPad mini helped me realize where my passion for the larger iPad led me to ignore the ways its larger form factor was working against me:

I was reading less. When I was reading on a light, tiny Kindle, I read every day while walking to and from work. But when I gave up the Kindle for the iPad, I dropped that practice, because the iPad’s size and weight made “reading on the go” awkward. Reading in bed stopped, too, because the original iPad was a little too heavy to hold comfortably. (I was always worried I’d doze off, drop the thing, and chip a tooth.) The iPad mini fits in one hand and is dramatically lighter. The result? I’m reading more books.

I was writing less. I made every possible effort to make my iPad the ultimate portable writing machine. And while it was fine for short-form writing (i.e., note-taking, blogging and emailing), it just never quite clicked as a platform for writing longer pieces (i.e., stories and novels).

On the Mac, I’m spoiled by Scrivener, the most powerful software ever created for drafting, organizing, and revising long texts. While clever folks have devised all kinds of work-arounds, there is, in the end, no writing platform on the iPad that is as simple and powerful as Scrivener is on the Mac. There are work arounds for getting iPad text into Scrivener files, but none of them are elegant. When I went back to projects, I found myself having to figure out what had synced and what had not.

So: not surprisingly, despite having the best possible keyboard and the best writing app for the iPad at my disposal, I wrote less. Worse, because writing was less convenient and more trouble on the iPad, my “iPad only” philosophy was having a negative impact on my desire to buckle down and do some serious writing.

The iPad mini is the perfect size for reading, note taking, surfing the web, churning out email, mobile blogging, gaming, watching movies, and controlling other devices (like my Tivo or my Sonos), so now I plan to use it for those things … and to go back to a MacBook Pro for composing longer work.

I was tired of asking, “Is the iPad enough?” Before leaving on a trip, I’d often debate whether to take my MacBook Air, my iPad, or both. Because I tend to err on the side of convenience, I often left my laptop behind … and then found myself wishing I had a more robust solution for organizing text or photos while on the road.

Now, there’s no need for debate: I’ve got a MacBook Pro for serious writing and for organizing and retouching photos … and a light-as-air iPad mini for doing virtually everything else. 

Like so many other folks writing about the iPad mini, working with mine for the last several days has convinced me: the iPad mini is what the iPad should have been … and would have been all along, had the technology to create it existed. After using the iPad mini, the iPad I once loved so much now seems bulky and heavy; by contrast, there’s a rightness to the size and shape of the iPad mini.

With its smaller size, the iPad mini is a more intimate, more personal device. It feels good in my hands. It fits.

None of that can be apparent, though, before you have one in your hands … so get to an Apple Store (or find a friend who has one) and check it out for yourself. 

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

6 comments

  • I just can't bring myself to buy another tablet without a Retina display. If I were going from an iPad 2 or the 1st gen iPad to it, it would be fine. While reading or videos on a small device is fine I imagine I'd have a hard time writing on it. That's just me though.

    I did play with one at the Apple store at Perimeter last weekend and it's nice all the same though.

    For me, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard with an iPad plus LogMeIn equals one productive guy. The LogMeIn part is good because I can always remotely connect to my iMac or PC like I'm in front of it so I don't miss carrying the laptop anymore. I stopped taking my MacBook Air on most trips because I simply don't need it anymore … unless I want to connect to it.

    Oh and you probably already know but in case you don't, Scrivener is coming for the iPad

  • I just can't bring myself to buy another tablet without a Retina display. If I were going from an iPad 2 or the 1st gen iPad to it, it would be fine. While reading or videos on a small device is fine I imagine I'd have a hard time writing on it. That's just me though.

    I did play with one at the Apple store at Perimeter last weekend and it's nice all the same though.

    For me, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard with an iPad plus LogMeIn equals one productive guy. The LogMeIn part is good because I can always remotely connect to my iMac or PC like I'm in front of it so I don't miss carrying the laptop anymore. I stopped taking my MacBook Air on most trips because I simply don't need it anymore … unless I want to connect to it.

    Oh and you probably already know but in case you don't, Scrivener is coming for the iPad

  • I just can't bring myself to buy another tablet without a Retina display. If I were going from an iPad 2 or the 1st gen iPad to it, it would be fine. While reading or videos on a small device is fine I imagine I'd have a hard time writing on it. That's just me though.

    I did play with one at the Apple store at Perimeter last weekend and it's nice all the same though.

    For me, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard with an iPad plus LogMeIn equals one productive guy. The LogMeIn part is good because I can always remotely connect to my iMac or PC like I'm in front of it so I don't miss carrying the laptop anymore. I stopped taking my MacBook Air on most trips because I simply don't need it anymore … unless I want to connect to it.

    Oh and you probably already know but in case you don't, Scrivener is coming for the iPad

  • Wow! You've just summed up my thoughts exactly … but so much more clearly.

    I got my wife an ipad mini last night and (as nice as she is) I wish I'd gotten it for me. It really is a huge improvement on my ipad2.

    Thanks for your write up.

  • Thanks for the visit, Clarke. Giving the wife the first iPad mini demonstrates true love! If things go as they usually do at our house, it may not be long before you both need one of your own! 🙂

  • Hi, Brian. The Retina Display thing gave me pause, too … and then I realized that I was pining for a technology I didn't even know existed just a few months back. So: for me, the mini's lack of the Retina Display wasn't a factor. (I also just bought a new MacBook Pro, and surprised myself by not going with the Retina Display option there, too. In the end, I'd rather have more storage and a more powerful processor … and could get both of those for hundreds less than the most basic MacBook Pro with Retina Display.)

    About Scrivener for the iPad: yeah, that's been "coming soon" for quite a while now. I'm sure that, when it's ready, it'll be done right … but in the meantime, I got work to do!

Who Wrote This?

Mark McElroy

I'm a husband, mystic, writer, media producer, creative director, tinkerer, blogger, reader, gadget lover, and pizza fiend.

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