30+ Reasons Why You’d Be Crazy to Buy an iPad Mini (and One Reason Why You’ll Buy It Anyway)
October 23, 2012 168 Comments
Last update: March 4, 2012
When I took the first iPad home back in April of 2010, I thought its 9.7” screen was too large. I thought the perfect size for a tablet was about 8 inches. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted a tablet small enough that you can take it anywhere. Enter the iPad mini. There are certainly some good qualities the iPad mini has. For one, the size is great and it’s the thinnest and lightest tablet available today. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least competitive devices Apple has ever made. Here are 30+ reasons why I believe this is true.
- It’s much more expensive than other tablets – You can now buy a 32GB Nexus 7 for only $249. To get the same amount of storage in a iPad mini, you’d have to spend $429. That over 70% more, for a product with worse performance. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 has a larger screen with almost twice as much resolution and it costs $30 less than the iPad mini. The 16GB model of the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD are both only $199. Apple charges $329 for exactly the same amount of storage. That more than 65% more. To add insult to injury, Apple charges another $130 for cellular support. Google only charges $50 more for cellular support on their Nexus 7 tablet. Apparently price does matter. Amazon sold a record number of Kindle Fire HDs the day after the iPad mini was announced
Update (11/12): For a limited time you can buy the original 8GB Nexus 7 for only $159 at Staples. That’s less than half of the price of the cheapest iPad mini.
- Other tablets have much better displays – The iPad mini is almost an inch larger than the Nexus 7 but has fewer pixels and no Retina display. Because of this, the iPad mini has a lower-resolution than every other tablet in the chart below. The Kindle Fire has a true high-definition (HD) screen, while the iPad mini only has a SD screen. That means the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD has an amazing 1920×1080 display with 193% more pixels than the iPad mini (2,304,000 pixels vs. 786,432 pixels). The Kindle Fire HD also has 56% more pixels-per-inch than the iPad mini (254ppi vs. 163ppi). There is evidence that Apple realizes it was a mistake to put such a poor quality panel in the mini and already has plans to replace it.
- It’s not expandable – Many Android tablets come with a MicroSD slot so you can easily expand your memory (e.g. $199 Nook HD, Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus, etc.) That means you can double your memory for only $8, or quadruple your memory for $15. To double your memory on an iPad mini, you’d have to spend $190 more! That’s one reason Apple has over 120 billion dollars in the bank right now.
- It doesn’t have a quad-core processor – Even though the Nexus 7 is only $199, it has a powerful quad-core processor. Having two extra cores allows the Nexus 7 to do more parallel processing, which is what graphically-intensive games need. Quad-core processors also often have better battery life. The iPad mini only has a dual core processor.
- It has inferior specs and a slower processor – When it comes to specs (except weight, thickness and camera) the iPad Mini doesn’t do well. You can see the areas in the above chart where the iPad mini under-performs in red, and over-perfoms in blue. Although Apple never announces processor speeds, we know the iPad mini has an A5 processor which has a maximum speed of 800MHz to 1 GHz. Even if you assume it’s 1GHz, it’s still 50% slower than the fastest tablets on the market today.
- Worse brightness and contrast rating than other tablets – The iPad mini has a lower maximum brightness than the Kindle Fire HD. The iPad gets a contrast rating of only 43 in bright light, while the Kindle Fire HD gets a contrast rating of 68 (higher is better). The Kindle Fire HD also has a higher contrast ratio, but the differences are much smaller. Source
- Worse color accuracy than other tablets – If you want to see accurate colors in photos, videos, and all standard consumer content the display needs to closely match the standard color gamut that was used to produce the content. Normally Apple products do very well in this area: The new iPad 3 and iPhone 5 both have full 100 percent standard color gamuts, while much more affordable Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 deliver an 86 percent color gamut. The iPad mini has a much poorer 62 percent color gamut — giving it the worst color accuracy I’ve ever seen. As a result, its display is unable to produce very saturated colors, like fire engine red, which appear with a noticeable shift towards orange. Saturated purples are also especially difficult to reproduce on displays like the iPad mini with a reduced color gamut.
- No NFC digital wallet support – NFC and Google Wallet lets Nexus 7 tablet users buy things at over 300,00 PayPass-enabled cash registers in places like Best Buy, CVS Pharmacy, Einstein Bros Bagels, Home Depot, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Peet’s Coffee, Pinkberry, Rite Aid, Sports Authority, Whole Foods and many more places. You can learn more about NFC here. The iPad mini has something called Passbook, but it only works at Starbucks (and the Apple Store).
- GPS support is only available cellular models – The iPad mini is small enough to take with you anywhere, so it certainly makes sense that you’d want it to have a GPS so you could use it for directions. Unfortunately, you have to spend $130 more for a cellular model to get GPS support. Tablets like the Nexus 7 has full GPS support in their Wi-Fi only models.
- It doesn’t appear on your desktop as a drive – It’s a major hassle to get anything (but photos) on or off of an iPad mini. Android devices don’t need iTunes or iCloud to copy media. Just connect a USB cable, and your device will appear on your desktop like a hard disk. You can then drag and drop any file (or folder) to it. This is really useful.
- It doesn’t work with standard cables – Many tablets (including the Kindle Fire HD) have micro-USB and micro-HDMI jacks, so you can easily connect to a keyboard or television without purchasing an expensive cable. Others, like the Microsoft Surface RT or Toshiba Thrive have full-sized USB jacks, so you can plug in any USB peripheral and don’t need to buy a special cable. Apple uses proprietary connectors — so they can sell you cables for $20 to $50. If you want an extra charging cable for an iPad mini, it will cost $19 and is hard to find. You can buy an Android power cord almost anywhere for as little as $2.
- Its AV adapter doesn’t support 1080p – Another big downside to Apple’s use of a proprietary “Lightning” cable is that its Digital AV adapter (which connects to the HDMI jack on your TV) doesn’t support 1080p today. It’s capable of supporting 1080p, but Apple has chosen to hold back 1080p support for now.
- No 16:9 screen, Reduced-quality movies – Tablets are great way to watch movies, but all movies are formatted to fit on a 16:9 display. Because the iPad Mini has a 4:3 aspect ratio, all 16:9 movies need to be letter-boxed with only 1024×576 resolution, which is getting pretty close to standard definition video rather than true high-definition 1280×720 video found on tablets like the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. As Gizmodo points out, “when you watch a movie in landscape there’s almost more letterboxing than actual video. Seriously. It. Looks. Ridiculous.”
- It has much less memory than other tablets – Most Android tablets have 1GB of RAM. That’s twice the memory as the iPad mini has. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 has 2GB of RAM, which is four times as the memory as the iPad mini.
- It has ineffective parental controls – Apple finally added Parental Controls to iOS 6, but they are buried is Settings and disabled by default. Even if mom is smart enough to find and enable them, her kids will still be able to read the copy of “50 Shades of Grey” she bought six months ago — because Apple’s Parental Controls do not hide explicit books that are already in a library. The iPad mini is a single-user device and this prevents a good solution to this problem. By contrast, Nook tablets allow multiple users to share a single tablet using separate accounts. Each users content is hidden from other family members automatically, and profiles can be password protected. Parents with a Kindle Fire HD can also give access to appropriate content for each child. Once the Nexus 7 is upgraded to Android 4.2, it will also support user-profiles.
- No touch-to-share – Newer Android tablets like the Nexus 7 can easily share media by touching another device with NFC support. This allows you to share photos, videos, contacts, Web pages — as well as information between apps. You can see it in action here.
- No replaceable battery – Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Toshiba Thrive have batteries which are easily replaceable. This is important, because all rechargeable batteries have a limited life-span and need to be replaced.
- Nano-SIM makes it harder to use with other carriers – When you buy an iPad mini from Apple’s site with the cellular option, you will find that Apple forces you to pick a carrier. Other unlocked tablets don’t force you to do that. To use your iPad mini with most international carriers you will still need a SIM cutter because the iPad mini uses a nano-SIM. Most carriers use standard or micro-SIMs.
- Limited stylus support – Although you can use a capacitive stylus on an iPad mini, you don’t get the same level of expression that you get on Android tablets. The Samsung Galaxy Note II has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. iOS also won’t let you toggle between a brush, pencil or eraser by simply holding the stylus above the screen and clicking a button. The stylus on the Galaxy Note II even lets you preview emails, photos or videos by hovering slightly above the screen.
- Android now beats iOS in many areas – This may come as a surprise to some of you, but Android has many advantages over iOS 6. You can see them here.
- Readability issues with magazines – The screen on the iPad mini is just too small to read magazines or comics because of the tiny, non-adjustable typefaces used. Text looks pinched, because it’s optimized for the iPad’s larger display. The Kindle Fire HD gets around this issue with its text view mode.
- It’s not a great eReader – In the previous bullet I already pointed out the readibility issues with magazines. That’s not the only reason why the iPad mini is not a good eReader. It also has one of the most reflective displays you’ll find in a small tablet. Because of this, using the iPad Mini outside is often a problem because of glare. How bad is it? According to Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies, “The Screen reflectance on the iPad mini is surprisingly high (9.0 percent). The Nexus 7 has a much lower 5.9 percent reflectance, while on the Kindle Fire HD has a reflectance of 6.4 percent. As a result, the iPad mini reflects 53 percent more ambient light than the Nexus 7 and 41 percent more than the Kindle Fire HD. That’s quite a large difference.
- It doesn’t support Flash – Flash may be a dying format, but there are still millions of Flash videos around, and the iPad mini can’t play any of them. All Android tablets running 4.0 (and earlier) can play Flash video. If you have a tablet running Android 4.1 (or later) you’ll need to side-load Flash by following these easy instructions. You should not need to do this if you previously installed Flash before you upgraded to Android 4.1. If you have trouble playing Flash video with your stock browser use Firefox.
- Slower Wi-Fi than other tablets – Tablets like the Kindle Fire HD and Surface RT have dual-band Wi-Fi and dual MIMO antennas. This can result in 40% faster data speeds over Wi-Fi, and better range.
- No infrared transmitter – Tablets like the Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — along with Vizio and Sony tablets have built-in IR-transmitters so you can use your tablet to control devices in your home like your TV — without using Wi-Fi and special apps. The iPad mini does not have infrared support.
- No multi-user support – The iPad mini is a single-user device tied to a single iTunes account. Nexus tablets (and all other Android 4.2 devices) allow multiple users to log-in. Each user has their own home screen, background, apps and widgets. Things like game-progress and high-scores remain separate.
- Mediocre-sounding speakers – The Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (and other tablets) have better sounding speakers. Reviews say “O.K. is also how I’d describe the speaker system. The Kindle Fire HD, which sports Dolby stereo, pumped out noticeably more pleasing audio than the Mini’s speakers.”
- Undesired side-effects of the new display – One reviewer pointed out that “because the screen real estate is so much larger than an iPhone but icons are now roughly iPhone size, apps with lots of navigational elements can be a little less intuitive to navigate.
- Very difficult to repair – The iPad mini is much more difficult to repair than other tablets. iFixit gives the iPad mini a repairability score of ’2 out of 10,’ where 10 is the easiest to repair. One of the main reasons why it gets such a poor score is because large amounts of cement hold the front glass, logic board, battery, front camera, back camera, ribbon cables in place. This cement makes repair extremely difficult. By comparison, the Kindle Fire gets a repairability score of ’8 out of 10′ (10 is easiest to repair). The Nexus 7 gets a ’7 out of 10′ score, while the Nook Tablet and Samsung Galaxy Tab get ’6 out of 10′ scores. All are much easier to repair than the iPad mini.
- Can’t make phone calls – If you’ve installed a SIM card, you can make phone calls on Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.7. You can also send or receive texts without using a special third-party app. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 calling function has been upgraded to let you make and receive voice calls privately by using Receiver Mode in public places.
- No haptic feedback – Most Android devices support haptic feedback. This gives you a little vibration when you type, long press, or touch the navigation buttons. This makes it clear your touch was acknowledged, so you don’t have to tap twice. Haptic feedback makes games much more enjoyable because of the tactile feedback.
- Small keyboard makes it hard to type accurately – The keyboard on the iPad mini is small enough that you’ll have a hard time typing accurately on it. To some extent this issue is true with 7″ Android tablets, but you can install one of the many great third-party keyboards like SwiftKey3, which have much more accurate corrections and predictions than the iOS keyboard. You can see the dramatic difference here.
- It has a much worse on-screen keyboard – Like the iPad mini, the Nexus 7 has standard keyboard features like a spell checker, auto-capitalization and auto-correction. However, the Nexus 7 has a much better on-screen keyboard. It has the ability to add words to a personal dictionary, show correction suggestions, perform gesture typing where you swipe from key to key, show next-word suggestions and the ability to change your keyboard to one that is more PC-like and includes all numbers and extra keys.
- Not able to easily load custom ROMs – Android devices like the Nexus 7 don’t come with locked or encrypted bootloaders. That means you are free to install customs ROMs and fully tailor your device however you wish.
- Hard for small hands to hold securely – The iPad mini is wide enough that it is harder to carry securely than Nexus 7. The bezel is also so narrow that its hard to hold the screen in portrait-mode without touching the active part of the touchscreen.
- No LED alerts – The Nexus 4 has a small LED indicator at the bottom of its front panel that alerts you to missed calls, new messages or other system events. As with other Android phones, you can customize exactly how this LED works by installing a third-party LED control app like Light Flow. The iPhone has a setting buried under Accessibility that flashes an LED when a call or text is received. The iPad mini does not support LED alerts at all.
- Better tablets are on the way – On Friday the Microsoft Surface RT tablet launches. The following week a new Nexus 10” tablet will be announced and the Acer Iconia Tab A110 tablet ships. You get the idea. Every month there will be exciting new tablets launching which have better specs than the iPad mini. If you really must have an Apple tablet, at least wait a few months until Apple replaces the poor-quality display in the mini with a Retina display.
- The Nexus 7 is on several tablet of the year lists – CNET says the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet and ranks it higher than the iPad mini.
Can you really tell the difference? Reviewers say that you can: “If you’ve ever laid your eyeballs on the ultra-smooth text rendered by the Retina iPad, its text will look fuzzy by comparison, especially at teensier type sizes.”
John Gruber was even harsher in his assessment: “The hardware and software are fantastic but the screen is “terrible” compared to Apple’s Retina displays…”
TechCrunch adds, “As someone who is used to a “retina” display on my phone, tablet, and even now computer, the downgrade to a non-retina display is quite noticeable. This goes away over time as you use the iPad mini non-stop, but if you switch back a retina screen, it’s jarring.”
Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies adds, “The $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 both have considerably sharper displays with 216 pixels per inch, and they both delivered considerably sharper text.”
Another downside to not having removable media slot is the fact that you can’t copy media like to it without using a computer. My son pops the memory card out of his Go Pro camera, and sticks it right into his Asus tablet. No computer is required to copy video (or any other media). When he plugs his camera into the full-sized USB port on his tablet’s keyboard, it asks him if he wants to import his photos. This is a real time saver.
Why You’ll Buy an iPad Mini Anyway
If you’re an Apple fan, you don’t comparison shop. You don’t care that Apple products cost more and do less. You’ll tell yourself that specs don’t matter. You’ll find a way to convince yourself that all of the above reasons somehow don’t apply to you. And, you’ll buy an iPad mini anyway. And six months from now when Apple comes out with an iPad mini that is twice as fast as today’s with a Retina display, you’ll buy that one too — and thank Apple for doing so. This may sound harsh, but it applies literally to millions of people. So go ahead and buy one. You know you want it. You can see the iPad mini in action in this video.
For the Apple Fanboys
1. This is an opinion piece - I think the title makes that very clear. Don’t read this if you can’t handle an opposing view point.
2. This article is focused on the advantages of other tablets – I’m aware there are good reasons to buy Apple products. Since every other reviewer focuses on those, I saw value in showing another point of view.
4. I don’t hate all Apple products – I think most of the new products Apple announced are good or great — just not the new iPad 4 or iPad mini. I own two iPhones, an iPad 3 and an Apple TV. I buy Apple products when I believe they outperform other products and are not outlandishly priced.
5. I want this to be factually correct – Believe it or not, I really do try to keep my articles factually accurate. If think one of these points is incorrect, let me know and I will edit or delete it.
6. Save your flames – You’re not going to change my beliefs, just like I’m not going to changes yours. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this topic.
UPDATE 1: Maybe I under-estimated the intelligence of Apple fans. Only 14% of those surveyed said they would “definitely buy” an iPad mini. When pitted against the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, 46% said they’d buy the Kindle Fire. The iPad mini came in second at 40% and Nexus 7 came in last at 14%. If Apple’s stock price is an indication, investors don’t seem too thrilled about this product either.
UPDATE 2: Apple is seeing much shorter lines of people waiting to purchase an iPad mini outside their stores than they’ve seen in the past. 20 minutes after opening the doors at the Houston Apple Store, there was no line whatsoever. Other web postings showed only a handful of people in line at stores around the United States.
UPDATE 3: Apple said they sold 3 million iPads over the weekend. Unfortunately, this number includes iPad 4 sales and iPad mini sales. The problem with this is the fact that 3 million 3rd-gen iPads alone were sold by Apple during that product’s opening weekend earlier this year. That means Apple is seeing cannibalization of sales — otherwise they would have sold 6 million iPads this weekend. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the iPad mini cost more than the iPad 4, but it doesn’t. The overall revenue and margin dollars Apple is receiving from iPad sales are both dropping.
UPDATE 4: Even though Christmas is Apples’s strongest season, Apple’s stock price continues to plunge. On January 15th the stock was down to $485 (down $220 or 31% from the high last fall of $705). That’s a loss of over $165 billion dollars in market cap since September. That’s the biggest stock market cap loss ever.
Copyright 2013 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.
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