Why You Shouldn’t Buy an iPad Mini
October 23, 2012 243 Comments
Last updated: March 6, 2014
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Why You Shouldn’t Buy an iPad Mini
There are certainly some good qualities about the new iPad mini with Retina display. It’s thin, light and runs iOS 7. Unfortunately, it’s missing more than forty important things you’ll find in other tablets and costs much more.
- It’s much more expensive than other tablets – You can now buy a 32GB Nexus 7 for only $269. To get the same amount of storage in a iPad mini, you’d have to spend $499. That over 46% more, for a product with worse performance. The 16GB Nexus 7 is only $229. Apple charges $399 for exactly the same amount of storage. That a 43% price premium. Apple charges $529 to $829 for a mini for cellular support. Amazon charges only $329 for a 16GB Kindle Fire HDX with LTE support. Google charges only $349 for a 32GB Nexus 7 with LTE support. That’s a savings of a $280. You can literally buy a second Nexus 7 with the money you save.
- Apple products almost never go on sale – Apple rarely allows discounts on their products. When products like the iPad do go on sale, the discounts are very small. I just purchased tablets for my family members for Christmas and was surprised to find most of the tablets in Best Buy were on sale at discounts between $50 and $100 off their already low prices. I picked up a great 8″ tablet for my dad for only $249. Even better discounts are available online from Amazon and other online merchants and you’ll almost always get free shipping as well. Even the brand-new Kindle Fire HDX was on sale for $50 off it’s already low price.
- Other tablets have higher-resolution displays – Don’t be mislead by the Retina label. Tablets like the Nexus 7 have a display that’s every bit as good as the iPad mini. Tablets like the Kindle Fire HDX have a display that is even better than the new iPad mini. How much better? The 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX has almost a million more pixels than the iPad mini (4,096,000 pixels vs. 3,145,728 pixels). It’s worth mentioning the iPad mini doesn’t even fit the definition of a true retina display.
Screen resolution isn’t the only problem with the new iPad mini. It comes in last place in this small screen review where they said “the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the best performing tablet display that we have ever tested.” Here’s why the Nexus 7 and Kindle HDX beat the iPad mini.
- It’s easily breakable – The Apple iPad mini has been declared to be the single most breakable mobile device in the world by SquareTrade, who performed a battery of tests on it and other devices. To make matters worse, it’s very difficult to repair when it’s broken.
- It’s not expandable – Tablets from Asus, Barnes & Noble, Samsung and others come with a microSD slot, so you can easily expand your storage. You can double your memory for only $12, to $19. To double the memory of an iPad mini, you have to spend at least $100 more.
- Inferior battery life – Even though the iPad mini has a much more powerful battery than other tablets, this doesn’t translate into better battery life. The Nexus 7 has much better battery life when browsing the web. That means you’ll be surfing the Internet two hours longer on a Nexus 7 than an iPad mini.
- It doesn’t have a quad-core processor – Even though the Nexus 7 is only $229, it has a powerful quad-core processor. Having two extra cores allows the Nexus 7 to do more things at once without slowing down. The iPad mini only has a dual-core processor that runs at a much slower clock speed than the Kindle Fire HDX (1.29 GHz vs. 2.2 GHz). Before you make a comment about Apple’s benchmark performance, you need to read this article.
- It’s thicker and heavier than other tablets – Apple brags about the thinness of the iPad mini, but tablets from Samsung and Sony are thinner. Much much thinner? The Sony Xperia Z is only 6.9mm. That’s 9% thinner than the iPad mini. The Nexus 7 is 14% lighter than the new iPad mini (290g vs. 331g). The Kindle Fire HDX is lighter than the iPad mini as well.
- Much worse brightness and contrast ratings than other tablets – The iPad mini has a much lower maximum brightness than the Google Nexus 7 (370 vs. 583 higher is better). The iPad mini also gets a contrast rating of only 804, while Nexus 7 gets a contrast rating of 1273 (higher is better).
- It has less memory than other tablets and this causes problems – The best Android tablets have either 2GB of RAM or 3GB of RAM. The iPad mini only has 1GB of RAM. This translates to worse multitasking and slower app load times. How much slower? The game “Asphalt 7″ loads in only 18.5 seconds on a tablet with 3GB of memory. The same game loads in 45.0 seconds on the same tablet with 2GB of memory. iOS 7 has made matters even worse. Many iPad owners have reported memory-related problems like only having enough memory to open 6 tabs in Safari, or have 4 apps open at once without reloading tabs or restarting apps. By contrast, Android 4.4 has been optimized so it runs well on devices with as little as 512MB.
- Poorer color accuracy than other tablets – Color accuracy on the iPad mini is only 63%, while the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is 100%. That means what you see on the Kindle is what the content creators intended you to see. This is also important if you use your tablet to edit photos. The Nexus 7 beats or ties the iPad mini in 7 out of 8 display tests. The Nexus 7 has more accurate color reproduction, better color saturation and as mentioned above, a much better contrast ratio and much better brightness than the iPad mini. The iPad mini also does not have sRGB coverage, while though the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 do. This means they display a wider range of colors
- 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 have full GPS support on 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 Android tablets use exactly the same micro-USB jack, so you can easily connect them to any charger or peripheral without purchasing an expensive cable. The iPad mini uses all proprietary connectors so Apple 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 video – 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 video 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 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 earlier, 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 HDX can also give access to appropriate content for each child. The Nexus 7 also supports 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 wireless charging – Tablets like the Nexus 7 include support for wireless charging, so you can just sit them on a charging pad and charge them without connecting a cable.
- Nano-SIM makes it harder to use with other carriers – When you buy an iPad from Apple’s site with the cellular option, you’ll find Apple forces you to pick a carrier. Other unlocked tablets from Google and others don’t force you to do that. To use your iPad mini with most international carriers you will also need a SIM cutter because the iPad mini uses a nano-SIM. Most Android tablets use standard or micro-SIMs.
- It’s harder to use and doesn’t have a media-centric user interface – If you compare the Kindle Fire HDX and an iPad mini side by side you’ll see the Kindle Fire is much easier to us. It only has 7 app icons on it’s home screen because that’s all that most people need. The remaining space is devoted to things that matter including your favorite books, magazines, music and movies. This makes sense and is also done on the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. The menu on the Kindle Fire also only has a few easy to understand options. The iPads settings are a mess. The Kindle Fire even has a “Mayday” button that allows an on-screen customer support person to temporarily take control of your tablet to assist you with problems.
- It doesn’t support Flash natively – Flash may be a dying format, but there are still millions of Flash videos around, and the stock browser in the iPad mini can’t play any of them. There are several free Android browsers including Firefox that play Flash videos. See my Nexus 10 tips and tricks article for more info on this topic. Update: There is now a $10 Flash Player that runs on the iPad.
- Android now beats iOS in many areas – This may come as a surprise to some of you, but Android 4.3 and 4.4 has many advantages over iOS 7. 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%). The Nexus 7 has a much lower 5.9 percent reflectance, while on the Kindle Fire HD has a reflectance of 6.4%. 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.
- Reliable data cables – Apple’s Lightning cables get a 1.5 star rating in the Apple Store due to breakage, fraying and corrosion.
- 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. Samsung’s Galaxy Note tablets have a Wacom touchscreen with 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 Galaxy Note tablets even lets you preview emails, photos or videos by hovering slightly above the screen.
- No infrared transmitter – Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 — along with Vizio and Sony Experia tablets all 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 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 HDX 8.9 (and other tablets) have better sounding speakers than the iPad mini. 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.”
- Very difficult to repair – The iPad mini is much more difficult to repair than other tablets. iFixit gives the iPad mini with Retina display 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 HDX and Nexus 7 both get repairability scores of ‘7 out of 10’ (10 is easiest to repair).
- Not accident-resistant – Sony’s Xperia Z Tablet is water resistant. You can submerse it in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes at a time. Now you can read in the tub, use in the kitchen or browse by the pool, worry free.
- Can’t make phone calls – You can make phone calls on Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.7 and Nexus 7 if you’ve installed a SIM. 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 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.
- Inferior multitasking – Apple places restrictions on third-party apps which run in the background. In most cases, they are suspended and not allowed to communicate with other apps. Android supports true-multitasking without any of the above restrictions. This makes it possible to do things on Android tablets that can not be done on the iPad mini.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 – Most Android phones have a small LED indicator that alerts you to missed calls, new messages and other system events. As with other Android phones, you can customize exactly how this 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.
- No multi-window Support – Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note let you split the screen in two sections so you can interact with two different apps at once. Not only can you view any two windows at once, you can also drag things from one window to the other. This is a really useful feature the iPad mini does not have.
- No ability to set software defaults – One of the most powerful Android features is the ability to change the default software the OS uses for different tasks. For example, if you want the Dolphin browser to open any URL (instead of the stock Android browser), just pick the app you want to use. Want to use a different app for turn-by-turn directions or media playback? Pick one, and it will use that app every time. This is an incredibly powerful feature.
- iCloud is inferior to other cloud services – Third-party cloud services are more reliable, provide more storage, and are much more flexible — because they don’t lock you into an Apple-only world. If you shop around, you’ll find up to 50GB of free cloud-based storage, much better photo sharing services that automatically upload every photo and improve their quality, and store an unlimited number of photos at full-resolution (e.g. Google+). Android office apps like Google Drive are also much better than Apple’s offerings. They support more formats, allow you to share more easily and even collaborate with others at the same time. They also automatically save every change you make to the cloud, so you can access everything from any device or computer — not just Apple products. Android calendar and contact apps also have advantages and are much more open. Sure, some of these products are available to iPhone users as well, but most iPad users stick with Apple’s inferior pre-installed cloud services.
- DLNA Support – Most Android tablets include DLNA support. That means they can stream media to over 10,000 devices. Chance are you have several DLNA-certified devices in your home and you don’t even know it. Most TVs, game consoles, media streamers and Blu-ray players are DLNA-certified.
- Better tablets are on the way – Every month exciting new Android tablets are released. Many of these will have better specs than the iPad mini with Retina display.
Because it doesn’t have a microSD slot, you can’t quickly copy media to an iPad mini without using a computer. Tablet owners with removable media slots can take the memory card out of their Go Pro or D-SLR camera and pop it directly into their tablet. No computer is required to copy video, or other media. This is a real time saver.
The iPad mini is not a bad product, but it’s not the thinnest, or the lightest, or the fastest, or the highest-resolution tablet of its size. Other tablets are available that cost much less and do much more. You owe it to yourself to check them out. You can use some of the money you save to buy books, movies, music and some great premium apps, which will increase your enjoyment even more.
Why You’ll Still Buy an iPad Mini
If you’re an Apple fan, you don’t comparison shop. You don’t care that Apple products cost more and do less. You tell yourself that specs don’t matter and Apple’s ecosystem is superior — even though you’ve never actually used an Android 4.4-powered product. 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.
If you like this article, you may like these as well:
– 40+ Things you won’t get with the iPhone 5s
– Debunking the Retina Display Myth – Why the iPad mini isn’t a true retina display
– Who makes the best tablet on Earth?
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 some good reasons to buy a iPad. Since every other reviewer focuses on those, I see value in showing another point of view.
4. I don’t hate all Apple products – I think some of the new Apple products are fine — just not the iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina display. I’ve owned two iPhones, two iPads and an Apple TV. I buy Apple products when they outperform other products and are not insanely priced.
5. I want this to be factually correct – Believe it or not, I really do try to keep my articles factually correct. If you find an error here, please let me know and I will fix the section containing the error. If you read the comments section, you’ll find many examples where I’ve done so.
6. Save your flames – You’re not going to change my beliefs and I’m not going to changes yours.
Copyright 2013-2014 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.
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Note: This article was originally written about the first iPad mini. Since then, it has been updated to reflect new iPad mini with Retina display. Keep this in mind when you read the comments.