I have been toying with a few ideas over the last few days concerning a switch in iPads and I’ve reached out to Twitter for some advice. I’ve received plenty of responses, for which I’m super thankful. I love the accessibility to so many smart minds on Twitter.

However, few of these responses have truly resonated with me. Perhaps it’s because I’m extremely stubborn. More so though, I think I have a very specific — and maybe even unique — set of circumstances that lead towards an iPad mini of some kind. Maybe some context will help answer some of the questions I’ve received on Twitter and maybe typing my thoughts out will make this decision more straightforward.

The iPhone 6 Plus

Why in the world would I consider an iPad mini if I already have an iPhone 6 Plus? Don’t their uses basically overlap?

In reality, they might. But I have one kicker that makes the two use-cases mutually exclusive: an unlimited data plan.

Manitoba has been straddled with MTS, a province-wide cellular and internet provider that excels in making things difficult in rural parts of the province. MTS provides my location with copper wire internet service, meaning my home internet connection is the epitome of “hit-and-miss”. I can upload photos and browse the web decently without too many hiccups, but streaming any sort of video becomes a ginormous pain in the butt.

Surprisingly though, MTS offers an unlimited LTE cellular data plan for students. I jumped on the unlimited plan as soon as I had the chance and I now pay about $55 a month for an unlimited LTE data plan. Not bad at all considering my home internet woes.

What this unlimited plan doesn’t offer is tethering, meaning my iPad and MacBook are stuck driving the pitiful home internet connection.

This has quickly led to my iPhone 6 Plus becoming my major source of streaming entertainment in the evenings. Between the World Series and the start of the new NHL season, you can find my iPhone plugged in and resting on my TwelveSouth Compass Stand far more than it should.

Which leads nicely into my next point.

Continuity

Thanks to the sweet relationship between OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, you can now send and receive archaic SMS messages and send and receive phone calls on your Mac and iPad. This has been a game changer for me.

With my iPhone tied up by streaming duties, I end up on my iPad throughout the evening. Like everyone else, I use my iPad for browsing the internet and for reading all sorts of content. But now, with Continuity, I can also do everything on my iPad that I would normally do on my phone. When streaming games, I no longer have to pause the game to respond to messages or to emails. And I can also keep the game on in the background while reading my textbook on my iPad. [1]

Lovely.

iPad-As-Only-Computer Project

Now that I’ve painted the picture of my unlimited iPhone 6 Plus data plan and my general iPad use-case, I want to clarify why I’m leaning towards an iPad mini instead of just keeping my year old iPad Air.

When I bought the iPad Air a year ago, I bought it with the intention of making it my only computer. At the time, I really admired those people with ability to make the iPad their one and only machine. I thought the Air would satisfy the woes of typing on a touch screen and would provide a better screen for reading text and viewing photographs.

Turns out I was right about both things. When laid in landscape, the Air does have a superior typing experience and the Air does have a better screen.

What I was wrong about was the fact that typing on a real keyboard is still far and away the best way to type. Hands down. I also had no idea I would end up purchasing a higher end camera a few months down the road.

No matter how hard I tried, my MacBook still remained my main computer for doing real work. I still like typing on these chicklet keys more than any touch screen keyboard and I will always choose to edit my photographs on a MacBook before an iPad. Essentially, my “iPad-as-only-computer” project turned out to be a failure.

John Gruber’s iPad mini

With my MacBook as main workhorse machine at my desk, and with my iPhone 6 Plus tied up with streaming different kinds of entertainment, my iPad has become more useful than ever during my downtime in the evenings.

I’m going to use a pull quote to outline my thoughts for the first time in ages:

But I still prefer the Mini form factor. I’m not saying it’s better in general — only that it’s better for me, personally. More than anything else, I mostly read on my iPad. When I do type on my iPad, I tend to do it iPhone-style with just my thumbs. For reading, the Air comes close to being a better iPad for me. After just four days of testing it, my iPad Mini already feels a little thick. But for typing, I’m far more comfortable with the Mini.

In short, I think the Mini really is more of a pure consumption device, and the Air is more of an alternative to a MacBook.

Mr. Gruber absolutely nails it. It’s not that you can’t do incredible work on the iPad mini — it’s that it’s easier to do incredible work on the bigger iPad Air canvas. The mini is easier for thumb typing messages or emails and more comfortable to hold at awkward angles while sitting on the couch. No matter how thin and light Apple makes the iPad Air and Air 2, the 9.7" screen is just too big for what I want to use an iPad for.

Money

Best of all, Apple is still selling the original iPad Air. Up here in Canada, the 16GB Space Grey Cellular model runs a cool $580 brand new,[2] even after the $100 discount Apple applied to it with the release of the Air 2. My iPad is in mint condition, so selling it for about $400 seems pretty reasonable.

Because my iPad has become a pure communications and reading device, I am one of those crazy people who finds 16GB to be plenty of storage space. I don’t store any music on my iPad and my iPhone now has a better screen for showing off photos.

And because my iPad is only used when I am at home or when I am at the office, I don’t need a cellular model anymore.

The cheapest iPad mini model is screaming my name!

Conclusion

I began writing this piece with the hopes of justifying the iPad mini 3, but I just can’t come to grips with it. Touch ID is singlehandedly my favourite thing about the new iPhone 6 Plus and has changed how I store and make all my passwords. Adding this benefit to the iPad would only make Touch ID that much more awesome.

To the tune of $110 though? Like everyone else is saying, I’m starting to think it might not be worth it. I’ll ponder this some more. It’s really hard to not want the latest and greatest.

I’m not sure if this answers any questions people may have had or if it helped myself in coming to a conclusion.

It certainly does answer my use cases for an iPhone 6 Plus and an iPad mini though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was alone in these unique needs. Most people have proper internet connections at home and don’t need to stream video through their cellular data connections. From what I can tell, most people have found their iPads collecting dust after purchasing an iPhone 6 Plus.

For me, the iPad mini has become the single device I have lusted over for the past week. I really want something lighter than an Air and a screen small enough to make thumb typing comfortable again.

Let me know if you have any advice on Twitter. I’m ready to be convinced either way.


  1. Which has led me to buy a Lightning to Digital AV (HDMI) Adapter so I can plug my phone directly into the TV and not complain about my Apple TV’s dying streaming capabilities.  ↩

  2. And this is before the 13% (5% GST and 8% PST) sales tax applied to all purchases of final goods. Our provincial opposition party recently dropped the allegations against the provincial leaders regarding an illegal tax hike. Much to the chagrin of literally everyone, our provincial government will continue to make an extra 8% after every purchase. That’s a lot of money.  ↩