Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm.

Mini Beats Air

But what I really want now is a 6-inch iPhone and a big-ass kitchen iPad.


It’s been about a month and a half since I upgraded my iPad Mini to the new retina variety. Apple was also kind enough to loan me an iPad Air to re-test my theory that the iPad Mini is “the real iPad”. I’ve enjoyed using them both, and each has its highs and lows. The colors on the Air’s screen, for example, are noticeably more colorful. But a page of crisp text on the retina Mini is one of the most beautiful digital simulations I’ve ever seen.

The bottom line is that the Mini, not the Air, is still the ideal size for almost everything I want to use an iPad for. Being able to hold an iPad comfortably with one hand, or type easily with two thumbs, is still something the Mini offers best. Reading in bed in portrait mode is still much more comfortable on a Mini — less stretching to do. And even though the Air is impressively lighter than my long-gone iPad 3, the fear of a smashed nose from snoozing hasn’t gone away.

I splurged on an LTE Mini this time, and I wouldn’t want to go back to a wi-fi-only world. There’s a surprising difference between tethering to an iPhone and being able to pull out an iPad and be instantly connected, and it changes the way I use it. It’s now a viable device for iMessaging, when iMessage wants to work right. I’ve even re-thought a few of the apps I keep on my home screen. For instance, Google Maps, which I previously only really used on my phone, is now equally useful on a persistently connected iPad with GPS.

While I bought a Verizon iPad Mini, I’ve mostly used the T-Mobile SIM card I picked up in the store for $10, which comes with 200 MB of free data per month. I really like what T-Mobile’s newish CEO John Legere has been doing, and in many cases, its LTE network has actually been faster and more reliable than Verizon’s. Either way, it’s nice to have options. Verizon’s noticeable decline in superiority — along with bullshit charges like a $35 iPad “activation” fee to add it to my shared-data plan — is exactly why I’m considering switching everything to T-Mobile. Being able to sample T-Mobile’s network this way for free is brilliant.

But this exercise has also pushed me further down the line of rethinking my ideal device sizes. Carrying an iPhone, iPad Mini, iPad Air, and MacBook Air at the same time feels a little ridiculous. Ideally, I think I’d want just two: A bigger iPhone (5-6 inches?) that can take over many iPad duties and an even “airier” retina MacBook Air (13) that does double duty as a big-ass kitchen iPad. Without the touchscreen. Ok, still working on this.

Anyway, for now: Mini beats Air.

Previously: 300 Days With The iPad Mini