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The all-new iPad Mini stole the show from the iPhone 13 at Apple’s event

The iPhone 13 Pro and the Apple Watch Series 7 launch may have stolen all the headlines around Apple’s California Streaming event initially, but now that the dust has settled attention can turn to the real star of the show, the new iPad Mini.

It’s genuinely new from top to bottom, and after the disappointment of it not arriving earlier in the year, it has proved to be worth the wait. Not only that, but it comes at a time when there is renewed attention on large screen portable devices, giving the smallest Apple tablet a chance to shine like never before.

Not convinced? Allow me to explain.

Truly new

The iPad Mini is the one product revealed during the event that felt truly new. The iPhone 13 series is subtly different from the iPhone 12, while the Apple Watch Series 7 has some visual changes, it retains enough of the old design to make it still compatible with existing straps. While alterations like a smaller notch on the phone and a curved screen on the watch do make a difference, it may need an expert eye to recognize them from a distance.

Apple iPad Mini 2021 colors.

There’s no mistaking the new iPad Mini for the old iPad Mini. The massive bezel and Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the Home button are relics of Apple’s old design language, seen today only on its entry-level products like the iPhone SE (2020). By doing away with both and adopting the thin bezel, square-sided style of the iPhone 12 and the iPad Pro, the iPad Mini is very much a modern Apple product.

Crucially, the updated design brings about a significant spec alteration. The new iPad Mini has an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina screen, up from the 7.9-inch Retina screen on the old Mini. The Touch ID sensor is now inside the power key, just like the iPad Air, and the Lightning connector has been replaced by a USB Type-C connection.

Before you pass these changes off as designs borrowed from other Apple products, remember that Apple has ignored the iPad Mini since 2019, and even then, the fifth-generation model shared most of the same design and technology as the fourth-generation iPad Mini launched in 2015. Bringing the iPad Mini right up to date with the new family design is the treatment the little tablet truly deserved.

Meaningful enhancements

Apple has made the right decision on the specification too. In the past, the iPad Mini has been neglected and treated only to that most ignominious of updates, a slightly updated processor, and that was it. Not so here.

As it did with the iPad Air (2020) Apple has added several of the features that make the iPad Pro models desirable and left out the ones that don’t matter quite so much for a mid-size portable tablet. It gets Apple Pencil 2 support, rather than making do with first-generation Pencil support like the regular eighth-generation iPad, for example.

new iPad mini

The processor is the A15 Bionic, just like in the new iPhone 13, the updated cameras get the new Center Stage feature to track you as you move around during video calls, plus there’s a USB Type-C connector on the bottom. This gives you the chance to use the iPad Mini with accessories including external displays.

The only slight disappointment is Apple hasn’t made a Keyboard Cover for the iPad Mini. Sure, it would be a niche product, but iPad OS is better at productivity and multi-tasking than ever before, plus it already makes a version for the other models, and third-party keyboards for the Mini have always been thin on the ground. This aside, the new specs and features help you do more with the iPad Mini, so it won’t get treated solely as a tablet for people who think a bigger iPad is overkill.

Portable power

I love the compact look of the new iPad Mini, and Apple’s depiction in its promotional video of its portability tells you all you need to know about where it fits in Apple’s range — just above the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and just below an iPad Air. It’s not just the diminutive size that makes it great for carrying around, it’s the addition of a 5G modem too. This is a tablet absolutely made for use out in the world, unlike most other iPad tablets which are permanent homebodies.

Introducing the all-new iPad mini | Apple

Its release is timely when you look at the direction of the mobile market, and Apple’s position in it. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch screen making it a seriously big smartphone, but Samsung has given fans of large screens, but not the large device, a lifeline with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Folding smartphones are changing the narrative to show you don’t need to have a giant phone in your pocket to have a really big screen on the go.

Apple can’t compete with the Z Fold 3 yet, and rumors indicate it won’t have a folding version of the iPhone until 2023 at the earliest. The new iPad Mini fills the gap with 5G and the same processor as the iPhone 13, and Apple’s marketing, where it’s always in and out of pockets or being slipped into bags, makes sure we know this is a mobile device made to be carried around, not left at home.

Open Galaxy Z Fold 3 with apps shown.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 open. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If its subliminal messaging wasn’t enough, the numbers involved may sway the more mathematically inclined towards ownership of two Apple mobile products. Priced at $499 or $649 for the cellular version, you can buy an iPad Mini and an iPhone 13 Pro and still have change left over compared to splashing out $1,799 for the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

That’s why the iPad Mini is the most exciting product launched by Apple during its California Streaming event. The new iPad Mini’s meaningful alterations greatly increase versatility and will make people who have never considered it before do a double-take. Apple has transformed the previous, humdrum small tablet into a powerful all-rounder that doesn’t let size hold it back.

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