Apple iPad mini 3: is this the smallest upgrade we’ve ever seen?

Apple’s iPad, iMac and OS X Yosemite event is now all done and as we reflect on it there were many highs, plenty of innovation even, but one particularly low point – the new iPad mini 3.

Apple gave the new iPad Air 2 a heap of time on stage because of its new 8MP iSight camera, its over the top 6.1mm frame, its new A8X chipset, its TouchID home button and its gold option. And the iPad mini 3 got a couple of quick slides – as if the company didn’t want to talk about it. And after digging a bit deeper into its specs sheet we think we know why – that’s by far the smallest step forward a device has needed a year to take. No A8X chipset, no new display or camera, no new thinner body but hey, you get TouchID (which is yet to prove it’s worth anything on a tablet) and cool golden version now.

The Apple iPad mini 2 made a lot of sense when it first came out. It replaced an iPad mini that was nothing more than a rushed, old iPad 2 fit into a smaller body. The mini 2 ushered-in the Retina display and shared the all-important 64-bit A7 chipset with the iPad Air. The same chipset it now shares with the iPad mini 3, its successor, only it doesn’t look nearly as impressive in 2014. It begs the question, what has the iPad mini team been doing this past year?

The news isn’t all bad – if you want a very good iPad mini with Retina display and decent chipset the iPad mini 2 has gotten $100 cheaper.

What Apple is doing is taking away the option to have a great compact iPad tablet with properly powerful internals and top-notch screen. If you want the spanking new iSight camera or latest mobile chipset by Apple in your hands you have the single option of iPad Air 2.

Last year’s iPad lineup was a happy dynamic duo that shared all its key selling points. This year saw Apple enabling the iPad Air 2 to bully the iPad mini 3 and keep the goods for itself. Even the iPhone 6 Plus will rightfully look down on its larger but obviously less gifted stablemate.

The latest iPad mini saw the company voluntarily give up on the compact tablet battle, by serving us a half-baked excuse of an upgrade. In a market which evolves every day and week, serving a quickly repainted last-year’s device is no way to maintain your lead.

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