iPad

Is Apple Killing Off the iPad Mini?

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A few weeks ago Apple made a few updates to it's iPad lineup and one of those changes was to the iPad Mini line. But instead of a significant update to the device they lowered the entry level price and change the smallest storage level from 32 Gb to 128 Gb. In fact, 128 Gb is the only storage option you have now with the iPad Mini. But what does this mean for the future of the iPad Mini?

I currently only own 1 iPad, the 12.9" iPad Pro. It couldn't be further away in form factor from the iPad Mini. But I still love the iPad Mini and there are days that I miss the iPad Mini, back when I used to use it as my one and only iPad. Hands down, the iPad Mini was my favorite iPad out of all the iPads I have ever owned. It was such a great size for picking up and reading around the house. At the time it had a large enough screen to meet my needs as a sheet music reader (but doesn't anymore thanks to my aging eyes and a change in the type of music I am playing). I carried that iPad Mini around in a Book Book case by Twelve South and it was a joy to carry and hold. It was also a great size for using on an airplane. But my computing needs changed over time and eventually I got to a point where I could do most of my personal computing on an iPad Pro. So I consolidated my devices down from an iMac, MacBook Air and iPad down to just an iPad Pro and it has worked out great for me.

That is the very short version of my history with the iPad Mini. My daughter bought the iPad Mini 1st generation and is still using it today. I suspect there are a lot of other people out there like her that are still using a 4+ year old iPad and it is still working fine for them. That right there is the real reason Apple is simplifying its iPad Mini line. It's not because they are looking to kill off the iPad Mini. I think they know that the iPad Mini is the perfect form factor for a small but still significant number of people. The iPad is also a device that just keeps on ticking, so you don't have to update it with a new one ever year or even every couple of years. So you don't need a large and complicated line of iPad Minis to feed the market. Apple has simply adjusted its lineup to better match how consumers are buying the iPad Mini. I do not think this is a sign that Apple is looking to drop the iPad Mini entirely. At least that is what I choose to believe, because it would be a sad day indeed if the iPad Mini was no more...

Buying an iPad for a Child

As a parent of 3 and being the tech geek that I am, the topic of managing technology with children is one I have a bit of experience with. Since I've been through this a time or two with my own children I thought I would share my experieniences. Kids and technology are often a great combination, but there are some very obvious things to consider. I am going to share my thoughts and experiences on a few of the more common decisions you have to make as a parent when managing an iPad with a child:

  1. Purchasing Options
  2. Cases and Screen Protectors
  3. Device Management

Purchasing Options

I am a big proponent of our purchasing Apple prouducts from Apple's own refurbished section of their online store. Most people aren't even aware Apple sells refurbished products. Why buy refurbished? Two main reasons. First, you do get a discount on the product which is always a plus. But the main reason to buy refurbished is the extra quality assurance checks that is done on a refurbished item as opposed to a new product. Brand new products have quality assurance (hardware checks), but only a small sub-set of the products on the assembly line are pulled and tested. In the case of a refurbished item, some or all of the internal components are slightly used and all of the external surfaces (case, screen, etc...) are new. In order to ensure the newly refurbished prouduct is good enough to be sold as an Apple refurbished product on the their website, Apple tests every one of their refurbished products. This is a big plus because it reduces the likelihood that you have a bad component just waiting to die 1 year and 1 day after purchase (just outside of warranty). Also, Apple refurbished products have the same warranty and are eligible for the same extended warranty options that new products are. Yet, despite all of this I still don't recommend buying an iPad for a child directly from Apple.

It's all about warranty and accidental damage protection when it comes to electronics and kids and Apple doesn't have the most cost effective kid friendly warranty...Walmart does. I have purchased (actually my kids paid for their own iPads, I simply made the purchase for them) both of my kids iPad minis from Walmart and purchased the extended protection plan from Walmart. The Walmart protection plan adds another 2 years of protection on to the existing 1-year Apple warranty on the iPad, but it adds the all important accidental damage coverage. If you accidentally damage your device Walmart will repair or replace the device with no additional cost to you. Apple does have a similar coverage plan, Apple Care+, but it is more expensive to purchase and you have to pay a deductible for each repair or replacement and are limited to 2 over the life of the product. So assuming just one replacement or repair ove the lifetime of the product you the Walmart coverage is cheaper than Apple Care+. If I were buying an iPad for myself and wanted to buy extended coverage I would purchase from Apple, but my budget isn't nearly as tight as that of my children (especially when they are the ones saving up for the iPad). $50-$100 makes a big difference in how long it takes them to save up for the iPad, and that amount of savings is worth the extra hassle you have to deal with when getting a damaged device serviced through Walmart. It can take up to 2 weeks to get your device back from Walmart, while with Apple you can generally get a replacement device the same day if you walk into an Apple store. Again, it's a matter of what you are willing to pay for. Best Buy also offers their own protection plans against accidental damage, but theirs is not as cost effective as Walmart's. Earlier this year I got the "privlidge" of getting to use the Walmart warrenty on my daughter's iPad Mini. She had her mini in a case with a screen protector, but that still wasn't enough. Her ipad fell off the bed and the screen hit the edge of a metal step stool and that was the end of the screen. Unless she had some kind of clamshell case and the case was closed there was nothing that was going to protect her iPad from its ultimate demise in this instance. So I called up the Walmat warrenty center and they had me mail in the iPad for repair. It took about 10 days and I got the same iPad back with a brand new screen.

iPad Cases For Kids

This is where the decision becomes a lot more difficult...what case to buy? This is something only you can decide. It is going to depend on the resposibility level of your child and how often the iPad is going to be taken outside the home. I personally like carrying around my iPad Air with just a screen protector and a "carbon fiber like" skin to protect from surface scratching and to give the iPad a little more grip. But for a child you are probably going to want more protection than that. Is your child going to want an external keyboard? If so, there are some excellent cases that have keyboards built-in. Both my wife and I (I used to have but don't anymore) have used the TwelveSouth BookBook case and while they are pretty exepnsive they are very durable, hide the fact that you are carrying an iPad and look better the more they are used. For my 9 year old I went with a very inexpensive rubberized case by i-Blason, the ArmorBox Series 2.

The iBlason ArmorBox Series 2 iPad Mini case

The iBlason ArmorBox Series 2 iPad Mini case

She has owned this case for about 2 years now and just recently the plastic knobs that hold the kickstand in place have broken (not bad considering the amount of use). This is the case she had when the screen was borken, but again given how the device fell there was no protecting it. She had dropped her iPad many, many times and this case has provided excellent drop protection. It is a little bulky, but for younger kids the extra bulk and grip actully makes it easier to hold. Another thing to look for is the "Made for iPad" marking, also known as [MFi][mfi]. This means the manufacturer had tested the product and it meets the minimum standards set forth by Apple. In the case of iPhone cases, this means the case will protect the device from a 1-meter fall on to a hard surface.

Device Management

When my kids were younger I locked down their i-devices. The Safari web browser was not available, they could only email people that were in their contact lists and the App Store app was not on their device. However, now that they are older I have relaxed most of the restrictions on their devices. They are now able to surf the web because I am using Open DNS. Katie Floyd from the Mac Power Users Podcast has an excellent screencast on how to setup this very powerful and free service that will protect all internet users in your house from porn and other dangerous sites.

Since it has been a while since I have setup and used much of the iOS parental controls I am going to point you to another site to use as a guide. iMore has a great article that walks you through all the various options within parental controls and how to set them up. I will say that I have been quite disappointed with Apple's parental controls on iOS. Parental controls on the Mac are much more useful. What is missing on iOS is the ability to setup time limits. My son has an iMac and I am able to configure the iMac so he only has the ability to play games for a certain amount of time on weekdays and a different amount of time on weekends. I can also restrict the time of day he can access the machine. I then setup a seperate account on his iMac that allows him to play internet radio (he likes to listen to music just before he goes to bed), but he can do nothing else on that account. I then setup a 3rd accound on his iMac that gives him unlimted time (within the time of day restictions I have set) to do things like read and access educational content on the internet). I do not have options like this for iOS devices, but Amazon allows these kind of restrictions on their Kindle devices. I woud really like to see Apple step it up and give us parents more options for managing these devices for our children. In the mean time I guess we will have to do it the old-fashioned way...by being parents and paying close attention to what our kids are doing with these devices.

iOS devices are great devices for kids, but they must be protected (both the kids and the devices) and use of the devices must be managed by an adult. Just like anything in this world too much of a good thing can be bad. There is no single piece of advice I can give you because every child and situation is a little bit different, but hopefully this article gave you a few things to think about. Good luck and have fun with your kids using these great devices!

iPad or 11" MacBook Air?

Until recently I really couldn't answer this question. However, I recently purchased an 11" MacBook Air and I've been using an iPad since the very first iPad hit the streets. So, for those of you asking the question "Which should I buy?"...I have a few things for you to think about.

If you are Tim Cook (CEO of Apple for those of you that aren't total Apple geeks like me), then the answer is you can do 80% of your work using just an iPad. A recent TUAW article quotes Tim Cook as saying that he is able do 80% of everything he does just on his iPad. But he RUNS Apple, of course most if not all of his corporate tools work on an iPad. But what about the rest of us? For me, I can do most of my job on my iPad (probably around 80%), but the 20% that I can't do is pretty darn important stuff:

  • Accessing browser certificate enabled VPN databases (I can get the certificates installed on my Mac but it won't work on an iPad)
  • Downloading and/or modifying a document from SharePoint
  • Uploading a document to SharePoint from my iPad

The above 3 items are things I have to do on a normal basis so my mobile computing solution must be able to effeciently handle these tasks. Yes, there are 3rd party apps that can help with some of the SharePoint items but it is still less than ideal. No, my days of being able to only carry an iPad for work are not here yet. But what about the rest of you?

I bought my 11" MacBook Air as my main home computer. I replaced my iMac with a Mac Mini and an external monitor (see my previous post for the exact setup). Purchasing my 11" MacBook Air is now completing what for me is a perfect setup. Now I can use my Mac Mini as a home server and use my 11" MacBook Air as my main computer. In fact, I'm sitting on the couch with my feet up eating dinner as I write this. The 11" MacBook Air is the perfect combination of extreme portability without sacraficing any functionality. So that's how I use my 11" MacBook Air, but what about my iPad? I use my iPad for the following tasks:

  • Watching training videos while on the elliptical trainer at the gym
  • Reading my RSS news feed
  • Reading iBooks
  • Outlining (OmniOutliner) and mindmapping (iThoughts)
  • Browsing my social networks
  • Sheet music display when playing piano and keyboards
  • Reading and responding to email

Mayby I'm old school, but there is something about touching things with your fingers when doing creative work that make it more engaging. Granted, reading a book on an iPad doesn't have the same "feel" as the paper from a book it certainly has more feel than reading something off a laptop screen. Since I have both an iPad and an 11" MacBook Air I am able to pick and choose what tasks I do on which device. But what if you could only have one?

If you are thinking about buying just one of these devices and trying to figure out which one to get, think about these things:

  • How often will you need an exernal keyboard with your iPad to be effecient with what you want to do? (extra cost & extra weight. You can get an external keyboard for the iPad but that makes it almost as bulky & expensive as an 11" MacBook Air)
  • How rough are you on devices? (A MacBook Air is a lot more durable to carry around without any kind of bulky case)
  • Are there any tasks you can't do on an iPad? (Don't handicapp yourself, even for a small percentage of your tasks, just for the percieved additional portability of an iPad)
  • How good is your eyesight? (The 11" MacBook Air screen can be a little small at times, while the iPad is held closer to the face and has a retina screen)
  • How often do you do work while on a flight? (You can't beat an iPad when you crammed into an airline seat with little elbow room)
  • Are you planning to use this device for both work and play? (An iPad is a great device for play, both reading and playing games)

There is no right answer to this question. Everybody's case is going to be a little bit different. The best thing you can do is think about all the things you plan to do with that ONE device and get the device that allows you to do those tasks best. If all elese fails and you purchase the wrong device, Apple devices have great re-sale value. You won't be out too much money if you have to sell your device and buy the other. Apple also has an excellent return policy if you change your mind within their 14-day return policy AND you purchased the device directly from Apple.

It's a tough decision, so good luck!

Selling Your Activation Locked iOS Device

If you are thinking about selling your iOS 7 device (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) then you need to follow the directions below BEFORE you sell your device.

1. Go into the "Settings" on your iOS device and turn off "Find My iPhone". This can be done by navigating through the following menus within "Settings":

 Settings > Privacy > Find My iPhone (or iPad, or iPod depending on your device type)

When you turn on "Find My iPhone" in iOS you are also turning on something called "Activation Lock". Activation Lock is a theft deterrent that Apple built into the iOS 7 operating system. Once activated the device can't be wiped or have it's settings significantly changed unless the iCloud account password associated with the device is entered first. So if someone stole your iPhone and tried to wipe the device so they could use it they wouldn't be able to do so unless they also had your iCloud password.

2. Next you need to completely wipe the device. This can be done by going into:

 Settings > General > Reset

and choosing "Erase All Content and Settings."

3. To be sure that your deceive is no longer Activation Locked (if you have another iOS device), use another iOS device and use the app "Find my iPhone". If your aren't already signed into your iCloud account you used on the device you just wiped, please do so. Once signed in go to the "My Devices" tab and make sure the device you just wiped in NOT listed there. If it is listed there, select it and then select the "Remove from Account" option. This will do the same thing as step 1 listed above, it turns off Activation Lock on the device.

If you don't have another iOS device, go to iCloud.com and sign in with your iCloud account email address and password. From there you can get into the "Find My iPhone" app just like you were on another iOS device and follow the same instructions I just listed above to ensure Activation Lock is removed from your old device.

4. The last step isn't required but is a good idea to do. Go to the Apple Support Profile Website (https://supportprofile.apple.com/MySupportProfile.do), login using your Apple ID and go ahead and remove the device you are selling from you profile. This profile is used whenever you call or go into an Apple Store and get support or service on your device. Removing it from your profile will make it easier for you and the Apple genius to determine which device you need help with if you don't have a bunch of old devices you no longer own in your profile. If you never registered your device with Apple then it won't show up here.

The reason I am posting about this is because I failed to follow these exact steps when I sold one of my devices and I had to remotely remove the Activation Lock from the device after the fact (which is step 3 above). Apparently just performing step 2 above DOES NOT remove Activation Lock from your device, even though this has been described as doing a "factory restore" for many years now. With iOS 7 and Activation Lock a complete erase of all content and settings in no longer restoring your device to factory conditions because it is still Activation Locked. I did a lot of searching for information on the web about this and there is a lot of bad information out there. Many sources claim that just performing step 2 above removes the Activation Lock, but it does not. You must perform step 1 first but verify with step 3 just to be sure. Hopefully this keeps you from making the same mistake I did...

The Naked iPad Experiment

I am currently conducting a highly scientific experiment involving my iPad and nudity. Ok, that sounds really bad. Let me start over... I am attempting to use and carry around my new iPad Air without a case. This is a pretty terrifying prospect for me because I take my iPad EVERYWHERE. However, when you think about it, that is even more of a reason to consider going "caseless: with an iPad...especially with incredibly light and thin iPad Air or iPad mini. Apple has gone the extra mile to take every millimeter and ounce out of these devices and what do we do? We slap a case on this new gorgeous device from a manafacuturer than in many cases did not take the same care in design that Apple did (don't get me wrong there are some amazing quality cases out there).

So what drove me to make this decision? The biggest driver for me was the purchase of a new messenger bag (or "man purse/murse), the Muzetto Leather from Waterfield . I've been drooling over these leather messenger style bags for a couple of years now and I finally bit the bullet and used my birthday cash this year and bought me one. I'll be writing a review on this bag soon, but in summary this is an amazing bag. However, there are certain compromises. The best design feature of this bag is that it is very slim...minimalist. So it really forced you to filter out all the stuff you would normally carry in a larger bag and carry just those things you really need to carry. Since I pretty much have to carry my work issued MacBook Air at all times this didn't leave a lot of room for me to have much of a case on my iPad and have it still fit in my Muzetto. But, since the Muzetto has a really nice padded pocket in the front specifically for tablets I kinda already have a built-in case for my iPad...my Muzetto bag. So when I bought my iPad Air last month I bought it without a case and have been using it this way ever since.

The Results

I've been going ceaseless with the iPad Air for over a month now and so far it is working out fine. My previous iPad was the iPad mini and I used the BookBook case from TwelveSouth and loved it. I would by lying if I told you I didn't miss the study feel of carrying around an iPad as an old-style leather book. It was really nice knowing I could literally take my iPad with me anywhere and know it wasn't going to be damaged and most people didn't even know it was an iPad. But by giving up the leather book form factor case I gained a lot more portability in that the iPad is quite a bit lighter and easier to hold for long periods and much less bulky. I haven't hesitated one bit in taking my iPad everywhere with me, even without a case and it still looks just as new now as it did the day I took it out of the box. Granted I am pretty careful with my devices). If I leave the house or am going from meeting to meeting at work I always have my Muzetto bag with me anyway, so in that sense my iPad is being carried around in a protective case (the bag). I did just purchase a skin, the Bodyguardz Armor. It hasn't arrived yet as of this writing as I bought it on sale over the weeknd of Thanksgiving. I bought this because I wanted some added texture (grip) on the back of the iPad and som scratch/scuff protection. The Bodyguardz Armor also comes with an anti-glare screen protector, and while these can degrade the image quality some they also significantly cutback on the glare and reduce fingerprints (which in my opinion reduce image quality even more).

The other aspect of going ceaseless is not having a built-in stand for my iPad. This one really had me concerned. I liked being able to take out my iPad mini and use the BookBook to prop it up on my lap and be able to take notes. Now that I don't have a case I can't do that...or can I? I now find myself thumb typing in portrait mode more often than not and for the times I need to type a large amount of text I just lay the iPad down on my lap flat and it works just fine. So surprisingly I have not missed my case in that respect. It was really handy using the case to watch movies on an airplane or even for reading because that would free up my hands to hold a drink or hold food. Now I end up typing on a flat tray table when doing work or just holding the iPad when watching a movie or reading. Not having a built-in case hasn't been a problem on my frequent airplane trips either. The other main iPad stand use I have is at my desk at work and home or at the dining room table. Several years ago I made some solid wood iPad stands and I am now getting much more use out of those now that I don't have a case on my iPad. I keep one stand at home and one at work and the work great for when I need a stand at these locations. So far I haven't had a need to carry any kind of a portable stand with me and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Conclusions

My naked iPad experiment so far has been a success. Apple designed the iPad to be touched and held and depending on how you use your iPad a case may do nothing but get between you and a beautifully designed product. Apple has literally spent millions in R&D to make the iPad as thin and light as possible and if you add a case to the iPad you counteract some of that design. Like anything deciding to use or not use a case has its benefits and compromises. I've told you what seems to work well for me, now it's your turn. Post a comment me below and tell me your thoughts on using a case or going caseless, I would really love to hear what other people are doing!

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