Switching Back to a Full-Sized iPad

The weekend that Apple released the iPad Air I made the decision to go from using an iPad mini back to using a full-sized iPad. Last year I posted about why I switched to the iPad mini. I absolutely loved my iPad mini, so why did I go back to a full-sized iPad and buy the new iPad Air?

The Differences

When the iPad mini first came out last year the differences between the full-sized iPad and the mini were pretty pronounced. I remember when I first picked up the mini in an Apple Store I felt like I was holding something out of the future in my hand (it reminded me of the 1st time I held the original iPhone). It was so incredibly light and thin. It was hard to believe that Apple was able to fit a fully functioning iPad into such a portable package. A year ago I had just started a new position which required me to attend an obscene amount of meetings and travel quite a bit. I was still on the AT&T unlimited data plan with my iPhone, so I needed to go with an LTE enabled iPad for travel purposes. For me, the extremely compact and light-weight iPad mini was perfect for grabbing and taking to a meeting or pulling out of my carry-on bag on a plane and doing getting some work done on a long flight while in the cramped quarters of a middle seat on an airplane. I also use my iPad for quite a bit of reading while at home, so the lighter weight was a big plus for holding for long periods of time (i.e. drinking coffee and catching up on news articles over the weekend). Granted, the original iPad mini was essentially an iPad 2 internally for my uses I didn't need to have the faster processor of the iPad 4th generation. So the iPad mini was nearly the perfect device for me for the last year.

My Tipping Points

Over the last year my needs as far as the iPad goes has changed just slightly. My workplace Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy has become much more restrictive, causing me to reluctantly accept a BlackBerry as my work cell phone and rely on my laptop more and more for meetings rather than just grabbing my iPad. I have also changed over from the AT&T unlimited data plan to a family share plan, so I can now tether off my iPhone (yes I carry both a work BlackBerry and a personal iPhone, see a previous blog post about why I do this). I have also switched from playing mostly piano in my church band to keyboards and I use my iPad as a sheet music reader. When I was playing piano I mostly read lead sheets and the piano music stand was pretty close to my face. Now I am reading more full formatted sheet music and the music stand I put my iPad on with the keyboard puts the iPad nearly 2 feet further away from me. The iPad mini display is simply too small to use as a sheet music reader as a keyboardist that must read the melody line instead of just lead sheets. So until I bought the iPad Air I was using my wife's iPad 2 when I needed a sheet music reader. Over the last year I have also noticed while reading news articles that about half the time I needed to increase the text size of a website by either zooming in or sending the article to Instapaper. Maybe I'm getting old and my eyesight is changing (who am I kidding, of course I'm getting old), but with as much reading as I do on the weekends with my iPad I was starting to really miss the bigger screen size of the full-sized iPad. The most recent change in how I use and carry an iPad is my recent purchase of a Muzetto Leather Messenger Bag. I plan to write a review on this incredible bag soon, but the big change for the iPad is that the extremely portable a slim Muzetto bag has a built in padded compartment for an iPad. With my iPad mini I carried it in a TwelveSouth BookBook case and as I said inmy review of the BookBook, this case served me very well over the past year. However, given my change in usage patterns at work, the slimmer messenger bag I am now using and my reluctance to add any kind of extra weight or thickness to my new iPad Air I have decided to NOT use a case. Since I am now carrying around my new Muzetto bag pretty much everywhere I go the extra little bit of physical dimension size of the larger iPad Air screen is not any kind of a drawback as far as portability goes.

So in summary, the factors that went into my decision to switch back to a full-sized iPad from an iPad mini were:

  • Using my iPad for more personal use and less for taking notes at work meetings
  • Switching to a family share data plan with the ability to tether eliminated the need for an LTE iPad
  • Needed a larger screen to use as a sheet music reader
  • Larger screen was better for the large amounts of reading I was doing on the weekends (specifically for websites)
  • New bag reduced the advantage of the smaller footprint of the iPad mini

How Should You Choose?

With the release of the new iPad Air and the new iPad mini with retina display there are virtually no differences between the retina mini and the iPad Air except for screen size. There is no easy answer to the question "Which iPad is best for me, the iPad mini or the iPad Air"? As I have just explained above, in my case it was multiple factors that ultimately ended up driving my decision to go with the larger iPad Air. It is really going to boil down to you sitting down and thinking about how you use your iPad. Here are a few questions you can answer about your iPad usage that may help you decide which size iPad is best for you:

  • Do you use your iPad as a sheet music reader? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you take your iPad with you everywhere you go? (Advantage iPad Mini)
  • Do you read a lot of digital comic books? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you do a lot of long form reading? (Advantage iPad mini)
  • Do you spend a lot of time browsing websites? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you use your iPad to share things on the screen with other people? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you have a bag or purse you already carry everywhere that has limited capacity? (Advantage ipad mini)
  • Do you do a lot of airline travel? (Advantage iPad Mini)
  • Do you use your iPad as a PC replacement (as your main computing device)? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you use your iPad primarily for gaming? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you use your iPad to do a lot of FaceTime calls? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you do a lot of writing/typing on your iPad? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you use your iPad to take hand-written notes? (Advantage iPad Air)
  • Do you use your iPad for drawing (art or engineering)? (Advantage iPad Air)

In the end there won't be a perfect answer. It's going to have to be a judgement call as to whether the more portable form factor of the mini or the larger screen of the iPad Air will work best for you. Do you need the larger screen of the iPad Air or is the extra portability of the iPad mini more important to you? It really ends up being a personal preference, so go with your gut instinct and enjoy! Either way you choose you are going to end up with the most powerful iPad Apple has made to date.

Please feel free to post about your decision in the comments below, I'd love to hear what you decided and why!

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