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With an iPhone 6 “phablet” coming, does the iPad mini have a future?

Sections: Features, iPad mini, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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Mac360’s always-readable Kate MacKenzie draws a plausible analogy between the iPad mini’s possible fate and the known fate of its erstwhile namesake, the iPod mini.

Back in the mid-oughts, the iPod mini was, for a brief couple of years, Apple’s best selling iPod model, only to be remorselessly discontinued and replaced entirely by the even more popular, and even smaller, iPod nano. My daughter had an iPod mini that replaced her original iPod she had bought in October, 2001, becoming one of the earliest adopters. My wife still has her early days iPod nano. They were/are both good little machines, but I personally preferred the mini in some respects.

Ms. Mackenzie suspects that a partly similar denouement could befall the iPad mini, potentially getting cannibalized by the 5.5-inch display iPhone 6 that Apple is about to spring on us. A fairly broad consensus has developed that the iPhone 6 panel will be large enough to satisfy both the smartphone and tablet requirements of many folks who currently have both an iPhone and an iPad mini in a single machine, albeit one that likely will cost more than either of the units it replaces, but significantly less than owning one of each.

ipadrmini

And if that happens, how long will the iPad mini remain available? Quite possibly not for very long if mini sales take the deep dive some prognosticators are predicting.

That would be sad. I wasn’t much taken with the original A5 powered iPad mini with its iPad 2 level of performance and 1,024 x 768 resolution display. However, since the A7 silicon equipped iPad mini With Retina Display was rolled out last fall. The now-powerful mini has intrigued me, and I’m debating whether to go with an iPad mini as an alternative to an iPad Air as my next tablet upgrade. The lower price is, of course, attractive, but so is the concept of near full-sized iPad power packed into a more compact form factor (“near” because the A7 SoC in the mini is clocked slightly lower than the one used in the Air, and the mini’s Retina Display, while the same resolution as the Air’s display, has a lower color gamut).

iPad mini

However, I wouldn’t want to go any more compact screen-wise than the mini’s 7.9-inch panel, and indeed for my purposes I’m still on the fence as to whether I can happily get along with even that much of a step down from the iPad Air’s 9.7-inch display. There’s just no way a 5.5-inch panel would be adequate for my needs.

But that’s me, and a degree of iPad mini sales cannibalization by the iPhone 6 is inevitable. The operative question is “how much?” If a large enough proportion of potentially prospective iPad mini buyers actually do decide that the compromises imposed by an iPhone 6 phablet as a tablet surrogate are tolerable, then the market will have spoken and it will be goodbye iPad mini.

iPad mini

I’ve been holding off in hope that the 2014 iPad model upgrades will manifest with rumored A8 SoCs and 8 megapixel cameras. Now I suppose that the mini variant could be the last of the mini line.

A more radical school of thought proposes that tablet computers in general are an endangered species due to their convergence with smartphones, and will also be threatened by smartwatches. The latter suggestion seems past the boundaries of credibility to me, and so far I’ve found the concept of an iWatch (and wearable computers in general) unappealing.

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  • JSintheStates

    One way to ensure that no one will read your article or blog: keep using inane (did I mention stupid?) descriptors like (wait for it)—phablet!

  • Tim Balvanz

    I still think that the iPad Mini will be around for family use. Parents won’t want to have to buy unlocked phones for use around the home. Also, custom integrators like the small size and form factor of the iPad Mini for use as control panels in the home.

  • Chris

    Im a mobile developer and have a desk full of Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as the Samsung Gear 2.

    As of the S5, I’m finally a reluctant phablet convert, and yes it has absolutely nuked my normally heavy usage of my iPad mini. I’m not an Android guy, though, so I am looking forward to the large iPhone 6.

    Smartwatches are very handy for notifications, as I have to reach for my phone much, much less for trivial incoming stuff. Beyond that, not much unique value to qualify charging a third device. Thats my major pet peeve with new mobile device categories – I dont want to have to charge any more devices.