How Nintendo Switch will replace my iPad

I'm a fan of the iPad Mini. The full size iPad has always been too big for my use, so you can probably guess what I think of the iPads Pro. I stood in line on launch day for a Mini, and it's been my favorite tablet ever since. It's one of the few things Apple makes where I genuinely feel like I was the consumer in mind, and despite my typically Android lean when it comes to phones, I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

But there's a reasonable chance I'm going to be putting my iPad Mini away on March 3rd and picking up a Nintendo Switch as the slightly larger screen that travels with me everywhere.

Shifting Ecosystems

iPad Mini 4

To be perfectly clear, there's nothing especially unique about Nintendo's Switch that has me thinking "wow this is going to be way better than my iPad" right now. My decision to set the iPad Mini down and look for something else has just as much to do with changes in the market and changes within Apple, which is worth talking about.

When I first picked up an iPad Mini, phones were smaller. Apple was releasing the now iconic iPhone 5, Samsung was trying to convince people the Galaxy S3 was "inspired by nature", and 4.3-inch displays were considered a little on the big side. Today, Apple's small phone is 4.7 inches and more people lean toward 5.5-inch displays every day. Websites feel less cramped on the iPhone 7 Plus display, and watching a quick YouTube video is better when you don't feel compelled to grab the larger display.

Put simply, I am less compelled to reach for that 7.9-inch display unless I know I'm going to be using it for a while.

I've followed the iPad Mini journey over the last four generations, and to be honest, not much has changed since the iPad Mini 2. It could certainly be argued that not much needed to change once this small tablet gained a Retina display or that adding smoother Touch ID and a better camera in the iPad Mini 4 are worthy upgrades, but really that's not enough to justify an upgrade for a lot of people. I can still pick up my iPad Mini 2 and do everything I would do on my iPad Mini 4, and while that's great, it makes me wonder if stagnation is all that can be expected from this tablet size moving forward.

My iPad Mini is somewhat less useful to me with recent versions of iOS. Apple's UI decisions, which often work well on the iPhone and full size iPads, simply don't work as well on the iPad Mini. The smaller touch targets cause frequent rogue taps, because many apps are built for iPad and just shrink for iPad Mini instead of redesigning for the smaller size. It shouldn't feel like it would be less effort to open the same app on my iPhone 7 Plus, but it frequently does.

Put simply, I am less compelled to reach for that 7.9-inch display unless I know I'm going to be using it for a while. It's great for mounting in my kitchen to stream video while I cook or playing games when I'm waiting for my daughter to finish Gymnastics practice, and that's fine. This is my portable media consumption device, and it does that very well. I'm certainly aware that my use case is not every use case or even the most common, but knowing my iPad Mini has slowly become something that could be replaced fairly easily is a big part of my desire to see if other options would better suit my needs.

Worth the Switch

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

If I'm already using my iPad Mini mostly as a media consumption tablet, it seems like Nintendo's new console would be a natural replacement. It's small enough to be just as portable, and assuming you don't consider Lightning a feature, Switch uses the same USB-C charging most of my other devices already use. Also, while gaming on iOS has come a long way over the last two years, Switch gaming will be an entirely different universe of content.

Nintendo's recent efforts in the mobile space are a great deal of fun, but pale in comparison to titles like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2. These are full AAA experiences that can be taken anywhere and immediately enjoyed with fellow Switch owners because the platform was built specifically for this purpose. There are no iOS games that encourage me to meet up with fellow iPhone and iPad owners so we can all play together LAN party-style and enjoy each other's company. Aside from Pokemon Go, mobile gaming is a largely solo experience.

I'm excited by Nintendo's efforts to be different and design something that exists between tablet and game console.

The games look great, but the controls are really what sold me on Switch. Individual Bluetooth controllers that can either come together to form a single controller or allow for two-player local gaming? Mobile gaming frequently doesn't even get single Bluetooth gamepad setups right, and to be able to connect the controllers directly to the tablet so it all feels like one system is a fantasy in the mobile world. The few times it has been attempted, especially for tablets, have been tragically unsuccessful.

On the subject of things no other company is doing well right now, Nintendo's dock is brilliant and works flawlessly. There are videos of Nintendo reps pulling the tablet out of the dock in the middle of gameplay, continuing to play on the tablet for a minute, and then re-docking to put the game back on the television in an instant. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all working in different ways to offer a single experience on every display with all of your information always available to you. This dock is pretty far from a design decision Apple would make, and this tablet will never actually compete with what Apple has accomplished with Continuity, but the effect of this simple design and its polished execution are important.

There are plenty of unknowns with Switch worth considering. It's looking more and more like Nintendo is using something similar to the Taptic Engine for vibration, but it isn't clear just how open that is or how indie developers will be able to take advantage of it. Nintendo's presentation was almost entirely focused on Nintendo, which leaves a lot of questions about third-party diversity for the platform. The demo areas were also totally missing things like streaming video apps and a web browser, both things that got heavy focus when the Wii U was announced. It's unlikely these things are completely gone, since they even exist on Nintendo's 3DS platform, but the lack of information in general isn't great.

Onward to better gaming

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

I'm excited by Nintendo's efforts to be different and design something that exists between tablet and game console. Switch represents so many technically impressive concepts thrown together with games that grab me by the nostalgia. The 2017 roadmap for Switch appeals to me in many different ways, so much so that I'm a little concerned there may need to be a second Switch in the house so I don't have to worry about sharing all the time.

The thing that really keeps Switch on my mind right now is the fate of tablets in general. This is a category that doesn't need a solid hardware refresh every year like our phones due to their inherent utility, but there's still plenty around the tablet that can be improved and defined. Nintendo has stepped away from the entrenched console gaming fight and potentially thrown down the gauntlet at tablet manufacturers. On March 3rd it will become clear to Nintendo fans all over the world that tablets still have plenty of room to grow, and watching the existing titans of the category respond is going to be interesting.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!

  • I think I would like one too, but I'm thinking I won't be able to get it!
  • The quality of games will be better but how much does it matter that the iPad screen/hardware is still better/more powerful? Maybe Switch is good enough and the quality of games and better controls more than make up for it?
  • how do you know iPad hardware is more powerful?
  • There was a tweet about the next Apple TV being stronger than the Switch in terms of GPU.
  • Generally Nintendo tends to use pretty **** hardware in their devices. Heck Zelda won't even run at 1080p, that's embarrassing. So most likely the iPad is more powerful solely based on what I know of Nintendo consoles
  • We already know the screen and battery life is worse than any modern iPad by far. I'm just speculating that the premise to be a home console and portable will come with compromises that may or may not be worth it.
  • True, when you play those 3D games, will eat up battery quick. We have to wait and see. This is the Nvidia chip that powers the Switch.
  • I love the idea of the Switch, but I'm very skeptical. With the past two generations of Nintendo game systems there has been a struggle to get people on board for development. The Wii was a hot seller, but it wasn't HD in an HD age, maybe that was an issue The Wii U... Well that was just crushing. I'm not sure about the how many people will really be on board for the long run. I know that all these developers say that they're going to make third party games outside of Nintendo's studio games, but that was said with the Wii U and they dropped quickly. Personally, if you use your iPad Mini for gaming, you might be okay. The battery life on the Switch is surprisingly bad. The screen is not as great, and it's a one trick pony. One thing I like to do with my iPad is read books. I also love to draw. You won't be able to do that with the switch. Also run many, many apps. I would love to play Zelda and some other games they've mentioned, but it won't even come close to replacing an iPad for me. I'd still be happy to buy it without "replacing" something else. The asking price for it is a little high but not overwhelming, in my opinion.
  • Will the Switch replace my iPad Pro?, NO.
  • *sigh* why is the Switch being compared to the iPad?? One of them is more than just an entertainment device. Also, as someone who plays a good amount of games on the iPad I by no means would even compare it to a game console. Maybe it's just a matter of Opinion, but by no means is the Switch going to replace my iPad. They are both completely different device to me and both will serve different purposes in my daily life.
  • Very well said!
  • Is this article satire? The Switch is releasing with 8 games and zero apps. No Netflix. No Netflix downloads. No iTunes. No podcasts. No comic books. No e-mail, messages, camera, video or photo editing, or any other of the hundreds of apps I have on my iPad not to mention the hundreds of thousands of games on the App Store like The Room, Angry Birds, Thomas Was Alone, Badlands, Ocean Horn, Final Fantasy re-releases, etc. Don't forget also the Switch's 2.5 to 6 hour battery life, controllers you also need to carry and protect at all times, and game cartridges because the 1980s are the new 2010s. Even my kids, who aren't old enough for a cell phone, wouldn't trade their ancient iPad 2s for a Nintendo Switch. You are a grown-up, get a grip.
  • Carrying Cartridges isn't as much of an issue. So far I've had no problem with the 3DS in that regard as I have a carrying case that has slots for cartridges. Everything else though I agree, first someone on here starts going on a huge defense rant about how the Switch can never be an iPad replacement (*major facepalm*), and now this??
  • I don't think it would replace an ipad.
  • 😂 Seriously, how did this article even get published? The headline alone is laughable. Just...what?!
  • You're right. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm probably going to replace my toaster with a Kurig, and my Car with a telescope.
  • I have to admit that the Switch will replace my iPad mini 2, but on a part-time bases. The Switch will be better for games and work arguably better for videos (16:9). Everything else, there's an iPhone for that.
  • If you only use your iPad for games then sure, it could replace it. If you do one more thing other than games then no, it can't replace it. The author is seriously lost here. Sent from the iMore App
  • One of the few good articles on this website that gets published, most people take it like a personal attack because someone want's to drop their apple product for something else. I could counter point most of the stupid nitpicks about the console like specs and battery life but It would just expose you not understanding the point of the Switch and that is it being a gaming device first and foremost. I don't know the writer of this piece but If they want to prioritize gaming over computing, then that's what their doing if they buy a Switch....specs and that other stuff doesn't matter anymore.
  • And the author gets a backer of someone who confesses they will be doing the same thing sometimes.
  • 720p, under 30 fps doesn't cut it anymore. This is a great product, for 2011. Sent from the iMore App