In order to be the best out of the lineup, it's time for iPad mini to grow up

iPad mini 6 lifestyle
(Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

The iPad mini turned 11 years old this month. It debuted on November 11, 2012, and while the latest sixth-generation version is undoubtedly the best iPad mini yet, you won’t find Apple crowing about it.

That’s largely down to the fact that this model is over two years old now, but there’s still an element of confusion about just what Apple wants the iPad mini to be. Granted, it’s powerful, but not as powerful as its bigger brothers — and it’s portable, but not as portable as an iPhone. It’s also missing some of the features of recent iPadOS updates.

And yet, there’s an argument that, not only does the iPad mini need to be on par with Apple’s other tablets — it also needs to be the best of the iPad lineup.

It’s not about the size

iPad mini 6 and view of TouchID

(Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

The iPad mini is an excellent small tablet, especially in its most recent incarnation. While many manufacturers have seemingly moved away from launching smaller tablets such as Samsung, Apple remains a great way to get into the iPad — or the tablet ecosystem as a whole.

The ninth-generation iPad is surely not long for this world after being on sale for two years now. The tenth-generation iPad is priced at just $50 less than the iPad mini — it’s fair to say I’ve been asked more than a few times of which one is better.

Despite the base iPad’s larger display, I’d almost always suggest plumping for the iPad mini. It’s got a faster chip, the same camera (which is easier to use on a smaller device), and it supports the Apple Pencil 2nd Generation — which means no jamming one end of it into your tablet.

It’s a great entry-level tablet that can slide into your jeans pocket and be ready for note-taking in seconds, but it’s time for Apple to make it a must-have.

iPad mini | $499$399 at Amazon

iPad mini | $499 $399 at Amazon

The iPad mini is a solid little tablet, and while it’s getting a little older now you’ll still find it an excellent portable companion. At $100 off, it's at a great price already. So if you've been waiting to buy one, now's the time.

Price check: $499 at Best Buy | $499 at Target

A PC in your pocket

I’ve been using an iPad Pro for years, and much like my MacBook Pro confession, I don’t need it — I just can’t imagine giving up the display.

That makes it an ancillary device that, for the most part, I use as an extra monitor, an occasional games console, or a lightweight way to get work done without lugging a MacBook everywhere.

The iPad mini, if priced a little lower, could be a perfect way to get that same functionality in a drastically smaller package. And, while the A15 inside isn’t exactly slow, it’s not quite up to the laptop level of performance offered by an M-series chip.

Apple has an opportunity, even if it doesn’t change the iPad mini’s price, to make it a must-have for portable working - give it an M2 (or the M3) and get it running Stage Manager. For those unaware, this is Apple's latest effort to bring multitasking to the iPad, but this feature has not been without struggles since it debuted in iPadOS 16.

iPadOS 17 and Stage Manager showing Safari and Threads

(Image credit: iMore)

In iPadOS 17 however, Stage Manager saw plenty of its bugs squashed, and you could move apps around the display more freely. When you consider this paired with the USB-C port already found on the iPad mini, this could feasibly lead to a scenario where you can pick up the smallest iPad, plug it into a display, and have a bona fide computer that, when you’re done, will fit in your pocket.

Of course, iPad mini can already be mirrored to an external display, but the addition of Stage Manager, and extending the display rather than mirroring it, would mean being able to properly work or play on a larger display, all hooked up to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

There are other improvements I’d like to see for the iPad Mini in 2024 (thinner bezels, the camera on the landscape edge, maybe even ProMotion), but an upgrade to an M-series processor could make the iPad mini a must-buy for newcomers to the ecosystem - and tempting for those already entrenched in it.

What do you think? Am I asking too much from Apple for its mini tablet? Let me know your thoughts in the iMore Forums.

Lloyd Coombes
Contributor

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom.

Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more.

He’s also the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.