AppleEditorials

I don’t want an iPad mini, because it’s missing one very important feature

ipad mini - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

The iPad mini is apparently very popular, but personally, I don’t want it. While it’s essentially a lighter, more compact version of the iPad 2 I already have and rely on every day, there is one feature missing that makes it a useless device to me: a digitizer pen.

The iPad is for me a paper replacement tool, 100%. Handwriting on it is extremely important to me, because there are just so many situations where a keyboard of any kind won’t do the job. I’ve gotten so used to using apps with partial screen magnification that I can keep up with paper users and have handwriting as accurate as font size 12 machine text, and I don’t ever see myself going away from that kind of use. The problem with the iPad mini is then that it removes so much of the surface I have to write on. The iPad mini’s screen is no more accurate than that of the iPad 2, so you just have that much less space to work with. The result is that I don’t see myself ever using an iPad mini with a capacitive stylus the way I do now with my iPad 2.

There is a fix for this, in theory. Samsung is spitting out devices with digitizer pens left and right, and one of the first ever 7-inch Android tablets – the HTC Flyer – had one. Those pens are deadly accurate, meaning you won’t have to zoom in on anything, you can just be as accurate as you want directly. Sadly, Apple seems to have completely missed this point. It as well as a lot of people seem to be under the impression that we’re dealing with the resistive touch screens of the old days here, and that anything that looks like a pen is a device to compensate for a finger-unfriendly screen. In reality, a device with a digitizer pen is just as finger friendly as any other, it’s just that it has the added ability to be as accurate as a pen on paper. How such an amazing feature has been twisted into a negative thing I have no idea.

An iPad mini with a digitizer pen would have been the perfect device for me. It has the same battery life, screen resolution, and processing power of my iPad 2, it just happens to be smaller and weigh half as much. Sadly, it’s also a device I simply have no use for, because it fails to compensate for the thing you really need a big screen for – interaction accuracy. I find it fascinating that a company that pushes the adoption of its products in education and business as much as Apple does is also so completely blind to what exactly it is those devices replace, but then again, Apple likes to disappointment me lately.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

23 thoughts on “I don’t want an iPad mini, because it’s missing one very important feature

    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      Indeed, fixed

      Reply
  • It’s missing an open platform… like Android. :D

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      The HTC Flyer is very cheap now, has a 7-inch screen, digitizer…but none of the apps I rely on on my iPad. If anything I want an iOS/Android hybrid, but not just android.

      Reply
  • Avatar of hisuwh

    How do digitisers pens work? Have you guys done an article on this?

    Reply
  • Also it’s just to big.

    The greatest advantage of smaller tabs (like the Nexus 7) is that they are truely mobile: they fit in my jeans’ backpocket and in my jackets’ pockets as well as in the inside pocket of your average sports coat.

    The iPad mini does not.
    It’s to big to be small enough to be mobile and to small to be one of those gargantuan 10” tablets.

    It fits the market in exactly one way: people that want to own an Apple device but lack the funds to buy a real one are the ones to buy this piece of, you know, technology.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      Can’t say I agree on that one. The iPad mini is 15mm wider than the nexus 7, however it’s the same length, thinner, and lighter.

      Reply
      • I do agree with the 7in sweet spot

        Reply
      • Avatar of Vakeros

        I agree Da,
        15mm which is more than half an inch does make a big difference when a 7″ device was already close to the limit of a jacket pocket. It is thinner and lighter, but that won’t stretch the width of your pocket enough.
        I believe the Kindle Fire HD is basically the same width as the Apple iPad Mini (within 2mm). I won’t get one for the same reason – it is too wide. Anything much more than 120mm is tiring to hold in one hand – the thinness doesn’t help after a certain thinness.
        In additiona, the width compared to your span is important and not just your fingers. This is down to comfort to holding it for any length of time too. The original Kindle Fire is the right width and I was disappointed the new Fire HD was wider – absolutely no good reason for it. – though maybe some bad ones such as trying to make it thinner.

        Reply
  • Avatar of D. Stroya

    I love my Tablet PCs when I was in college. I too, am surprised that digitized pens haven’t become more normal in today’s tablets/phones.

    Reply
  • I to would like an active digitizer in my tablet, but I dont think enough people would use them for many manufactuers justify having them.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Vakeros

    Andreas,
    I often feel myself disagreeing with you about certain things, but this is often down to using devices in different ways – but I completely agree with the main point of this article about digitiser pens. I actually don’t understand how you can put up with using an iPad with needing to zoom etc. However as you pointed out in another article and above, the apps you need just aren’t up to scratch on Android yet!

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      It comes down to practice I think. No one is born with the ability to use a pen, but no one questions a person’s ability to use one. Using zoom mode can be quick enough to keep up with paper users in many situations, and ironically more accurate in some situations- I would prefer a digitizer pen, but but I’ll take what I can get :D I’d rather have the iPad’s software and use zoom than android’s (ote taking) software and get he note 10.1

      Reply
  • Avatar of Everett

    Just out of curiosity…What ever happened to the good ole’ keyboard? Don’t most people type faster than they write?

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      People type faster than they write if:
      -They’re at a tablet, set up with a keyboard, rather than moving around the room trying to take notes, or sitting in a sofa/similar that doesn’t have a tablet
      -They’re typing A-B text, rather than annotating a document or writing formulas etc. They you spend most of your time moving text boxes around

      Reply
  • Did they remove this feature because of the size?

    Reply
    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      They didn’t remove anything, the full sized iPad doesn’t have a digitizer pen either. However, the full sized iPad has a bigger screen, making a stylus function (to some degree) as a substitute. that’s not really the case on the iPad mini.

      You can think of it like shrinking something to the point of needing tweezers, without actually providing tweezers

      Reply
  • Avatar of ArchiMark

    Good points, Andreas…

    I wish that iPads had handwriting recognition too….

    FWIW, at risk of dating myself, I was part of the Newton gang (and the protest that occured at Apple HQ after it was announced that Newton was dead…)….wonderful device that sadly ol’ Stevo (may he RIP…) killed off as soon as he came back to Apple after he was exiled by Scully. Unfortunately, the Newton was a Scully backed project and well you can guess the rest…in addition, Steve had the notion that stylus’s were bad and should not be used, at least he said something to that effect. Given all of this, I’m not surprised at the lack of support for handwriting recognition and stylus use. However, since Steve is no longer with us, it’s possible that Apple could change their position on this, ala the iPad Mini, which Steve said would never happen….
    So, who knows…stranger things have happened…

    Reply
  • Avatar of Paul M

    rumours have started of a Note 7″

    is there any screen size Samsung aren’t producing in an android device?

    ‘New! The Galaxy Note Plasma 60 inch – you can use it as your boardroom table AND as an android tablet’

    Reply
  • I agree that handwriting onscreen is immensely important now for productivity on tablets, and that Samsung has done a terrific job on implementation with the Galaxy Note. I won’t pass on a tablet that doesn’t have it as stock, though, because I find that ad hoc solutions with HWR software and styluses work just as well. Note that I am talking HWR here, not just onscreen inking – arguably, that’s an even more challenging task. Yet my Nexus 7 manages it just fine. And I write novel-length works on it, and time-critical journalism. If that’s not a robust enough onscreen writing productivity solution, what is? I only use the Bluetooth external keyboard as an occasional backup these days.

    Reply
    • Avatar of Pam Rickard

      Paul, what handwriting apps are you using with Nexus 7? I’m using Papyrus and Quill with a stylus but it just seems clunky. It does not distinguish between the pen and my hand. Difficult to use and I can use it in landscape mode for this reason.

      Reply
  • Avatar of Pam Rickard

    I’m thinking of returning my Nexus 7 for the same reason. No active pen support. Do you know when the HTC Flyer 2 is coming out?

    Reply
  • Pam. I’m using 7notes with my Nexus 7. Not the smallest app in the world, but it gets the job done. Excellent HWR and autocorrection capabilities.

    Reply

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