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.