The newly redesigned iPad mini isn’t an iPad Pro mini. It’s an iPad Air mini. Which is cool, because the original iPad Air was literally an iPad mini biggie. Point being, the mini and the Air, the Air and the mini, they’ve mostly been in lockstep over the last many years. Mostly. This year, the mini is playing catch up… but also one up. It’s getting almost all the features of Apple’s sleekest iPad — bigger, edge to edge display, but candy-colored shells, if not as many colors, Touch ID in the Power button, USB-C, stereo landscape speakers, Apple Pencil 2, if no Magic Keyboard mini, Sub-6 5G, if no mmWave, but also rocking a new A15 chipset and Center-Stage capable front camera. But, in addition to losing the Home button, it’s also lost its headphone jack, and while it’s the most feature-packed iPad mini ever, it’s also the most expensive, starting at the same 64GB, but now priced at $499. So, is Apple’s biggest mini worth it?
Superficially, the iPhones 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max are almost indistinguishable from their iPhone 12 counterparts. Same industrial design, same screen sizes, same prices. But once you start using them, the differences are considerable: Brighter displays, Better camera, especially on the Pro variants, huge improvement in battery life, especially for the mini, a novel cinematic video mode, double the storage for the baselines, and up to double the refresh rate for the Pros. They’re exciting, tantalizing even, but also frustrating. Let me explain…
Purple. Pink. Starlight. Space Gray. New design. Modern design. Air design. Smaller bezels. Bigger screen. 8.3-inch screen. Top Mounted Touch ID. Top Mounted volume buttons. Side-mounted Apple Pencil 2. No smart connector. No magic keyboard. No thunderbolt. But, USB-C. And landscape stereo. Wi-Fi 6. 5G. But only Sub-6 5G. A15 Bionic. 5-core GPU. Ultra-wide selfie cam. With center stage. Wide rear cam. With TrueTone flash. Same 10 hours of battery life. 64 and 256GB of storage. And $499 starting price.
So, should you upgrade?
The iPad mini has always been a mini Air. Or rather the Air has been a full sized mini. Same difference! That changed last year when the Air got its bezel snapping, home button blipping, everything in perfect color balance moment redesign, but only briefly. Because the mini is back, baby. With almost exactly the same redesign this year that the Air got last year.
Almost, because the mini being mini does change a few things. Like the mini having an 8.3-inch display compared to the Air’s 11-inch display means the similar sized remaining bezels look bigger. And quite a bit bigger compared to the 11-inch Pro. Because ratios.
The smaller size also meant Apple had to move the volume buttons to the top, next to the power button, to make room for the same-sized Apple Pencil 2 and its magnetic inductive charging system on the side.
I mean, they could have put the pencil on the opposite side, but then it would have prevented keyboard docks from working without blocking the charging system. And even though Apple hasn’t been cocky enough to make a tiny Magic Keyboard mini yet, you know someone like Logitech is just itching to do it.
So, yeah, all design remains trade-offs and compromise, and while it’ll probably make using the volume buttons to take photos a bit more awkward, the small size of the mini should keep them imminently reachable.
The only other downside is color. Kinda. Let me explain! Balancing SKU — shop keeping units, or all the different product combos — is tough. How many of what size and which color do you manufacture? Beyond tough. But the mini just didn’t get as taste-the-rainbow this year as the Air, much less the iMac. And I personally think it’s every bit as fun. Maybe even iPod level funner.
The previous mini came in silver, space gray, and a rosie gold. This new mini comes in starlight, which is somewhere in between silver and gold, space gray, pink, which is Rosie if not gold, and a new pale purple. In other words, one less color than the Air. Which didn’t get purple, stuck to silver, but also got blue and green. Don’t get me wrong. It’s good… but it could be product red or orange better!
Because the Home button got yoted, and hard, Touch ID has moved to the power button, just like it did last year on the Air. It’s not as instant, almost invisible as Face ID when everything is perfect, but everything hasn’t been perfect for a couple years now, and Touch ID on the Power button works a treat on the Air. Even with a mask on. But not with gloves on. Which is only the most foundational of the many reasons I really wish Apple would hurry up and include multiple biometrics in multiple devices already.
Lightning likewise got ripped and replaced with USB-C. It’s standard USB-C, like the Air, not Thunderbolt, like the Pro or the Mac. But it does open up the mini to all the USB-C peripherals available to more general purpose computing devices. And I’m here for it.
But either way, any way, this is totally the redesign mini lovers have been waiting for.
With the modern design, the iPad mini is jumping from it’s classic 7.9-inch Steve Jobs satisfying screen size to a more expansive, bezel busting 8.3-inches. It’s still standard dynamic rangeIPS LCD, not high dynamic range MiniLED like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, or OLED, like all recent iPhones.
MiniLED would have made it thicker and probably added $100 to the price tag, and OLED is likewise more expensive, and probably just on the cusp of being consistent enough at bigger than phone sizes… and Apple production scales, so it could go either way or both in the future, but it’s still in the best place for now.
The mini also didn’t get the slightly higher resolution of the Air, but still has a higher density. And with P3 cinematic color gamut and 500 nits, while you won’t get the inky blacks or ultra bright whites of HDR, but everything from comic books to games to photos to video streams should still look really, really good, mainly due to Apple’s exemplary color calibration and management.
Unsurprisingly, the mini didn’t get up to 120Hz ProMotion refresh rates. The Air didn’t get it last year either. Apple’s keeping that a Pro feature, at least for now, and probably until another major differentiator comes around, so that tech can be pushed down. Which is what’s happened with Retina, P3, TrueTone, and other display tech over the years. So maybe another couple years?
The new iPad mini has an A15 system-on-a-chip, which is Apple’s latest generation silicon IP. The 5 GPU core version, specifically. Same one as the iPhone 13 Pro. Though maybe clocked just a tad slower, we’ll have to see.
Because Apple didn’t name it during the iPad mini presentation, like at all, and because they didn’t spend as much time on it as usual, even during the iPhone presentation, there were some insta hot takes that were insta… bad? Just sub-par sub-stacks that A15 had hit some kind of silicon wall.
And I’ll get way deeper into it in my full review, so seriously, hit that subscribe button, but I’m betting we see typical non-process shrink big core improvements, but also that Apple is continuing to think different, and think smart, about the post-big-core world, and has spent a lot of the transistor budget this year on the photo and video pipelines, which includes everything from new custom encode/decode blocks to new storage controllers.
Now, it also means the mini currently has a newer, better processor than the Air, but the opposite was true last year, and unless and until Apple updates them both at the same time again, that’s just because of how the release schedules line up. You’ll get an extra year or so out of the mini, but you had to wait an extra year or so to get it.
What’s the same between the mini and Air, and what’s stayed the same between the last and latest mini, is storage. 64 and 256 and… that’s it.
64 is fine for streamers and large scale deployments where a school or company or agency wants to spend as little as possible for an iPad front-end to the internet. But 128 would be a sweet spot for a lot of people, and I’m sure hard core media hitters would love a 512 option. There just may not be enough of them… or Apple just may want to concentrate pros… on the Pro.
Battery life is still rated at 10 hours, which is what Apple has been rating every iPad since Steve Jobs held up the original back in January of 2010. It seems like every bit of efficiency Apple eekes out of the iPad, they invest back in features, not extending battery life. So, while I’d love to see a 20 hours iPad one day, I’m still not pained on 10 hours today.
The 6th gen iPad mini gets Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, which is an improvement over the previous gen’s Wi-Fu 5 or 802.11ac. Still no Wi-Fi 6E on any Apple devices, which is the 6Ghz version.
If you go with the cellular version, Apple’s dropping old 2G, GSM/EDGE networking, but keeping 3G UMTS/HSPA, bumping 4G LTE from 28 to 32 bands, and adding 5G NR. But only Sub-6 5G, which is the good if slower kind. Not mmWave, which is the obscenely fast but utterly fragile kind. The kind that forces those little side RF transparency windows on US iPhones…
Since I still don’t think mmWave will turn into a viable mainstream technology, sticking with Sub-6 on the mini makes the kind of sense to me that absolutely does.
The selfie cam is getting a big update. Or rather, a wide update. An ultra-wide update. From 7 megapixels f/2.2 to 12 megapixels f/2.4. It’s still 1080p, which seems weird given 12 megapixels, but can do extended dynamic range now, which basically shoots at 60fps but interleaves every second frame with that data, so you get a much richer 30fps recording. It’s where the iPhone was a couple or few years ago.
Also, weirdly, even though the A15 image signal processor gives 4th generation Smart HDR computational photography power to the iPhone 13, the iPad mini is only getting iPhone 12-style 3rd generation Smart HDR. Standard generational improvements aside, the biggest difference being support for semantic rendering on multiple faces at the same time. It might just be that the iPad mini 6 camera system can’t pull in anywhere nearly enough data compared to the iPhone 13’s way, way better camera system for Smart HDR 4 to make any difference at all.
Because of the ultra wide update though, the mini is also getting Center Stage. That’s what Apple calls its people tracking technology. In other words, cropping down within the frame to highlight the person in it, panning and scanning to follow them around, and the widening as needed if an additional person or people enter the frame. It debuted with the iPad Pro back in April, and it’s really great, especially for family or group calls.
The rear camera is also bumping up from 8 megapixel f/2.4 to 12 megapixels f/1.8. Literally bumping as in it has a bump now. And I morn that not, because I always want the best optics possible, the best optics usually require the most depth, and a case can flatten it back out if I really need it to. Plus, there’s a quad-LED trueTone flash now as well. And I will never shame anyone for taking photos with their iPad. Pros pay a fortune for viewfinders this size and with much lower build quality. So you shoot you.
Also, for the rear camera, 12 megapixels does indeed bequeath 4K/60 video recording, or 4K 30 with that extended dynamic range, because same reason.
You can’t record stereo audio with the iPad mini the way you can with the Pro, but thanks to the new speaker system, you can now playback stereo audio in landscape like you can on the Air. Which is better, because TikTok style vertical video just doesn’t have the same dependency on good spatial audio the way horizontal Hollywood video does.
There’s no Magic Keyboard for the new iPad mini, which I think everyone knew there wouldn’t be, but a lot of us were kinda still hoping we would see. Just the idea of John Ternus’ team figuring out how to fit all those keys into such a small space… it’s exactly the kind of problem we need Apple solving.
But there is the Apple Pencil 2, which is a big upgrade from the original. It attaches magnetically, charges inductively, and has a capacitive button on the side so you can switch states between writing or drawing and erasing, for example. I’ve been using and loving it since 2018. It’s just such a huge upgrade.
The updated iPad mini keeps the same price for the same storage, starting at $499 for 64GB. That’s $100 less than the Air. So, if you were to map things out, Apple has pretty much lined up the iPads with the iPhones now. iPad 9 is a much more frequently updated but still entry-level iPhone SE. iPad mini and iPad Air are the iPhone mini and iPhone… not Air. Nothing. iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9 are iPhone Pro and iPhone Pro Max. Which, clever Apple.
Should you upgrade?
All the iPads did record-breaking box-office the first couple years out, because no one had them. But the update cycle quickly became very similar to PCs. You get it, you keep it, and it works fine for 3-6 years. Unless there’s some whiz-bang new feature you simply have to have. And I think the mini offers exactly that in a couple ways — the new design and, if you’re into it, the Pencil 2.
That aside, my always advice remains — wait as long as you can to upgrade, upgrade when you need to, get the best you can afford, and then enjoy the hell out of it with zero regrets because they’ll always be something new and something next.
It’s why build quality is such a priority for Apple and the iPhone…
Pink. Blue. Midnight. Starlight. Red. 20% smaller notch. 28% brighter display. Bigger Wide Angle. Sensor-Shift wide angle. Faster Ultra Wide. Smart HDR4. With Styles. 1080p/30 Cinematic video. Rack focus video. Editable in post! Up to 4K60 Dolby Vision. On all cameras. A15 Bionic. 5G! But no Wi-Fi 6E! Or USB-C! Longer battery life. On all iPhones.
But wait, there’s Pro!
Graphite. Gold. Silver. Sierra Blue. 25% brighter. Up to 120Hz ProMotion Display. Done right. But no 1Hz always-on in sight! Biggest Wide Angle. 2.2x the light. 77mm Telephoto. 3x optical zoom. But no periscope or massive megapixel zoom. Macro photography. Macro video. With slo-mo! Ultra-Wide Focus Pixels. ProRes 4K30. Coming soon. 5-core GPU. Up to 1TB.
So, should you upgrade?
New, even more retro-future design. Return of the glass sammich. Titanium band. Camera un-bumped. Punch-hole Face ID. And, yeah, Lightning port. Lightning. Freaking. Port. It’s the iPhone 14. Not 13. 14. I hear you. I feel you! But hold on!
The invitations are out. The website is up. The YouTube stream is prepped. The Ted Lasso biscuits are most assuredly baked. Apple's September 14, 2021 Event is a go!
And I’m going to have a ton, a metric ton, of videos going up after the event, so hit that subscribe button and bell and I’ll share one of those biscuits. Emoji biscuits!
What does the event invitation say?
The invitation shows a lake set between two mountains. With an Apple logo between them. Maybe Tenaya Lake in Yosemite. It’s dawn. Maybe dusk. But all pink and cyan. Like… cyberpunk dusk. And there’s the outline of Apple logo dead center, glowing like neon.
Now, I’m going to attempt to read these tea leaves like they’re the plot to Avengers 5, but it’s important to remember that Apple marketing never actually tells the graphic design department what’s happening at the event. They just hand them a spec for the visuals.
So, like, they don’t say we’re putting Portrait Mode in the iPhone 7, they just say… do bokeh, b’okay? Or, we’re going to have the iPhone 11 in a taste-the-rainbow of Skittle-like colors, they just say, Apple logo, but in these translucent layers, That kind of thing.
In other words, think big themes rather than specific Easter eggs. So this probably isn’t the big reveal of the revolutionary new Portal device Craig was testing in plain sight back at WWDC, you know, just to mess with Captain Disillusion. It’s not… Apple-ture Freaking Science or something.
I mean, it could just be an extra piece of art leftover from one of the Crack Marketing Team’s VW van rides through the California wilderness, and it was either use it as an extra macOS dark mode wall… or this.
Because it sure don’t look like Monterey and Apple typically does Mac events in October, not September. But I have another idea, which I’ll get to with the tag line in just a sec.
Of course, any time in the year or two when Apple’s included an AR experience in the invites, you have all the usually suspects hype-jacking virtual and augmented reality — mixed reality, basically. Finally. In other words, the Apple TV-like VR headset or Apple Watch-like AR glasses. And… they’ll probably happen eventually, but like the last year or two, sometimes a cool invite demo is just a cool invite demo.
And this particular one is Apple’s best to date, because you can light up a logo of your very own, and then Portal right on into it to see the date event date emerge. More on that in a cake-is-a-lie minute.
And, yeah, you know it, Apple’s senior Vice President of marketing, Greg Jozwiak, Joz, you had to do the wickedest of Apple Park AR flexes of the demo imaginable.
Anyway, that’s my quick read of the leaves. Let me know yours in the comments!
The tagline this time is California streaming. Period.
It’s a play on California Dreamin’, by the Momas and the Papas, just with the apostrophe taken out and the G returned. You know, all the leaves are gray and the sky is pink, and the sky is blue… Something like that.
But it could also mean Apple is just gone plain stir crazy out
With a period at the end, because Apple has to find a way to trigger TikTok zoomers with unintentionally aggressive punctuation the way they’ve been triggering trade paper Gen-Xers for years with the intentionally ambiguous lack of Oxford commas.
But I digress! A lot!
Apple is headquartered in California and the event will be streaming, and beyond any big updates to services like TV+ or Apple Music — can I get a classical plus? — It might just be that simple.
Or, and I’m just spitballing here, or… maybe Apple has gotten just a little stir crazy over the last many Park events and they want to get into the great outdoors. Put Deidra back on a paddle board. Get the kids back into the Redwoods. Keep climbing those Sierras.
And why not use that Yosemite vista to show off hot new video capture capabilities, and 120Hz Endor… I mean Marin County speeder bike playback. Or, you know, Fitness+ on the beach… like I was in LA…
With over a year of experience, a month of lede time, and all the new tech rumored for this fall, it’d almost be a pity to keep it all caged up in Cupertino!
Especially because the event is once again virtual, as in live-to-drive, with no one actually in attendance at Apple Park. Despite so many of us so hoping the world would have stopped ending by now, and we’d be back to in-person events already. Delta just laughed at us. Like, puny human Hulk laugh. So we need to wait for more of us to get fully vaxxed, especially internationally where availability has been much, much harder, and keep following best masking and distancing practices, that… or wait another year or two for it burn down, whichever — Darwiningly or Darlosingly — comes first.
Either way, we should see all the speed ramps, crane shots, drone shots, spatial transitions, and other effects Apple has past-mastered over the last few episodes of the Event Show. Which is why, right after my inner Apple nerd finishes re-watching the event —because it’s impossible for me to retain anything when I’m actually covering it, that’s just straight into my brainstem, straight out into content — my inner cinematography nerd ends up watching it again, maybe again, so I pick about all the camera moves and edits.
And September 14 is, of course, a return to the pattern Apple has been using for iPhone events for almost a decade, since the iPhone 5 in 2012, and for iPod events before that. It’s their big tentpole for the fall. The show stopper. The main eventer. Which, this year, just the safest bet in the industry means the iPhone 13.
Probably right alongside the AirPods 3 and Apple Watch Series 7. Though recent rumors about manufacturing issues suggest there may be limited quantities of the new Watch at launch, or a delayed launch, like we’ve seen with some iPhone models in the past. Either way, we won’t know of sure until Tim Cook starts Good Morning-ing all the products at us.
Also on this year’s yote list, from more likely in September to less likely until October or November, are the 9th gen iPad, redesigned iPad mini… like iPad Air mini… 14- and 16-inch M1X MacBooks Pro, M1X Mac mini, with the M1X iMac and Mac Pro as just the longest of shots right now.
Personally, though, for me, what I really, really want to hear about the A15 chipset, Apple’s next generation custom silicon, which will be powering the iPhone 13 and should also be the foundation for next year’s M2 and maybe M2X Macs. Hey, an Apple nerd can dream!
For the next few weeks, the vast, vast majority of iPhone 13 buying advice will be strangely fixated on whether or not it's a compelling upgrade from… the iPhone 12. Spoiler alert: it's not. It never is. Not year over year. Not any iPhone. No one expects it to be. Not even Apple.
Read the rest in my weekly column for iMore!
We’re being lied to. Tricked. Deceived. Manipulated. Bamboozled! Yes, pretty much every time we head into Apple Event season, or approach an Apple Earnings reports, we get hit with a hail storm of hot leaks about the iPhone or iPad or Apple Watch — or whatever — is doomed, of a shortage in some critical component, a delay in some high profile feature, or of some problem in the supply chain or sales that’s going to result in Apple lowering orders or making way less money than predicted. And I’m not even talking about on Twitter or YouTube. I’m talking about everything from industry rags to… national papers of record. Sometimes those reports are authentic and accurate, but other times they are complete and utter bull SHIRT, as the Good Place would have me say. So, why?
With the iPhone 13 event maybe only 2 weeks away, and the launch just 10 days after that, the rumors are coming in hotter, heavier, and wilder than ever. Including this one from just last night — that the iPhone 13 could be a full-on satellite phone, able to make calls and send texts, even if you’re not on a cellular network. Which sounds just way, way too good to be true, right? Right?
I’m Rene Ritchie, welcome back to another video where I’m once again busting just the weirdest myths, misconceptions, and straight up misinformation about the iPhone and how it works. This time — Do you need to micro-manage your iPhone charging? Like never let it go below 40% or above 80%? And, spoiler alert, in a word, no. In two words, hell no. No you don’t. Nobody does. Nobody has time for that.
Now, I know, I know… some people will tell you otherwise, even insist otherwise. But that hasn’t been true in ages, like since dinosaur phones roamed the earth ages, and I’m going to explain to you why, and I mean exactly, precisely why. Because that’s how I do.
So, first discharging first. Is…
allowing the battery level to drop down to 10% or less considered a bad practice?
Do these deep discharges exhaust a lithium battery sells faster?
Also nope. Deep discharges exhausting lithium ion batteries just… isn’t a thing.
But if your iPhone shows you 95% battery health, doesn’t that mean 5% of the battery cells have worn out from being charged and discharged over the last year
More nope. First, because there’s only one cell in most phones. Two in a very few. Sometimes because the other components make an L-shape more practical. Sometimes because it’s a foldable and they’re physically separated. Sometimes because the phone maker wants to offer faster charging speeds using two cells in parallel. But you can’t, like, lose 5% of one or two cells.
It’s really just chemistry. Over time, secondary chemical reactions happen that… reduce capacity. There’s build up. There’s gas. You know — science stuff… Bill Nye stuff.
But don’t deep discharges negatively affect the battery. Isn’t that when low power mode comes in at 20% and automatically begin throttling performance and background tasks to prevent the battery from draining even further?
No, no, and… It… doesn’t? At least not for that reason. It tries to prevent the battery from draining not to protect the battery but to protect your ability to keep using your phone for as long as possible. The idea there isn’t to prevent drain below 20% but to give you the absolute most you can get from that 20% until it’s convenient for you to get to a charger. Be that at 19% or 2% or whatever.
So you really don’t have to worry about getting your back on its charger by the time it reaches 30 or 40%?
Not because of the lithium-Ion battery, no. Even Apple’s battery optimization option, which I’ll get to in a thermally hot minute, only talks about managing maximum charge level, not minimum.
But if you personally feel anxiety over having a low battery, or you know you need to go somewhere later and you’ll be using your phone a lot for photos, video, gaming, whatever, and you’ll need a decent charge to do all that, then by all means, charge away. That’s the whole entire point of this video. We humans should never not ever have to worry about when or how much we charge. That’s the iPhones job to manage.
Ok, but what about optimized battery charging for the iPhone where it will wait to charge past 80% until it knows you’re ready to use it based on your charging routine?
Yeah, so, also the whole entire point. The iPhone will manage all this for us and just way, way, way better and beyond what we could ever micro-manage on our own. I mean, back in ye olden days of yore, battery management sucked, and you’d need to reset the system, and do all sorts of jiu-jitsu just to eek out every… energon cube of battery life you could.
But Apple’s been using machine learning and artificial intelligence for years now to do everything from unloading to pre-loading apps into memory, to charging and discharging to prevent it sitting at peak capacity, to more recently offering this Optimized Battery Charging feature where it’ll just idle at 80% until it thinks you’ll want to start using it soon, and then and only then will it push to 100.
Because being at over 80% isn’t bad in and of itself, it’s staying at over 80% for extended periods of time that’s bad. That, and one other major key thing I’ll get to in a literal hot minute.
Which is exactly what the Optimize Battery Charging feature does. So don’t worry or stress or even think about micro-managing 40% or 80% or any of that. Just leave Optimize Battery Charging on and you’re golden.
So it really, really isn’t best to keep your iPhone battery level between 40 and 80%?
Ok. Seriously. Charge your iPhone when you want or need to and take it off the charger when you want or need to and let the charging take care of itself.
What about fast chargers and wireless chargers, don’t they degrade batteries faster?
So… kinda. What really prematurely ages out lithium ion batteries fast is heat. Lithium Ion batteries will die faster in extreme cold, basically because it slows down the chemistry and the power delivery can’t keep up with demand. But when you return to normal operating temperatures, your phone will return to normal operations just fine.
Extreme heat will just break down the chemistry, though, and there’s no returning from that.
And, traditionally, fast chargers and wireless chargers create more heat either all at once or because they’re less efficient, over time. And I say traditionally because companies claim they’re getting better and better at mitigating that heat all the time. But Apple has also prioritized battery health over raw charging speeds for a long time as part of those mitigations.
Honestly, what’s probably most damaging to iPhone batteries these days — all days — is us. We. People. Leaving them out in the sun on hot days, putting them in front of vents or on radiators on cold days. And they’ll gate by cutting brightness, flashing warnings, even shutting down if they get too hot, but they’ll be prematurely aging the whole time that process happens anyway.
So, instead of wasting precious minutes of your life micro-managing your charging, stressing that you start your day with only 80% battery and panicking to plug in before you drop below 40% or, Lords of Kobol forbid, 20%, just don’t leave your iPhone out in the heat or on hot things and you’ll do way, way less damage in the long run and have way, way less stress in the meantime.
And please feel free to share this video with your friends, family, and colleagues, or any of my other explainers like this one on force killing apps. I’ll leave links in the description right below the like button.