Last Tuesday, Apple announced new iPads. That is always a good time to take a long, hard look at your current iPad, and reevaluate your life. Personally, my decision is easy. I made it a while back, even before the announcement. As much as I like the mini, I've decided that I like the bigger screen even better. I have already sold the household's two, iPad minis. I was prepared to buy the base model of whatever full-sized iPad Apple announced. If the decision is not quite as easy for you, read on.


Since the iPad mini was first introduced, there has been confusion in the product line. It wasn't just a matter of size. It was also a matter of image quality and overall performance and capability. There was also enough of a price gap to make that a part of the equation. With their two, newest offerings, Apple has eliminated all variables but size. 

Both products: iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina, have the exact same internals. They both come with the wicked fast and powerful, 64-bit A7, processor. They also come with the power saving, motion tracking M7. They are both fitted with the eye-popping, Retina display. Neither include Touch ID, a pox on both houses. But at least it is an equal pox. It really does come down to size.

That said, there are two size parameters to be considered. There is the size of the screen, and the overall size of the device. Concerning your iPad purchase, this is the most important decision you will make, so make it intentionally. I have decided that A big screen is more valuable than a small package. If you read and write on your iPad a lot, and if your vision is less than perfect, you want as many words on the screen as you can get, and you want them as big as you can get them. If, on the other hand, your vision is just fine, thank you very much, and you want maximum portability, the smaller iPad is the one for you.

The mini iPad is so thin and light, you can almost forget you're carrying it. You can schlep it around the house or about town without the drama of figuring out how you will carry it, or where you will set it once you get there. You will use it more if you have it with you more. The full-sized iPad lends itself to more intentional use. When you pick it up, you have a particular use or destination in mind. You are taking it to the couch. You already have a TV tray cleared off. You have rearranged your nightstand to make room for it. You have purchased a special pouch for carrying it about town. You plan to play a game, watch a movie, or triage your email, and you plan to spend at least thirty minutes with the device. It is the difference between intentional use, and casual use. Size makes all the difference. 


Now, how much are you willing to pay? At risk of sounding like the salesman I used to be, at some point, you are going to have to make a decision about your budget. I have been preparing for this purchase for quite a while. I know exactly how much I am willing to spend. It is possible you may have to do a bit more soul-searching.

Intellectually, I understand that price is the least important factor. It has more to do with emotion than budget. If what you want is the more expensive item, settling for the less expensive item represents a lack of discipline, not a lack of money. We all lack money for something we want. That does not mean we don't get what we want; it means we don't get what we want today. The difference between the Air and the Mini with Retina is $100. Wait another month. Set aside another Benjamin. 

Grant it, anyone who knows me, personally, just threw up in their mouth a little after reading that last bit. I'm not waiting another month for squat. I want the shiny, new thing right now. And I am going to get which ever model my wallet will allow. If eyesight is not a problem for you, and you don't tend to use your iPad like a laptop computer, then you are not losing anything by going to the Mini with Retina, and saving $100. 

If you have to have a big screen, Apple has kept the iPad 2 in the lineup for $399. However, you will be sacrificing a lot by doing that rather than just saving up for the Air. I recommend against picking up the iPad 2. There is an even lower priced option in the form of the original, iPad mini. It is only $299. If a mini is what you want, and you are not a pixel diva, I have no problem recommending the original Mini, and saving up to $200 from the Air's $499.  


Normally, this would not be a factor in the decision making process. When Apple announces new products in the same category, they are usually available for purchase at the same time. Not so, this time around. The original iPad mini at the lower price,in the Space Gray color, is already for sale at many locations. Go nuts.

The iPad Air will go on sale starting Friday, Nov. 1st. Unlike the iPhone 5S, we do not believe that the iPad Air will be in short supply. Most likely, there will be no reason to line up to get it on day one. There will be no preorders. But, unconfirmed reports suggest Apple will be allowing in-store pickups for the Air on the same day of release. I will not be standing in line for this release. If the report turns out to be untrue, I will go early to my nearest Walmart. If I am able to reserve a unit at the Apple Store for the same day, I will go there. 

The challenge to your resolve is the availability of the iPad mini with Retina. If that is the one for which you have been holding your breath, I've got some bad news for you. That model will not go on sale this week. In fact, we don't know when that one will be hitting store shelves, neither does Apple. The best they can say is that it will be available later in November. Rest assured, there will be supply constraints. There are already supply constraints. This might be the most difficult product Apple has ever made, and these are not off-the-shelf parts. If you want one of the new minis, you'll get one when you get one, and not a moment sooner.  

There is still a matter of upgrade path to consider. Which iPad do you currently have? If you have, and are happy with an original mini, you should stick with it. Bam! You just potentially saved up to $500. You're welcome. If, however, you like the formfactor, but are getting a bit of eye strain from reading, you will need to move up to the Retina mini. If you want to go from a mini to a maxi, or have a 2, 3, or even 4, you should upgrade to the Air. Going strictly from the reports of those who had an early hands-on, the Air will be noticeably faster, and a lot lighter, and more pleasant to use. It is a completely new generation of device.  

If you do not yet have an iPad, it really is time for you to reevaluate your life. Counselors are standing by at 1-800-MYAPPLE

David Johnson