I have been thinking a lot about the iPad Mini lately. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I have a few links peppered in this that got my gears going. Furthermore, I have many questions about the iPad mini now and the future of the iPad mini.
The iPad mini might not be for everyone, but people who have used it will tell you that it just works for them.
Shortly after he wrote this, Lee shared that due to new circumstances, the iPad mini doesn’t quite fit like it once did for what he’s doing. Now, he is rocking the M1 MacBook Air as his main device.
What I’ve found this year is that since getting the larger screened iPhone 11 I’m using my iPad Mini less. It’s just always with me and easily accessible. I use the iPad Mini now for about 20% of the time in my week. Maybe to read a magazine or look at my RSS but I’ve found its use has dropped off.
The iPad mini has some things going for it, mainly because of its size. The first thing is it’s a great reading device. Whether you are scrolling a book, reading a digital magazine, or skimming a New York Times article, the mini provides a Retina screen that can be held in your palm with ease. That being said, there is the argument that the iPhone can do all of these things too. For me, though, I have found that reading on my phone for longer than a few hundred leaves me wanting a larger device to read things on. I also get fatigued holding my 11-inch iPad Pro, or even the regular iPad when I had one.
All this to say that the mini can be argued that it deserves a spot in the Apple iPad lineup, but I am still not sold on the iPad mini 5. To me, it seems time that the iPad mini fit between the 10.2-inch iPad and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.
How Can the iPad Mini Improve?
There are several ways that the next iPad mini can be improved upon to make it more enticing for users, and for people who already have an iPad and iPhone to want the iPad mini.
The current 10.2-inch iPad is selling at the starting price $329, whereas the 7.9-inch iPad mini 5 is being sold at the starting price of $399. Selling the iPad mini $70 more than the iPad is like selling an iPhone 12 for more than a 12 Pro. It just doesn’t make much sense. It also isn’t like they differ in any meaningful way.
They both are using the same A12 Bionic chip, and both support the Apple Pencil. One of two things needs to happen if Apple wants the mini to thrive going forward. They either need to lower the price to lower or at the very least match the iPad. On the other hand, they could offer an updated version of the iPad mini with a better ship and better features to justify the added cost.
The iPad mini is only 1.2-inches bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which isn’t enough to make it appealing to users with larger phones like the 12 Pro Max, or any iPhone Max device in the last few years.
It is rumored that the iPad mini will be getting a larger screen size, one place estimated 8.9-inches for the screen size, all without changing the footprint of the iPad Mini. This means that the bezels are getting thinner and the Home Button is going away in the next version of the iPad mini.
This seems like a no-brainer to me. It is time that Apple cut the cord from the Apple Pencil 1 and make the move to generation 2. Not only is it magnetic and can be stuck to the side of some supported devices, the Apple Pencil 2 is much more accessible to purchase compared to the first generation.
This is a more edge-cased thing, but in my opinion, Apple should lean in with MagSafe and start implementing it in the iPad lineup. The iPad mini is a perfect place to start. It isn’t much larger, the battery size is comparable, and it wouldn’t look so silly with the current MagSafe puck.
Down in the bottom left corner of Apple’s keyboards is a new key labeled with the picture of a globe. Initially intended for supporting multiple languages, in iPadOS 15 the Globe key has become something much bigger: it’s a symbol for global keyboard shortcuts.
If you hold down the Globe key on iPadOS 15 you will see the following pop up.
As you can see, there are a number of keyboard shortcuts on iPadOS 15 using this Globe key. Some of the more notable ones are things like Show App Library, Quick Note, Siri, Notification Center, and Control Center. These weren’t available via keyboard shortcut on iPadOS until now.
There are also some new multitasking keyboard shortcuts as well. Now, you can use the keyboard to initiate, select, and organize your multitasking. On top of that, you can also switch between apps as well with the Globe key and the arrow keys. So, instead of the 4 finger swipe to get to the previous or next app on your iPad you can leave your hands on the keyboard and use that to get to where you want to.
These additional universal keyboard shortcuts don’t interfere with the previous version of shortcuts on iPadOS either. In fact, all of the keyboard shortcuts that were previously in iPadOS 14 seem to still be baked in on iPadOS 15.
What if I don’t have a Globe Key?
If you use a keyboard that doesn’t have the Globe Key Shortcut you can change that in Settings > General > Keyboard > Hardware Keyboard > Modifier Keys.
From there, is you can map something like the Caps Lock key and use that as the Globe key instead. Alternatively, you could make the Caps Lock key a dedicated escape key if you did have a Globe Key.
I am also hopeful, like Snell, that more functions will be added to the Globe key in due time.
It feels like it’s inevitable that Apple will add hardware and media controls to the Globe key. I’m writing this on Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, which is a great keyboard—but frustratingly lacks a function row. So when I want to adjust the device’s volume or brightness, pause music, or skip to the next track, I have to use Control Center [or physically use the volume button]. It would make sense for all of those controls to have key equivalents, and assigning them to the Globe means they won’t collide with keyboard shortcuts available in individual apps.
This is still a beta 1, meaning things can change before public release That said, I really want Apple to make this change for good. The added abilities to use the keyboard makes the iPad go from a touch-device that has decent keyboard support to a full-fledged computer that can be used with a keyboard or touch.
Logitech recently came out with an updated keyboard case for the iPad Pro line called the Combo Touch. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is very similar to the Folio Touch, which came out almost a year ago. I wrote about my initial impressions of it after the announcement if you want to learn more.
This keyboard case touts four different modes: reading, typing, viewing, and drawing. Aside from the Reading mode, which isn’t great after a few minutes of holding up like a magazine or book, we will cover everything.
The case covers the entire iPad and has special connectors for the Smart Connector on the back of the iPad, which then powers the detachable keyboard magnetically. You read that right, detachable keyboard.
This case has a lot to offer and could very well be an alternative to the Apple Magic Keyboard given the $199 price point compared to the $299 price tag for the Magic Keyboard. But is it good enough to use over the premium first-party option? Logitech sent me a review unit a couple of weeks ago, and I have that answer as well as my final review for you today.
Look and Feel
If I were to drop my iPad from desk height with this Combo Touch case attached, I wouldn’t be worried about whether or not my iPad would survive. It is absolutely secure and safe inside this sturdy and thick case.
I say thick, but it is by no means cumbersome. It feels just a smidge thicker than Apple’s Magic Keyboard case, and about the same weight as well.
The outside of the case is covered with a gray “woven fabric” leaving it to look nice in most settings. The color is muted enough to not clash with anything you might have in your office, but also stylish enough to stand out on its own.
One downside with the build is how the keyboard stays flush against the iPad case. When I want to open the keyboard or detach it I have a hard time finding where the keyboard and case separate. I fiddle with it just enough to be annoyed every time I want to use it. I’m sure over time it will work itself out but for now it’s annoying at times.
After using the Magic Keyboard for months, when I made the switch to the Combo Touch it wasn’t quite as satisfying to type on. Don’t get me wrong, Logitech makes great keyboards and I know this is a reliable keyboard. I never had any issues with mistyping or multiple letters after one press. There is nothing functionally wrong with this keyboard, it just feels mushy by comparison to the Magic Keyboard. Something about the scissor switches Apple uses feels gratifying to type on, and Logitech can’t quite compare to it. The feel of these keys aren’t bad I just prefer the Magic Keyboard keys instead. One keyboard that I think is a great comparison to the Combo Touch is the K380 by Logitech. I use this keyboard anytime I need an external keyboard for my iPad or Mac. It’s a work horse of a keyboard for me and works great.
I will say this keyboard is far and away better than any Brydge keyboard I have used to date. Honestly, I think it is a solid second choice for typists like myself. If you aren’t interested in spending the extra $99 for the Magic Keyboard you won’t be disappointed by the keys, but if you already have the Magic Keyboard you may want to test it out before you buy it.
The keyboard layout is uniform for all of the keys. Aside form the modifier keys like Tab, Shift, Command, etc. all alphanumeric keys are the same size.
This can’t be said about the Magic Keyboard. Certain keys like the “]” key and both “-” and “=” keys are slivers on the 11″ Magic Keyboard. If I were comparing the 12.9″ Magic Keyboard layouts here this would be a different story, but sacrifices were made to fit a “full size keyboard” on the Magic Keyboard. If we take a look at the keyboard layout side-by-side I would be shocked to find anyone who prefers the Magic Keyboard layout over the Combo Touch.
Hell, Logitech wins just because of the media keys. One thing that baffles me with the Magic Keyboard is that media keys weren’t a priority for Apple. If Apple wants to say the iPad is a computer, the iPad should have media keys by now.
I know that the layout for the Magic Keyboard has significantly less real estate, and Apple has done a good job all things considered. However, I would argue that if Apple had to sacrifice the keyboard layout and media keys perhaps a second or third option might have been worth the time.
Compared the the Magic Keyboard, the trackpad is larger on the Logitech Combo touch. That being said, the size increase isn’t anything to write home about. It is nicer to have a larger trackpad, but I never had an issue with the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard. If you have found the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard to be too small though, the size increase might be what you’re looking for with the Combo Touch.
What is something to write home about is the “new click-anywhere trackpad” the Combo Touch ships with. Previously, the Logitech trackpad on the Folio Touch had a diving board trackpad, which meant a section across the top of the trackpad wasn’t made to be clicked but instead to be used as leverage for the rest of the trackpad.
Now, that section at the top is completely clickable, making for a much more pleasant experience. The Apple Magic Keyboard come out with this ability to click anywhere on it and was the only keyboard I know of (until now) that did this. Both the Combo Touch and Magic Keyboard, unlike the trackpad on a MacBook, it is a mechanical button of sorts that clicks regardless of whether it is powered or not.
I am not sure if this was something that Apple helped Logitech with, but regardless of how this technology made its way to the Combo Touch it is a welcome addition.
Footprint and Kickstand
The only reason the Combo Touch is able to have media keys, a larger trackpad, and a uniform keyboard layout is because of the real estate it gains by having a kickstand that keeps the iPad upright. Granted, the Combo Touch offers the ability to take the keyboard off the iPad case and use it as a canvas, but for right now I want to talk about it in a laptop setting.
The keyboard and kickstand make the iPad Pro longer than it is wide when using it. It is the only instance where you have to worry about the length of your desk or table rather than the width.
I did some measurements of the footprint the Magic Keyboard and my 13.3″ M1 MacBook Air have for comparison and found some interesting results.
Length in footprint:
M1 MacBook Pro – 8.5” (21.6 cm)
11” Magic Keyboard – 7.5” (19 cm)
11” Combo Touch – 13” (33 cm)
It takes over a foot for the kickstand and keyboard of the Combo Touch to be free and clear to use as a laptop. When the Magic Keyboard has nearly half of that footprint it is hard to consider the Combo Touch portable. For me, I find myself wanting to use the Combo Touch on my desk but move to the Magic Keyboard when I am taking my iPad to work or if I were traveling. While I prefer the keyboard on the Combo Touch, when portability is the name of the game the Magic Keyboard wins hands down.
As you could guess after talking about the gigantic footprint the Combo Touch has, the Logitech Combo Touch is not usable on your lap with the keyboard and kickstand. It is entirely too large to get anything done comfortably on your lap.
You can use the touch screen without a keyboard just fine on your lap, so if you just want a couch device this can work for you.
The kickstand isn’t all bad though. Because of this kickstand (and the ability to remove the keyboard when you don’t want it), I can finally have an iPad case that has both a keyboard and the ability to draw on it comfortably.
I love the fact that I can use this iPad in a drawing mode without having to move it to a different case. In fact, that was the largest gripe I had about the Magic Keyboard when it came out. As someone that uses my iPad as a canvas for notes and/or drawing from time to time I love this added feature with the Combo Touch.
I can go from typing up something on the iPad to using it as a notepad in a matter of seconds. When I am using the Magic Keyboard I either have to use it in the keyboard case or flat on the table. Both of those options can wreak havoc on my hands after a short time. The Combo Touch, however, is angled at a comfortable position and can be adjusted thanks to the kickstand.
There are a number of other features and changes this keyboard has compared to other models; but for time sake I have just a quick one-sentence writeup for each feature.
Backlit Keys – The brightness is about the same as the Magic Keyboard and works great.
Updated Media Key – Spotlight search replaces mission control which is a no-brainer change.
Apple Pencil Cutout – This isn’t new, but the cutout for the Apple Pencil is great and doesn’t affect the protection of the iPad at all.
Speaker and USB-C Port Cutouts – The speakers and USB-C port isn’t hindered by the case in any way and allows for crisp sound and most charging cables to fit.
Smart Connector Connection – I was skeptical about this case with the smart connector being on the back, but Logitech makes it work without any issues.
All-in-all, the Logitech Combo Touch has some fantastic refinements to previous iPad keyboard cases and some new features that were much needed.
The keys feel like most Logitech keys, reliable and better than most other keyboards. The build quality is noticeably well though out, and the iPad feels protected and snug in the case.
This case isn’t the most portable on the market, but works great on a desk or at a cafe. If you want to type with it on your lap you might want the Apple Magic Keyboard instead.
If you want an all-in-one iPad case the Logitech Combo Touch is one you should absolutely consider buying.
In case you missed it, Apple unveiled new iPad Pros April 20th for their Spring Loaded event. These new iPad Pros are beyond anything that was expected from a hardware perspective.
Here’s a quick list of the best new features:
M1 chip inside
12.9” iPad Pro gets an all new mini LED Liquid Retina XDR display
Up to 16GB of RAM available
Up to 2TB of storage (with SSDs that are twice as fast as previous drives in the iPad Pro)
All new 12MP front-facing camera with ultra-wide lens and Center Stage
It is clear that Apple is leaning hard into the idea that the iPad Pro can be a laptop replacement. According to Apple, the M1 processor offers 50% faster CPU than the A12Z and 40% faster graphic processing. it’s clear no punches were pulled.
The difference in hardware between the 2020 iPad Pro and the 2021 iPad Pro isn’t a small jump, it’s a large leap over the chasm between the Mac and the iPad. That said, I can’t help but wonder what about the software?
These latest iPad Pros aren’t looking to be an improvement in the user experience for the next version of iPadOS 14, but instead it is looking at iPadOS 15 and beyond.
It is almost a given that Apple has another trick or two up its sleeve for the iPad this year. They showed their hand for the hardware in the new iPad Pros but they have yet to flourish what iPadOS 15 will bring.
I’m not the only one that thinks that this is just part one of a two-part reveal for the future of the iPad.
Christopher Lawley spoke briefly about his thoughts on what is going to happen with iPadOS 15 saying this in his video about the event:
Seeing as this iPad both got the M1 which gave a huge CPU and GPU performance and a crap ton of more RAM this makes me think that there’s still another shoe to drop on the software side. That there is going to be other stuff that we’re gonna see probably at WWDC or maybe later this year.
Christopher also mentioned the release of the iPad Air 2 in his video, which was a very compelling example of the last time Apple threw everything into the next iPad. While it seemed like overkill at the time, iOS 9 started to make the iPad a pro user computer and it needed that new hardware to make it happen.
It reminds me in a lot of the iPad Air 2, the iPad Air 2 when it came out it was completely, it was overkill, it I was so powerful. But then we got iOS 9 and multi-tasking came along. So I ‘m really curious to see what this other shoe is going to be that can drop.
I remember being so elated with Split Screen and Slide Over when it came out that I truly felt like it was the beginning of a fantastic run for the iPad. So far I still feel like we are in the midst of a transition for the iPad Pro to be an optimal choice for users wanting a fantastic computer.
However, I think that until the software catches up with this new hardware upgrade we will continue to see people comparing it to the Mac. In fact, Jason Snell raised an interesting point about this in his Macworld article.
This is the crux of the issue: Apple’s decision to market the iPad Pro as being powered by an M1 processor. As a marketing move, it’s solid. There’s been so much positive press about the M1 that wrapping the iPad Pro in its halo makes sense. (In truth, the M1 is an evolution of the processors Apple has been building for the iPad Pro for years, so the real story is that the Mac has adopted the iPad Pro’s processor, not the reverse.)
Here’s the problem with this clever marketing, though: it draws a direct parallel between the iPad and the Mac. And while the Mac definitely lacks in some areas (no touchscreen or Apple Pencil support, for instance) you can basically do anything on your Mac, including run a bunch of apps that originated on the iPad.
The iPad Pro, in contrast, can’t do all sorts of “pro” things that a professional-level user buying a device starting at $1,099 might want to do. They can’t run Mac apps (though if you connect a keyboard and trackpad, you certainly could!), and Apple has failed to build iPad-optimized versions of its own professional apps.
Harry McCracken from Fast Company also had thoughts about the distance between hardware and software for the iPad Pro in his Fast Company article.
Ideally, a device’s software and hardware become so symbiotic that you stop thinking about the distinction between them. Over Apple’s long history, it’s achieved that state of zen more often than any other company. However, the iPad—at least in the iPad Pro era—has yet to reach it. The platform consists of remarkably advanced hardware running an operating system and apps that lag in sophistication.
To make the disparity even more obvious, new iPads don’t follow the dependable, synchronized release schedule of iPhones, which show up in the fall running a newly minted version of iOS. Buy one of these iPad Pros upon release, and you’ll probably be a bit antsy waiting for iPadOS 15—which, even if you’re brave enough to install a beta or preview version, is months away from availability.
Even though I am a huge advocate of the iPad as a computer, I can’t help but agree with Snell and McCraken here. It is a two-sided coin for Apple to give the iPad Pro an M1 chip. One one side it is a fantastic jump in specs and gives the iPad more power than ever before. On the other, it also directly links the iPad and Mac together because for the first time ever they have the same chipset.
I can see reviews coming a mile away claiming that the M1 chip is overkill for the iPad Pro and that it isn’t worth the same price as the MacBook Air, or that users should save money on the iPad Pro and just get the MacBook Air instead. As of right now, I can’t come up with any new arguments on behalf of the iPad than I had before this announcement.
My hope is with iOS 15 there will be more compelling reasons for people to buy the iPad over the MacBook Air.
What iPadOS 15 Needs
Here is a small list of things I believe needs to be in iPadOS 15. This isn’t what I expect to see at WWDC, but instead it is what I believe needs to be included in the iPad for it to really contend against the Mac as a laptop alternative.
It has been 6 years since Split View and Slide Over were introduced on the iPad. While these two features have been a staple for any pro user of the iPad very little has been improved upon it over the years.
I think it is high time for Apple to come up with a new system for multi-app workflows. Whether it is something more elegant and easier to manipulate or something that offers even more power I just want Apple to improve upon this feature set.
I was really hoping that with the new iPad Pro announcement Apple would also give us a taste of Apple’s pro apps on the iPad as well. Apps like Final Cut, Logic, and Xcode are all fantastic examples of showcasing the power and ability these M1 chips can handle. Alas, nothing of the sort came of it. Instead Apple showcased third party apps that have pushed the envelope of what the iPad can do for years now.
As much as I love seeing Apple showcase developers and third-party apps I can’t help but feel that it is a crutch Apple leans on year over year instead of using their own apps to push the envelope on the iPad.
Widgets on the Home Screen
When widgets were introduced on the iPhone the whole world exploded and began customizing the look and feel of their devices. Sadly, when iPadOS 14 came out that ability was only contained for a portion of the first home screen page and nowhere else.
This was a blunder from Apple and it needs to be rectified for iPad users everywhere. I have wanted my iPad home screen to be more of a command center allowing me to get glimpses of everything happening in my day. I also want my widgets to be like mini-apps available on my home screen to use without needing to open the full app.
The company is planning the most significant update to the device’s Home Screen since first launching the product in 2010. Following a similar feature for the iPhone introduced last year, Apple plans to let users place widgets — miniature apps that can display the weather, upcoming appointments, stock tickers and other data — anywhere on the Home Screen. Users will also be able to replace the entire app grid with only widgets.
I am excited about the future of the iPad, and anyone who saw that keynote should be as well. This progress for the iPad Pro is tremendous and I cannot wait to see what Apple has in store for iPadOS 15.
That said, if Apple doesn’t deliver with some kind of power user features what was this all for?