Who Is the iPad For?

Smaller is always better, correct? Smaller is more portable, easier to hold, and is more likely to be used in most situations, correct? That’s typically correct, especially in the technology world.

But that isn’t taking into account the loss of potential productivity, or the advantages of the larger size. At some point, a smaller size begins to impact the capabilities of the device, even if the two devices run identical software. While the iPad mini really is an excellent device that is designed to please most users, there is at least one group of users that likely will not find the iPad mini’s smaller form factor an improvement over the more traditional, 9.7″ iPad.

That segment of users are the true iPad power users, the people who consistently use the iPad not just to consume, but also to create.

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Applications such as Paper by FiftyThree prove how useful an iPad can be for artists — though drawing is much easier on the iPad, as opposed to the iPad mini.

Upon the original release of the iPad, Apple made sure to include applications that proved that the new device was useful for more than just watching videos, reading books, or browsing the web. Software such as Apple’s Pages — a world-class document creation and editing tool that can go toe-to-toe with even the likes of Microsoft Word on most fronts — helped prove that there was more to the iPad than just consumption. Since the release of the device, however, it has become obvious just how the iPad is mostly used: viewing videos and photos, reading, web browsing, and generally communicating with others through services like email, Facebook, and Twitter.

That trend is often used to back up the argument that the iPad isn’t fit for creating content and that Apple’s iPad is a glorified web browser that users shell $500 out for.

From the beginning, Apple showed the iPad running applications designed to do more than just consume media.

That simply isn’t true, and the nail in the coffin for such a theory is the simple fact that applications targeted at creators thrive on the App Store. From Paper to Pages and Keynote to Diet Coda, the trend is obviously there: the iPad can be used for real work. From the beginning, the larger display, higher-resolution, and cutting-edge specifications on the iPad were designed to facilitate creators to do what they do best on the device.

The iPad mini, on the other hand, is designed for something else. The smaller screen, the iPhone-sized touch targets, and the less powerful specifications all result in a device that is specifically designed not for power users, but for users who only expect their device to excel at browsing Facebook. That isn’t to say that the iPad mini isn’t capable of creating content or satisfying the desires of a creative worker, but the evidence and various aspects of the iPad mini point towards a device designed for the masses and their needs.

The larger display and cutting-edge specifications of the fourth-generation iPad make it much more suited to creation than the iPad mini.

The iPad-iPad mini comparison is analogous to the 11″ MacBook Air and the Retina MacBook Pro. The MacBook Air — thanks mostly to its next-generation design — is very popular among consumers. Its internals are powerful enough to easily allow users to accomplish the most popular tasks while still allowing the device to have excellent battery life. The display isn’t particularly high-resolution, but it doesn’t matter: the hardware gets out of the way of the user, as long as the user doesn’t expect the hardware to power overly-intense processes.

Likewise, the Retina MacBook Pro is larger — and exponentially more powerful because of it. While still slim and svelte, the Retina MacBook Pro offers advanced users an advanced machine with premium internals, albeit at a premium price.

Even Apple highlights the creation capabilities of the iPad with software like Pages.

The iPad line is incredibly similar. While users better suited by the larger iPad may be interested in the iPad mini — usually for the design, which is admittedly very nice — it’s always important to consider use cases. The iPad may make the transition in to being a more premium product which targets the same class of users as the Retina MacBook Pro does, while the fat middle of the market is scooped up by the cheaper and smaller iPad mini.

Time has proven this idea. Computer markets eventually fracture, with the specific needs of certain user groups being better met by a specific product or platform. Apple is pushing the iPad as their next-generation computing platform, and the iPad-iPad mini break is only the first in what is likely to become a much more distinguished line of products and services. So ask yourself now: are your needs better met by the “Pro”-level device, or is the iPad mini the better product for you?