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Ok, I admit it, I'm gullible and a complete sucker for new technology, namely Apple technology. I've owned them all, in several different generations whether it be iPhones or iPods you name it, I've had it. The one thing that I have never owned, however, as it seemed to have passed me by at the time, is an iPad. You see, I've always been very sceptical about iPads, I thought they were oversized iPhones that fall short of doing what a laptop can do. That was until the iPad Mini was released late last year and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted it.
*** Availability ***
This is where you may encounter problems, and luckily this is the only area that you will encounter problems with the Mini as they're nigh on impossible to get your hands on. I bought mine just before Christmas and by some miracle they just happened to be in stock in the Apple store, however, before that I had searched high and low and no one within a 200 mile radius seemed to have them in stock and even now after Christmas they still seem to be in high demand so I wouldn't recommend a trip into town without a prior reservation first!
If you are lucky enough to track them down then you'll have several options to choose from. Most notably you have the black or white option (the white ones seem to be more popular, therefore may be difficult to track down). There are different memory capacities which vary in price too. The 16GB will set you back £269, 32GB is £349 and the big daddy of them all, the 64GB will cost you £429. To be honest the 16GB isn't even worth considering, because with the HD apps that you can purchase for the Mini, your memory will be eaten up in minutes.
*** Setting Up ***
With previous Apple products like the iPhone and iPod Touch, you've had to plug it into iTunes to set it up, however, none of that is needed nowadays as Apple continue to make our lives easier. All that's needed is a WiFi connection and this allows you to log into your Apple account (if you have one, if not then setting one up is easy) and you can select which apps, photos, documents, contacts etc you would like on your new device. This is downloaded from iCloud as if by magic. That's it, your new device is ready and equipped with everything you'll need.
*** Back To Basics ***
Everyone who's owned an iPhone or an iPod Touch before will need no introduction for using the Mini and to be honest even if you haven't used the above then you'll still need no introduction. The Mini is a joy to use right from the word go, with the larger screen coming to life with the incredible clarity and the ultra responsive touch screen. A stylus isn't needed but recommended for an even more user friendly experience.
The home screen isn't as squashed as it seems on an iPhone and Apple really have taken advantage of the bigger screen by spacing everything out more, instead of trying to cram even more onto the home screen. The home screen consists of everything you'd expect if you've had prior Apple experience (photos, FaceTime, App Store, iTunes etc) what I was surprised about was the messaging icon. If you have an iPhone you'll have no doubt noticed iMessage. This is a text messaging service that works through your internet instead of using up your allowance, much like Whatsapp and because it's online you can utilise it from your Mini too. iMessage only works with other Apple users but it's a fantastic little inclusion. When you receive an iMessage on your iPhone, if you're connected to WiFi it will appear on your iPad too as if by magic.
FaceTime is a joy on the iPad and it wasn't something that I had used much on my iPhone because the clarity seemed so low. On the iPad the clarity isn't exactly HD, but images aren't blurry or distorted. The only problem I have with FaceTime is the connection sometimes buffers which can be very irritating and you'll often have to restart the call to reconnect with the person you were talking to. However, for a free feature that works over WiFi it's a brilliant little add on and even more fantastic if you have friends or family abroad as you can connect with them with the press of a button. FaceTime, despite its faults has become an invaluable feature in my household.
*** Camera ***
The iPad houses a 5MP camera and an HD front facing camera. Now this might not seem a lot these days, however with the superb screen clarity of the Mini pictures really stand out and you wouldn't know that they're of such a low MP. Compared with the iPhone 5s 8MP camera you can tell the difference as the iPad shots do look slightly grainy, however, I doubt you'll be using your iPad for your family holiday shots so for messing around taking pictures I think it's of a perfectly acceptable quality.
The camera includes face detection which is very useful if you've got a lot of people in one shot. It helps to steady the camera so that even if your hand moves, giving it a high possibility of a blurry picture, the face detection will help keep it still for the best possible picture. Video recording utilises the same technology offering fantastic results.
*** WiFi or Cellular? ***
As I'm sure you've heard Apple are now selling cellular versions of the Mini and the generic iPad. This works like a normal mobile phone and uses 3G meaning that even without a WiFi connection you can still surf the web on your iPad. This all sounds very appealing, don't get me wrong, but this comes with a monthly subscription charge and the cheapest was £7.50 a month. Most people already have smartphones which they can use to surf the internet outside of the home and with the amount of places with free WiFi these days I don't think paying a monthly subscription is entirely worth it. Also, I'm not sure if I feel comfortable flashing a £349 bit of kit wherever I go, do you?
Speaking of the WiFi though, Apple have been bragging that it's twice as fast as any other previous iPad model (apart from the brand new one, of course). This being said I am impressed with how quick it picks up my home WiFi and how quick I'm able to search the internet and use Facebook. I've not used any other iPad so I couldn't tell you if there was some huge difference in speed. All I can say is I think you'll be impressed at the speed of this model.
*** Battery Life ***
Battery lives on Apple products are always fantastic aren't they? I hope you sensed the sarcasm there, because with Apple it's always the battery lives that let the side down. The iPad Mini however, does go some way in repairing the damage that other products have created. I can leave my iPad on for days on end, connected to WiFi and the battery life will barely dwindle. Of course this is different from actually using it, but with regular use I can easily get 4 or 5 days out of this. Really impressive.
*** Apps ***
The apps that you can download for the iPad Mini really are fantastic. You pay a little bit more but you get the pleasure of HD and you really can tell the difference. Immersion is the only word to describe it. I've only used apps on an iPhone and iPod Touch previously but it takes no time at all to get used to the bigger screen and once I'm back on the iPhone I miss the big screen.
*** Summary ***
I really can't fault the iPad Mini, yes it has a few minor niggles but it's not enough to give it anything less than 5 stars and I can safely say that I'm addicted to mine. It's the perfect size to hold in one hand, but be careful with it because without a case it will easily slip out of your hands. The features are fantastic and Apple are definitely the most intuitive brand out there. One thing they've realised is that with such a small boarder, when you're holding it your thumb may be touching the screen. Apple realise this and instead of assuming it's a command, you're still able to control the iPad with your finger without the iPad having a mini breakdown. There you go... fantastic.