A New iPad Mini Is Coming. Is There a Point?

It all depends, of course, but it feels harder to make a case for it in 2021 - that is, unless...

The iPad Mini is heavily rumored to get a significant refresh before the year is out - but what is Apple cooking for the smallest of its many, many tablets? (Image: Jeff Sheldon, Unsplash)

Funny thing about Apple product rumors: if they seem to persist, then they are probably true. So... regarding the iPad Mini - Apple's smallest but most affordable tablet - rumors that started circulating last year, resurfaced in February, then came back for another round in late May, suggest all we have to do now is wait until they prove to be true? That's the case according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, anyway, who recently mentioned in a report that a new iPad Mini is scheduled for release before the end of the year.

Apple has not updated the iPad Mini since 2019 - and that model carried many of the features its bigger siblings had already left behind: large bezels, a home button, the A12 processor. Two full years later one would expect the Cupertino giant to only bring out a new model if it offers a number of meaningful upgrades. That is exactly what most rumors claim it's happening. The new iPad Mini will probably be redesigned to look like the latest iPads or iPad Pros - no home button, smaller bezels - and chances are that it will feature an A13 or even A14 processor (now that Apple is ready for A15). Smaller bezels also mean that the screen can be one/one and a half-inch bigger while it's safe to assume that a better camera system will also be included.

Upgrading the iPad Mini in a meaningful way would probably further complicate the already busy iPad/Air/Pro lineup. (Image: Leone Venter, Unsplash)

What we'd have, though, if all of the above were offered, is something that's dangerously close to... yeap, the current vanilla iPad. If the iPad Mini 6 offers a 9-inch screen of the same resolution, a better processor etc. it would actually be better than the current vanilla iPad: practically the same user experience in a more compact size. So where would that leave that iPad model? It would either have to be upgraded in the same way too - in which case it would come close to the iPad Air - or not have a place in Apple's future iPad lineup.

At the same time, the iPad Mini was always the "compromise to get the cheaper model" iPad: movies and TV shows do not look as nice as on the larger models, it is a bit too heavy to be used mainly as an e-book reader (compared to dedicated such devices) and you surely can't do any work/"work" on it. What's more, the iPad Mini is not big... but it is not so small as to fit in regular pockets, so it needs a carrying bag or briefcase in order to be safely carried around. And if one needs that, then why not buy a larger model anyway?

Maybe the upcoming iPad Mini refresh is an opportunity for Apple to simplify its needlessly complicated iPad lineup and leave the old tablet design behind once and for all. (Image: Miguel Tomas, Unsplash)

It's rather obvious by now that if Apple properly upgrades the iPad Mini it will end up with too many iPad models in 2021. Yes, there are some clear differences between the iPad Mini, iPad, iPad Air and iPad Pro models but many people would have to look at tech specs in order to find them (especially among the non-Pro models). Size, price and accessories compatibility is what actually sets these iPads apart and, let's face it, since few people would use the non-Pro models for work/"work", most accessories are not part of the equation.

Size and price it is, then, so it seems that Apple has a few decisions to make. The iPad Mini is not the most popular iPad based on sales figures but people that like that model, love that model. The Pros are safe because of their high margins and the iPad Air is considered to be "the default" iPad anyway by now. So the Cupertino giant would either have to discontinue the vanilla iPad or upgrade it but keep its price unchanged and lower the price of the iPad Mini (while upgrading it!) in order to create enough space between them in the lineup. The clear choice? No more vanilla iPad. Come October, we'll probably find out.