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Can the iPad Mini survive?

 IPad mini 2021.
IPad mini 2021.

The answer to my titular question is a tentative ‘I doubt it’. And that’s a pity, as I’ve long been a fan of the iPad mini.

Apple last updated its smallest fondle slate back in September 2021, which saw a specs boost and the removal of the sort-of iconic iPad Home button in favor of narrower bezels and Touch ID integrated into the power button, much like the iPad Air. I’m currently using the sixth-generation iPad mini, which replaced my decent if a tad long-in-the-tooth iPad mini 5, and I’ve got no real complaints about the latest mini other than a 90Hz or 120Hz display would be nice.

However, infrequent iPad mini updates and a lack of any solid rumors surrounding the iPad mini 7 have me and others on the TechRadar team thinking that the iPad mini’s days are numbered. I doubt Apple will explicitly kill the compact tablet, more that it'll slowly leave it to fade into obscurity like that one difficult family member no one really hears much about and is awkward at gatherings.

I don’t want to see the iPad mini get ignored. It’s a wonderful little device, serving as a great digital notepad while I'm at events, a decent ereader and a rather neat gaming device, especially with an ever-expanding clutch of Apple Arcade games. But then I’m just one person, and arguably an odd one at that - I’m usually one of the few tech journalists tapping notes into an iPad while others prefer to go old-school and put pen to actual paper or type away on a laptop. So I doubt Apple will cater for just little ol’ me.

Furthermore, the iPad consistently sells less units than its larger brethren – according to data from the likes of Consumer Intelligence and Research Partners. That’s hardly surprising when smartphones have gotten bigger, with the likes of the iPhone 15 Pro Max offering a 6.7-inch display that’s not too far off in terms of diagonal space compared to the current iPad mini’s 8.3-inch screen. Some of the best foldable phones also work well as forms of Android-based iPad minis, albeit without the robust ecosystem.

Mini tablet, shrinking appeal

iPad mini 2021
iPad mini 2021

So there’s an argument that the iPad mini no longer has a place in the market it once did when smartphones were smaller and tablets were chunkier.

I got a taste of this when I was using an iPad Air, which, while not as paperback-size friendly as the mini made for an excellent digital magazine reader, as well as gaming device – thanks to its refined design, I got all the benefits of a bigger screen without much extra weight, meaning when I had the Air I didn’t really give the mini much attention.

I’m also not sure where the iPad mini can go next. It’s too small to justify the extra peripherals that the standard iPad has been equipped with. Giving it an improved display and much more power could see it not only step towards Air territory, but also increase to a price – Apple being Apple – that could be hard to justify for a compact tablet. An entry-level iPad mini already costs $499 / £479 / AU$749, which is more expensive than the 10.9-inch iPad 2022 that starts at $449 / £499 / AU$749.

If Apple doubled down on Apple Arcade and made the iPad mini into more of a handheld console, say with a dock that added physical controls and a connector so it could output to a TV, then I could see a gaming-centric future for the iPad mini. But the likelihood of Apple doing that when devices like the Apple TV 4K exist is slim.

The 2024 version of Apple isn't the company to come out with surprises like it once was, but there’s always a chance it could have something up its sleeve, and writing off the mini wholesale might be unwise. But I’m of the opinion that the iPad mini, as much as I like it, is on its way out.

However, that’s no reason not to get one as I still think it’s a fantastic tablet, especially if you get it at a good price. So if you fancy giving it a spin before it potentially disappears, go check out our collection of the best iPad deals to see if you can snag a mini bargain.

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