Funny thing about all those Apple product rumors: if they seem to persist for long, then they’re probably true… and this may well be the case regarding the iPad Mini, the company’s smallest tablet currently available. Rumors that started circulating earlier in the year came back for another round in late summer, suggesting that a new iPad Mini is scheduled for release in Q4 2023, most probably October. Apple has not updated this model since September 2021 so, two full years later, one would expect the Cupertino giant to bring out a 2023 iPad Mini sporting a number of meaningful upgrades.
But that’s not what most rumors claim it’s in the cards: the 7th-gen iPad Mini will most probably be keeping the same design and the same screen diagonal, so it will look a lot like the 6th-gen currently available (unless Apple trims the bezels of the screen down slightly in the same way it did with the iPhone 15 Pro models recently). Any important differences will probably be under the hood and that’s where things get somewhat interesting: although Apple could make the obvious choice and use the A16 processor (a small upgrade from the A15 the current iPad Mini is built around), it could maybe go for the M1 or the A17. Not only would either of those processors be a serious upgrade from the A15, it would also mean that the new iPad Mini would be an exceptionally powerful tablet for games – a major selling point. Other possible upgrades include more system memory, a better camera system as well as Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.
An iPad Mini boasting those specs, though, would be a considerably more capable tablet than the current “vanilla”, 10th-gen iPad – which is still selling well enough simply because many consumers just want “the standard iPad”. That was upgraded last year, so a better version of it will not be offered in 2023 (the iPad Air is a much more likely candidate). It makes a certain kind of sense for a smaller iPad costing more than a larger iPad to also be more powerful than a larger iPad… but it’s somewhat ironic too: the larger screen of the “vanilla” iPad makes every app – not just games – more enjoyable for consumers, after all.
That’s where things get complicated. It used to be at some point in time that the iPad Mini was the “compromise” people made in order to get the cheapest iPad available, but… that’s no longer the case (the “vanilla” iPad is now that model). Movies and TV shows don’t look as nice on the Mini as on the larger models, it’s a bit too heavy to be used as an e-reader (compared to dedicated such devices) and one surely can’t do any actual work on it. Last but not least: the iPad Mini may not be big, but it’s also not small enough to fit in regular pockets, so it can’t be carried around safely without e.g. a carrying bag or a briefcase. But if one gets to that point, then why not buy a larger iPad anyway?
There was an easy answer to that question, once: “practicality”. The compact size and effortlessly manageable weight of the iPad Mini made it easy for everyone – including children – to just reach for it everywhere, in all kinds of usage scenarios. But its small size can also be perceived as a weakness by 2023 standards: at 8.3 inches, it’s barely larger than a number of top smartphones (even Apple is expected to release an iPhone at 7 inches next year) and many popular apps or games feel cramped to use on it nowadays. Even simple Web browsing often feels limited and cumbersome, which, frankly, it shouldn’t.
It’s also rather obvious that if Apple properly upgrades the iPad Mini – even if that might seem like a waste of processing power to some – the company will end up with too many comparably capable iPad models in 2023. There are clear differences between the iPad Mini, iPad, iPad Air and iPad Pro models other than their size, yes, but many people would have to look at tech specs in order to spot those differences. Size, price and accessory 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 this equation to begin with.
It seems that Apple might have a few decisions to make at some point. The iPad Mini is not the most popular iPad based on sales, but people that like that model, love that model. The iPad Pros are safe because of their high margins and high-end profile, while the iPad Air is practically “the default” iPad for educated consumers for some time. To simplify its iPad product line in a manner that would make sense, the Cupertino giant would either have to discontinue the “vanilla” iPad or considerably lower the price of the iPad Mini (while upgrading it!) in order to create enough space between them. The clear choice? No more “vanilla” iPad and, come 2024, we’ll get to find out.