Apple’s iPad mini unveiling event has ended, and as always, there are plenty of little—and somewhat interesting—details that didn’t get discussed by Apple’s executives on stage. In some cases, they’re updates to the brand new iPad mini that go beyond features in the otherwise similar iPad 2; in other cases, they’re fourth-generation iPad tweaks. Here’s a list of ten of them; you’ll actually find a few more details snuck in here and there.
10. Separate GSM/CDMA Versions. The iPad mini with Wi-Fi + Cellular comes in two versions—one is GSM LTE, for AT&T and most international networks. The other is CDMA EV-DO Rev. A + Rev. B LTE, and apparently works with both Verizon and Sprint—an update that is also being made for the fourth-generation iPad. (Apple notably shipped the third-generation iPad without support for Sprint’s tiny LTE network; Sprint has added additional cities, and thanks to a recent investment from Japanese iPhone/iPad carrier Softbank, will likely continue to grow.)
9. Weight and Size Differences. The iPad mini with Wi-Fi + Cellular has the exact same dimensions as the Wi-Fi-only version, but weighs 4 grams more—0.69 pounds versus 0.68, a tiny difference that no one will notice. Despite suggestions that the fourth-generation iPad might be thinner than the third-generation model, it remains the same in all dimensions, and at the same 1.44/1.46 pound weights (Wi-Fi vs. Wi-Fi + Cellular).
8. SIM Cards. If you were hoping to share a SIM card between a full-sized iPad and iPad mini, it looks like you’ll be out of luck. Apple is now using Nano-SIMs in the iPad mini, whereas the fourth-generation iPad continues to use Micro-SIMs, like the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad.
7. GPS/GLONASS + Bluetooth. Apple has given the iPad mini a Bluetooth upgrade over the iPad 2, jumping from Bluetooth 2.1 to Bluetooth 4 support, akin to the third- and fourth-generation iPad. Also, the iPad mini with Wi-Fi + Cellular does include GPS and GLONASS support, the latter found only in the third-generation iPad; the Wi-Fi version again does not include either GPS or GLONASS hardware.
6. Cameras. The iPad mini has received considerable camera improvements relative to the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad. First, the front camera has been upgraded to FaceTime HD, introduced for iOS devices on the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, and is now capable of 1280×720 still and 720p video recording. Second, the rear camera has been upgraded to a 5MP iSight camera with 1080p video recording. These changes appear to bring the iPad mini into alignment with the fifth-generation iPod touch; the fourth-generation iPad also has received camera boosts that theoretically match the mini and new touch.
5. Battery Life. In addition to the promised 10 hours of Wi-Fi web use, Apple promises that the Cellular version of the iPad mini will get 9 hours of cellular web use on a single charge. Generally, Apple’s battery estimates come very close to actual testing results; in some cases, performance is better, and in others, they come out a bit below. Real world battery life for LTE cellular has been lower than expected in testing, in part because of the still-in-progress penetration of LTE towers; results will vary between locations.
4. Siri. Apple’s digital voice assistant Siri has been added to the iPad mini, even though the feature did not come to the similarly-equipped iPad 2. Performance of Siri on the fifth-generation iPod touch, which contains an A5 processor akin to the one in the iPad mini, has been trouble-free.
3. Microphones. A rear microphone hole centered with the rear iSight camera was spotted on the back of prototype iPad mini rear shells months ago, but does not appear to have made it into final production units; an unspecified late production change appears to have eliminated this component. Suggestions that the fourth-generation iPad might receive a similar upgrade do not appear to have borne out, either. Both devices continue to have a single pill-shaped microphone hole, centered on the top between the headphone port and Sleep/Wake Button.
2. Screens. The iPad mini will, as expected, sport a 1024×768 screen that’s identical in resolution to the iPad and iPad 2, however, because the screen is 7.9 inches diagonal rather than 9.7”, it will have a pixel density of 163ppi, which will make the same details look sharper. Apple has notably not made any claims regarding the mini screen’s color accuracy, only mentioning that the screen uses IPS technology and the same backlighting system as the Retina-screened full-sized iPad. Nothing has been said about screen changes in the full-sized iPad, either.
1. Lightning + Accessories. Apple has used this event to largely transition the iPad family over to Lightning, getting rid of the 30-Pin Dock Connector from all shipping iPads save for the iPad 2. As a result, the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini will be incompatible with the vast majority of docking accessories released for their predecessors, without the use of a Lightning Adapter, the prices for which range from $29 to $39. Apple is also offering replacement versions of prior Dock Connector video and camera adapters, all at higher prices than before. The iPad Camera Connection Kit used to include SD Card and USB adapters for $29 total; Apple will now sell Lightning versions of these adapters separately for $29 each. Lightning Digital AV (HDMI) and VGA Adapters will go for $49 each, an increase of $10 for the Digital AV, and $20 for VGA.
One surprising change is that Apple has introduced a new 12W Power Adapter for the iPad, up from the prior 10W version. Charging times for the third-generation iPad were far longer than with the prior two models, so this new $19 Adapter will likely speed up charging times for the fourth-generation model. Apple lists it as backwards compatible with all Lightning devices and the last two Dock Connector-based iPads, but not with the original iPad, so it’s unclear as to how it will perform with different devices.