Split View

Image source: Apple.

For a while there, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) resisted the trend toward smaller tablets. Steve Jobs famously bashed the smaller form factor on an earnings conference call, but eventually, the Mac maker realized that there was sufficient consumer demand to pursue the segment. Apple formally entered the small tablet market in 2012 with the iPad Mini.

By doing so, Apple gave tablet buyers in the market for an iPad more choices as to which device may ultimately fit their needs. For the most part, Apple has tried to simplify the decision by putting comparable specs in each device, so the most pertinent question boils down to what display size you want.

A tale of two tablet form factors
For starters, let's break down both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 in terms of specs and pricing. These models are the latest and greatest that Apple has to offer.

Specifications

iPad Air 2

iPad Mini 3

Display size

9.7-inch Retina display

7.9-inch Retina display

Resolution

2048 x 1536 at 264 ppi

2048 x 1536 at 326 ppi

Processors

A8X with M8 motion coprocessor

A7 with M7 motion coprocessor

Touch ID

Yes

Yes

Rear-facing iSight camera

8 megapixel

5 megapixel

Front-facing FaceTime HD camera

1.2 megapixel

1.2 megapixel

Weight (Wi-Fi models)

0.96 pound

0.73 pound

Pricing (Wi-Fi models) for 16GB / 64GB / 128GB

$499 / $599 / $699

$399 / $499 / $599

Source: Apple. ppi = pixels per inch.

As you can see, both tablets are fairly comparable on paper. The iPad Air 2 has a few other advantages, such as a fully laminated display, better photo/video capabilities, and support for Split View multitasking in the forthcoming iOS 9, all for an extra $100 compared to the iPad Mini 3. The iPad Mini 4 is rumored to support Split View multitasking.

However, there's another factor to consider. When Apple updated the iPad Mini lineup in 2014, the only thing that the company added to the iPad Mini 3 was Touch ID. All other specs are identical to the previous-generation iPad Mini 2, which now costs $100 less, and starts at $299. In essence, Apple is charging $100 just for Touch ID, which may be a hard value proposition to justify, because it represents a 33% premium for a single feature. With this in mind, the iPad Mini 2 may present better value than the iPad Mini 3, in which case, the price gap between an iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2 is larger, at $200.

Of course, picking a preferred display size is a highly personal decision. The iPad Mini is significantly more mobile and portable, which is generally what people look for in a tablet; but the iPad Air 2 is more powerful and larger, and can offer more productivity.

You should probably wait anyway
All of that being said, it's probably best to hold off on purchasing an iPad right now unless you absolutely have to. Apple habitually launches new products in the fall, with iPhones usually coming in September, and iPads following shortly thereafter in October. Since a refresh is just around the corner, it's best to wait.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.