As investors might recall, the Apple (AAPL -1.01%) iPad Mini 3 launched last year was a pretty lackluster improvement over the prior-generation iPad Mini 2, with the inclusion of Touch ID as the only real improvement.
This year, though, Apple has gone ahead and launched the iPad Mini 4, which represents a fairly sizable leap from the iPad Mini 2/iPad Mini 3 tablets from last year and the year before, respectively. Let's take a closer look at these changes to determine whether the new iPad Mini is a "game changer."
A fairly comprehensive upgrade
The first change that Apple made to the iPad Mini 4 was to update the industrial design. The new iPad Mini is, according to Apple, 18% thinner than the prior-generation iPad Mini 3, measuring just 6.1 millimeters thick. It's also lighter, coming in at 0.65 pounds, down from 0.73 pounds for the iPad Mini 2 and 3.
It's not all about the external appearance, though. The new iPad sees some sizable gains in terms of internal specifications.
For one thing, the new iPad Mini comes with an A8 chip, as well as an M8 motion co-processor, which should offer performance and efficiency improvements relative to the older A7 and M7 chips found inside the older iPad Mini 2 and 3 models, respectively.
Further, the previous iPad Mini was seriously lacking in Wi-Fi capability. Indeed, the older iPad Mini only supported dual-stream 802.11n. The newer iPad Mini, on the other hand, sees a big upgrade to dual-stream 802.11ac, which means more than a twofold improvement in peak Wi-Fi transfer speeds.
The cellular version of the new iPad Mini also sees a more advanced cellular chip, which Apple claims boosts maximum download speeds from 100 megabits per second to 150.
Finally, Apple says the iPad Mini 4 includes the same anti-reflective coating that it brought to last year's iPad Air 2. Since this was something that garnered quite a bit of praise in the press (and as an iPad Air 2 owner myself, I can say that it's awesome), Apple made the right move in bringing it to the Mini.
Will this be a game-changer?
One issue that's widely believed to have negatively affected iPad sales is that customers haven't really had much of a reason to upgrade to new iPads, since their old ones worked so well.
The new iPad Mini 4 probably isn't going to do much to convince buyers who will upgrade only when their current devices break or no longer work well. However, for users of older iPad Mini models who have wanted to upgrade but have been waiting for something compelling to come along, the iPad Mini 4 might just do the trick.
I also believe that with the new internals and the revamped industrial design, Apple has -- at least in my view -- a truly leadership-defining 8-inch tablet that is best-in-class in all key metrics. If Apple had been losing share to competitors in the high end of the 8-inch tablet market, then the iPad Mini 4 could go a long way toward halting and perhaps even reversing any such share loss.
Although the phrase "game-changer" might be a little too strong of a phrase to describe what Apple seems to have done with the iPad Mini 4, I will say that Apple has done a great job in delivering an iPad Mini that truly lives up to the company's claim that the iPad Mini is "every inch an iPad."