Do You Need an iPad Mini?

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Photo credit:

Or any tablet? Probably not, but they’re so much fun. Skip to the end to find out about my indispensable apps!

I resisted buying a tablet until now because I was holding out for an all-in-one device. Here are the things I didn’t buy in the meanwhile:

Netbooks are great for Internet browsing and email, but web pages and applications are not optimized for netbook screens. Therefore, you are usually seeing only part of a page at a time. I would say they’re best for either space-saving in the kitchen, or for travelling. Although they’re small, they’re not as light and portable as a tablet. But, since they use regular computer applications and not mobile apps, they have no learning curve for those used to laptops.

Smartphones are the ideal “easy-access” device if you have an on-the-fly life, and you thrive on texting, tweets, status updates and other quick communication. Everybody enjoys using them as a time-killer: playing games while waiting in line. You can use them as a camera and a photo viewer, a music and video player, and even an e-book reader. You can get apps for useful things like checking the weather, and they are optimized for the smartphone screen, so they always look “right.” If you need a phone, and your Internet access needs are mostly social, they are the cat’s meow. For serious mobile reading and viewing, though, they are tiny.

As you may know, an iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without the phone feature, so they are an option for Internet and app access, too.

E-book readers are optimized for one purpose: reading text. They are designed to have a good “hand feel” so they’re comfortable to hold for hundreds of pages. Much thought has been put into making screens that are easy on the eyes. E-book readers are wireless connected so you can download books.

E-Book/tablet crossovers are the most obvious competitors to iPads: think Kindle Fire or the latest Nook. They have e-book readability, plus access to mobile apps through their associated stores (Amazon, Google Play, etc.)

My personal situation is that I wanted to be able to read e-books, browse the Internet, use apps, and watch movies, all on a screen I could carry around with me easily. My workplace provides me with a basic cell phone, so I didn’t want to pay for my own smartphone contract. I didn’t want to read books and watch movies on a 4” screen, so an iPod Touch was out, too. I decided that only a tablet would give me everything I wanted in one device.

My spouse had a bad experience buying a Blackberry Playbook. Full Android compatibility never happened, and its selection of apps is very limited. It is also prone to freezing and other technical faults.

Several of the e-book/tablet crossovers do not work well in international markets. For example, the apps and movies available in the US for Kindle Fire are not available for the Canadian market at all – it is a US-only product.

So I needed to choose between an Android tablet like the Nexus 7, and an iPad. I had ruled out iPads because I thought a 10” tablet was just too big to carry everywhere. An extra 1.5 pounds in your bag every day is a lot! However, I did get to play with an iPad and I liked its design and apps.

When the iPad Mini was released, I decided to go for it. Despite the steep price compared to an Android tablet, I guess I just wanted that Apple user experience. I was impressed by the availability of apps and I didn’t want to risk being an early adopter of a Windows 8 tablet.

I am really pleased with the size, weight, feel and portability of the Mini. You can hold it in two hands and use the on-screen keyboard to type super-fast, without wrist/arm fatigue. It can fit into a regular-sized purse or an over-sized coat pocket. You can take photos with it fairly unobtrusively. You can download on-loan e-books from your local public library. The apps for WordPress and Facebook don’t require any re-learning.

I have found two “killer apps” that make the iPad worthwhile for me: Menu Planner and Stylebook. I have spent endless hours (in a good way!) working and playing with them.

Menu Planner App

Menu Planner App

Menu Planner (by InnovaDev, $2.99 CDN) is a comprehensive system for feeding your household! I did a lot of research on grocery list apps, recipe apps and meal planner apps, and this one came out ahead. At the most basic level, you can use it to make and store grocery lists, recipes and meal plans. Because you carry your device around with you, it is always at the ready if you are out-and-about doing errands, and you’re trying to remember what meal you’re having tonight, and if you have the ingredients already. However, the advantage of the app is that it automatically links all these features.

First, you can import or type in the recipes you plan to use for your meal plans. If you don’t make recipes, you can just list food items! You can do a meal plan for as many meals and snacks as you like each day. Ideally, you do a pantry and fridge inventory and input the ingredients you have on-hand. The app will check each recipe in your meal plan against your pantry list, alert you if you need an ingredient, and add it to your grocery list. Once you check off that you’ve purchased it, the app updates the amount you now have in your cupboards, and subtracts the amount you use in the recipe when you make it. So you have a continuously updated list of the food you have in the house. I used the grocery list yesterday and it came out all neatly organized into stores, departments and aisles. You can even store info on prices and coupons.

Rom is going to buy this app as well so we can sync our menu plans, recipes and grocery lists. We are co-chefs here!

Menu Planner actually looks better in its iPad version than in the iPhone version. It has a cleaner, less cluttered and more modern design. Note: this is not the same app as Menu Planner by Big Oven, which requires a subscription fee.

Stylebook App

Stylebook App on iPhone

Stylebook (by left brain/right brain,$3.99 CDN) is my other favourite app! You use it to store images and info on the clothes you own, to assist with creating outfits or going clothes shopping. Although it requires a big time investment up-front, this one will pay off for me: I will be able to check that I already have 4 pairs of black trousers, and don’t need more, or that I have T-shirts in every colour except vermilion!

You take a photo of each piece of clothing you want to include. Put them in categories, either broad ones like “tops,” or sub-categories like “long-sleeved shirts” and “crew-neck sweaters.” You can describe each piece if you like. This part creates an inventory of what you have. When you are out shopping, you can quickly scroll through pix of what you own, or do a search. If you like putting outfits together and accessorizing, or you want to remember a clothing combination that worked especially well, you can create and save an outfit by copying all the pieces onto one screen and giving the outfit a name. You can track when and where you wore an outfit. You can create your own wish list by importing pictures of items you want from the web. You can also keep a folder of “inspirations,” such as a photo of a painting or a colour combination that caught your fancy. Like other style apps, it also lets you develop and save suitcase packing lists for trips. Stylebook also has a separate men’s edition.

There is only one glitch with Stylebook – it was developed for the iPhone, and is not optimized for the iPad, but supposedly it will be soon. I find it looks OK meanwhile by going into 2X mode. But that’s on the Mini – I would not run it on the 10” iPad.

Evernote App

Evernote App

Right now my other main app is Evernote, where I keep collections of notes and lists. It is similar to Microsoft Office OneNote. I sync it to the web so I can access it from my home or work computer. One cool feature of Evernote is that you can search text within photos!

Have you guessed that this iPad thing is a pretty good match for An Exacting Life? Now I am Exacting on-the-go 🙂

~   I trust it goes without saying that I am not being compensated by Apple or any app developers  ~


  1. My “office” these days is my iPad: online teaching, web meetings, photo editing, video viewing, tweeting and more, more, more….all for under 25 ounces and rightsized for any coffee shop or bar

  2. Awesome!!! I have a 5th Gen iPod that I recently bought & love… I have an iPad 1 as well… You’re right, they get heavy, but I do love it! 🙂 I havent seen a “mini” yet, but I bet it rocks!!! If you get “Words with Friends” we can play together… 🙂 LMK if you get it!! Enjoy your new toy!!

  3. Just got a “free” Galaxy2 tablet yesterday with a new camera purchase and am excited to try it out.

  4. SarahN

    I keep hearing of evernote, but continue to use gtasks – which I can get on my gmail email screen on a PC, or on my android phone. The other two recommendations seem that they would only feed my neurosis (which I’m getting slack from the male contingent on!) I did think the wardrobe one would be well suited to BIG wardrobe people – whereas, I feel mine is small enough, I know what I have!

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