Apple announces iPad Mini & iPad 4

2 min read

Most pilots will agree that the iPad is hands down the best consumer product currently available to serve as an electronic chart bag (EFB) in the cockpit. In addition to the extensive list of features contained in the hardware itself, there are over 100 dedicated aviation apps designed exclusively for the iPad. It’s not perfect though, and a common complaint is that it is too big to use in the tight constraints of general aviation airplanes.

Size, however, will no longer be an issue with today’s announcement of the iPad Mini from Apple. The new iPad Mini measures 5.3″w x 7.87″h, weighs less than half of the larger model, and can used with one hand. The 7.9″ diagonal screen has the same resolution as the iPad 2, meaning all your existing aviation apps will run seamlessly on the new model. It retains the same 10-hour battery life as the other iPads, comes in 16/32/64 GB storage sizes, and starts out at $329 for the WiFi-only model. Models are also available with AT&T/Verizon/Sprint 4G capability, and these include an internal GPS/GLONASS receiver.

The iPad Mini replaces the traditional 30-pin charging connector with Apple’s new Lightning connector, which means you’ll need to replace your existing charging cables or get one of Apple’s 30-pin to Lightning adapters. The good news is that the iPad Mini retains WiFi and Bluetooth capability, so all your wireless GPS & ADS-B receivers will work just fine with this new model.

The combination of reduced weight and physical size will make it ideal for mounting on a yoke or side window with the 7″ Ram Cradle, and will be much less obtrusive when used with a kneeboard. And while the iPad Mini is very similar in specs to existing smaller tablets from Amazon and Google, we think the immediate availably of high-quality aviation apps from companies like ForeFlight, Garmin and WingX Pro will make it a natural fit with pilots.

In addition to the iPad Mini, Apple also announced a new 4th generation iPad. This improved model primarily adds a faster processor and the new Lightning connector. Pre-orders for the iPad mini and iPad 4 will start on Friday, October 26, with the Wi-Fi models shipping on November 2 and the cellular models shipping two weeks later.

30 replies
  1. Loren Jones
    Loren Jones says:

    I am disappointed they didn’t include the GPS in the WiFi models this time around. I think that’s very short-sighted since that’s integral to the Nexus 7 which is substantially cheaper. I carry both an iPad and Nexus now and grow more fond of the latter every day. I will have a look at new mini, but am feeling like Apple is starting to fall into “catch up” mode now, whereas in the past they were always a technology innovator.

  2. Gary Pollard
    Gary Pollard says:

    I am looking forward to seeing the new mini. I love iPad in the cockpit but the original version is too big and clunky.

  3. Nader Balata (@NaderBalata)
    Nader Balata (@NaderBalata) says:

    Just wondering if any pilots here is considering moving to the iPad Mini instead of the iPad? I am concerned about the smaller screen size displaying less data.

  4. Flocker
    Flocker says:

    According to the promo video on Apple’s website, it will display the same data at the same resolution as the previous iPad. I’d have to demo Foreflight on it first before I make the switch…

  5. Loren Jones
    Loren Jones says:

    The smaller size is ideal for the cockpit. I have a regular iPad and a Nexus 7 and now use the Nexus more often in-flight than the iPad because of the smaller size. I prefer ForeFlight, but put up with Garmin Pilot since that’s what runs on the Nexus. I just wish they would have included GPS in the WiFi version.

  6. Nader Balata (@NaderBalata)
    Nader Balata (@NaderBalata) says:

    Hmm…interesting to know that some pilots carry two tablets with them in the airplane…

  7. Loren
    Loren says:

    I must admit, there’s a certain comfort when flying IFR knowing I have to different hardware platforms, with two separate batteries, running two different operating systems with two different software products using two different chart subscriptions! The odds of a glitch nailing both of them is pretty small. Both are current on their charts and have fully charged batteries before flight.

  8. MJS
    MJS says:

    No requirement in the AC to display a IAP chart in “standard size”. Only in standard format and in its entirety.

    “The screen must be large enough to show the entire standard format one-page IAP chart all at once, with a degree of legibility and clarity equivalent to that of a paper chart.”

    It will be interesting to see how legible a Jepp IAP chart is on the mini when viewing the entire chart.

  9. Nader Balata (@NaderBalata)
    Nader Balata (@NaderBalata) says:

    I have seen some pilots that take multiple devices but seems pretty rare. I guess they do for the same reason as you Loren.

  10. BP
    BP says:

    My concern would be that the Jepp IAP charts will be too small when you display the whole chart on the mini. If the app would allow you to make the chart full screen that would probably greatly improve this. Right now you lose part of the top and the bottom of the screen for app menus.

  11. Loren
    Loren says:

    I’ve been viewing IAP on a slightly smaller 7″ screen and even for these 55-year-old eyes it is plenty big. I can look at the entire approach plate and read all the key information, but then I have the option of zooming in on the critical pieces as needed…which I do regularly. Screen size is not an issue for approach procedures, and is a more convenient size overall for use in a general aviation cockpit.

  12. Sam Bates
    Sam Bates says:

    I have the iPad 2 32GB 3G att. I have not looked into the newer ipads since the one I have is working great. If you are looking to buy a new one I would say get the most that you can for the money that you are willing to pay. The 3G is nice to have the bulit in GPS but chances are you are going to want to buy an external GPS. I was not all that happy with the 3G GPS for it’s coverage in my 182. I now use stratus for GPS which so far I am happy with.
    If I was going to buy a new iPad I would look at the 4 very close since apple likes to update there products very quickly. As far as size goes I would go with at least 32GB so you have room for all the other apps that you will find that you want to use.

  13. Chris F
    Chris F says:

    I have an iPad 2 WiFi only unit running both ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot (still deciding between the two). Currently I have an external GPS ( XGPS150A) attached via Bluetooth which works with both apps. The full size iPad is hard to manage in the cockpit. I have tried all types of RAM mounts, knee boards, rubber enclosures, etc to manage it inside of a Mooney. I am holding out hope the mini iPad will be the answer and the larger iPad will become my backup.

    For those of you looking at the aviation apps my advice is try them out. Most either have a 30 day trial for free or nominal cost. Each have their own virtues and challenges (like the ForeFlight auto routes and the Garmin split screen panel both being a plus). The reason I am saying to try them out is that in order to get the best utility out of them in the upcoming ADS-B environment, you will need the antennae that works with the app. I think this is where the real battle ground is. ForeFlight currently only works with the Stratus antennae and Garmin with their GDL 39 (both sell for $799). These antennas are not cheap and I hope that other companies will produce products that will compete on price with them. The first company that produces an antennae that works with anyone’s app and is priced competively will get my business.

  14. Ron Simonton
    Ron Simonton says:

    I use the iPad 2 with WingX, which is terriffic, but I also have the iFly 720 with all charts and IAPs georeferenced. As a 7″ device, the iFly720 is what I will be holding onto.

  15. Mark Vaughn
    Mark Vaughn says:

    I was wondering if the GPS in the WiFi Celluar iPad Mini is effective enough to use in the cockpit without an external bluetooth GPS like the Dual GPS XGPS150A

  16. Michael
    Michael says:

    HELP!!! I know I am incredibly spoiled (sorry!) but I received both the iPad mini (64 gb) from my mom and the iPad w/ retina display (32 gb) from my in laws… I am terribly torn on which to return! If cost was not a factor at all, what would you choose?

    • LDJ
      LDJ says:

      Keep BOTH! The mini is great for in flight but the Retina is great for everything else! Plus you have a backup while flying.

      • Michael
        Michael says:

        DEFINITELY an option that I am glad you pointed out. I am leaning that way but would like some ideas for if I decide to keep things simple.

        • John Zimmerman
          John Zimmerman says:

          We completely agree – if you can have both, that’s really the best option. They each have their strengths.

        • Loren
          Loren says:

          I have the iPad 4 and a Nexus 7, but will probably add a Mini since ForeFlight is still my preferred app and it is not available on the Nexus.

  17. Sam Bates
    Sam Bates says:

    Micheal, what are you flying? I have the full size and I like it for the detail that you can get on the bigger size. However it is a little big to find a great place in the cockpit of my 182. I would say keep them both and use the mini to navigate with the map on a yoke, and the full size to have in your lap as a way to look closer at maps or airport data. Do you have any experience with a ipad?

    • Michael
      Michael says:

      Thanks for the insight, Sam! I am working on my IFR and have my Commercial coming up. Probably a lot of time in 172 size cockpits in the future, though I would love to be in a Kodiak someday as I want to do missionary aviation. I don’t have any iPad experience but I am not worried about adapting at all.

      • Sam Bates
        Sam Bates says:

        Sounds like fun. If you keep them both I know that foreflight is only one fee for both devices. I don’t know about the other programs. I have enjoyed foreflight very much, I would agree with a previous comment to try the different apps since most have the trail period. Good luck and enjoy flying with the devices.

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