It’s finally here! Apple releases new iPad Mini

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We talk to iPad pilots daily at our airport and online through iPad Pilot News, and the number one question we get is “when will Apple upgrade the iPad mini?” The smaller 7.9″ iPad works exceptionally well in the cockpit, balancing the right combination of size and price, but it hadn’t been updated since April 2015 and was lacking in hardware performance. In our most recent poll over 58% of pilots responded they would upgrade to a new iPad Mini if it became available, with only 21% looking for an iPad Pro.

Today we learned that the rumors were true, as Apple unveiled the new 5th generation iPad Mini and a new 10.5″ iPad Air. The new Mini 5 is identical in size to previous models, but includes Apple’s powerful A12 bionic processor, the same chip used in the latest iPhone XS and XR models. You can order the new model starting today and get it delivered next week. Here we’ll review what all is new with the Mini 5, along with the new iPad Air, to help decide which model is best for your next upgrade.

iPad Mini 5

Pilots have been asking for a new iPad Mini for years and fortunately, Apple responded to the consumer demand and released an all-new version. On the outside, the iPad Mini 5 is identical to the iPad Mini 4, which many pilots will welcome since you’ll be able to use existing mounts and kneeboards without any compromise. The most important update is the new A12 bionic processor (the Mini 4 was still using the old A8 processor), which will provide a lightning-fast user experience while running graphics-intensive processes, like loading in-flight moving maps or datalink weather.

The storage options were doubled in size for the iPad Mini 5 to 64GB and 256GB, which will also be a welcome upgrade for pilots running low on the limited storage options of the iPad Mini 4. The retina screen was upgraded to be 25% brighter, includes the useful anti-reflective screen coating and Apple’s true tone technology. The rear camera was also upgraded from 720p to full 1080p HD recording capability. It adds support for the original Apple Pencil – the newer 2nd Gen Apple Pencil only works with iPad Pro.

Best of all the new iPad Mini 5 retains the same affordable price of $399 for the 64GB model, but we’d highly recommend paying the extra $150 and upgrading to the 256GB to ensure you have plenty of space down the road for all your apps, aviation databases, and media. The Mini 5 retains the same Lightning charging port and TouchID for authentication. Like with other iPads, you can upgrade to the model with Cellular data for an extra $130, which also adds an internal GPS. Learn more about the internal GPS vs. external receivers here.

iPad Air 10.5″

The new iPad Air 10.5″ essentially replaces the iPad Pro 10.5″ that hit the market a few years ago, but includes the faster A12 bionic processor. It’s the exact same size as the former 10.5″ iPad Pro, so all the same kneeboards and mounts will work with the upgraded model. It retains the familiar Lightning port for charging and TouchID.

Most importantly Apple dropped the price on this product down to $499 (the iPad Pro 10.5″ was $649), so it’s now in the sweet spot for pilots looking for a full-size iPad with high-performance internals, without the need to spend over $800 for an iPad Pro.

The 2019 iPad lineup in review

The plus side of today’s announcement is that pilots have never had a more diverse range of iPad models to choose from, with a fully capable version starting at just $329. The downside of all these options is that it can become a little confusing when sorting through the offerings, especially when it comes to accessory support. Apple recently dropped the 10.5″ iPad Pro, so there are now 4 iPad product lines to choose from:

New iPad Mini 5: A12 bionic processor, 64GB ($399) and 256GB ($549), upgrade to Cellular data for $130, 7.9″ retina display, lightning charging port, Touch ID, supports Apple Pencil 1

iPad: A10 processor, 32GB ($329) and 128GB ($429), upgrade to Cellular data for $130, 9.7″ retina display, lightning charging port, Touch ID, 1080p HD camera, supports Apple Pencil 1

New iPad Air 10.5″: A12 bionic processor, 64GB ($499) and 256GB ($649), upgrade to Cellular data for $130, 9.7″ retina display, lightning charging port, Touch ID, 1080p HD camera, supports Apple Pencil 1

iPad Pro 11 and 12.9″: A12X bionic processor, 64/256/512GB/1TB starting at $799, upgrade to Cellular data for $149, USB-C charging port, Face ID, 4K video camera, supports Apple Pencil 2

As we mentioned earlier, we think the new iPad Air model is the perfect choice for pilots who prefer a full-size screen over the iPad Mini, without breaking the bank for the higher-performance iPad Pro models. It includes the larger 10.5″ screen found on the original iPad Pro and Apple’s latest A12 processor and starts out at the same price as the original iPad from 2010 – $499. The premium iPad Pro remains a great fit in the cockpit too and offers the most performance and features in the lineup – read our review of that model here.

You can order both the new iPad Mini 5 and iPad Air 10.5″ models today and they’ll be shipping out next week. We’ll have a full PIREP on both versions next week, including compatibility with kneeboards and mounting options.

Lastly, we’ll point out that Apple has a trade-in program, so you may be able to save some money on your upgrade by sending in your old device.

15 COMMENTS

  1. … I was expecting (hoping?) for a reduced bezel, USB port, and Pencil 2 functionality. It would have been an easy and desirable upgrade. Why do I get the impression that Apple is “losing its mojo”, and just stringing customers along for the purpose of satiating its suppliers and clearing out its inventory?

  2. I was just hoping to get back under warranty – the A12’s a significant enough upgrade
    and the rest… who cares; 128gb was just fine… but with 256gb/cellular & warranty; $800+

  3. Cellular is a must, but why do you recommend the 256gb? The 64gb will work fine. The Foreflight app with the lower 48 states only uses 15.5gb. I have had a 128gb ipad for 2 years and only use about 50gb total. I use the iPad for more than piloting.

  4. I’m thrilled. The iPad mini is the perfect size for a kneeboard or small cockpit so the fact that the dimensions have not changed is a real win for current iPad Mini-4 users like me. I have a significant investment in iPad mounts, including one in my panel. I doubt I’ll need the extra storage but I’m getting the 256gb model because you never know what apps and databases will be like in a few years. Can’t upgrade the memory later so going big up front. 4G is a must have. Getting the maxed out Mini-5 is still less than the price of a Stratus-3. Good investment. (I love my Stratus too). Good advice on the trade-in. My Mini-4 is 3 years old and the battery life isn’t what it used to be. I’ll be getting $135 back on the trade-in.

  5. Isn’t the 10.5″ Pro of 2017 better than de iPad Air in the cockpit since it has a brighter screen?

  6. I have ordered mine with 256gb. For about the past year ForeFlight has been crashing on my Mini 3 – with increasing frequency, (on a recent two hour flight it crashed twice). I’m fairly sure it’s because the multi-tasking iOS upgrade is barely supportable on my old 3 with a slow processor. I also believe there’s a lot of background memory swaps going on and I’m running out of memory. I have a lot of apps on my Mini and was considering unloading it and dedicating it to FF, and then buying a separate iPad for the remainder. This is a much better choice for me. I have tried both the full size iPad and Mini in the cockpit and much prefer the Mini for it’s size.

    • I have a Mini2 with only 20GB used of 64GB. Performance is not good. I don’t think unloading your mini will help performance any. Mine crashes a lot too. ABS-B In is so slow sometimes I see myself following myself. Yes, that’s right. I appear in trail behind myself. Also I see multiple images of what I assume to be one aircraft. Time for a new iPad.

  7. I went to the Apple store ( a one hour drive, one way) to see the new iPads. By phone I was told the store had the new products on display. I was told wrong. The store did not have them yet. While I was there I compared my old Mini2 to the iPad Pro. I was not impressed. I did not see much improvement in brightness comparing them side by side with the brightness up full. Also the performance of the anti-reflective coating was “nothing to write home about”. Overall I was disappointed. When the new models show up I will need to buy a new one because the Mini2 is becoming unusably slow. But my hopes for a more readable unit have disappeared.

  8. Peter – I see “ghosts” of airplanes often, (but have never seen my own) and attributed it to receiving ADS-B In broadcasts, followed by the ATC Radar broadcast from a ground station. I have seen YouTube videos of take-off’s where their FF voice is declaring “traffic at 12 o’clock” – which I believe is the same phenomenon. Anyway, my new iPad Mini is ordered and should be here in about 10 days and will be anxious to see what the new processor can do.

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