There’s finally a new iPad mini. Two and a half years after introducing the iPad mini 5, Apple unveiled the sixth generation 8″ tablet at their “California Streaming” event this week. Some had worried that the smallest iPad model, long the most popular option for pilots, might be going away but this update should ensure its survival for at least a few more years. Here’s a look at what’s new.
The iPad mini 6 is both a big update and a modest one. Unlike the iPad mini 4 to 5 update, this is more than just an internal component change—it looks different. The latest generation case features squared off edges, much like the latest iPad Pro and Air models, which feels solid and has been well-received by pilots. The screen is also larger (8.3″ compared to 7.9″) and is what Apple calls a Liquid Retina display. This edge-to-edge format is a step up but it’s worth noting that the screen brightness is the same (500 nits) and features the same antireflective coating, so we wouldn’t expect the in-airplane performance to be much different.
That’s not the case with the processing power. The iPad mini 6 uses the latest generation A15 Bionic chip, which is a major boost compared to the A12 Bionic chip on the mini 5. Quantifying performance upgrades is always tough, but it’s fair to say this is a significant step up in processing speed and should be noticeable for high end features like synthetic vision. If nothing else, buying the latest processor is good protection against the tablet becoming obsolete.
A few other details could matter for pilots, including the new USB-C power port. This matches the trend of the latest iPad Pro and Air models, but marks a break from the iPad mini 1-5, which included a lightning connector. The mini 6 has a Touch ID sensor on the power button, not Face ID as you’d find on an iPad Pro (and which some people expected to see). This isn’t a major tradeoff, and was likely done to keep the price down. There’s a new 5G modem on the cellular models for faster data connectivity, plus better front and rear cameras, and improved speakers. It also works with the second generation Apple Pencil, a stylus that magnetically clips on the side of the iPad. We’ve used this on iPad Pros over the last few years and it is a viable option for copying clearances in flight.
The overall dimensions are different from the iPad mini 5, but not by much: the iPad mini 6 is 0.3″ shorter, but width, depth, and weight are the same. That means most universal mounts and kneeboards will work with the new model quite well, but custom fit mounts (like the RAM EZ Roll’r) will need a new cradle. Pricing is a bit higher, at $499 for 64GB of storage and $649 for 256GB, or $649 and $799 if you want LTE. These are still very competitive prices, for the performance, and make the mini 6 a pretty good value. It’s essentially an iPad Air 4 in a smaller size. You can learn more at Apple’s website.
One thing that was quite noticeable during Apple’s presentation was the prominent role aviation played in it. Pilots are specifically mentioned in the company’s press release on the iPad mini 6, and the media kit includes a screenshot of ForeFlight. The livestream also showed pilots using the tablet in flight. Many have joked that aviation was the industry keeping the iPad mini around—maybe it’s true.
In addition to the iPad mini 6, the event also featured a new “basic iPad” (now on generation 9). This is a modest update, mostly featuring a processor upgrade—Apple claims the A13 Bionic chip inside is 20% faster. But most of the other features are the same: it still has a home button, it still has a lightning connector, and still works with the first generation Apple Pencil. The physical size is identical, so all existing cases and mounts should work with the iPad 9. Pricing is $329 for 64GB of storage—that’s double the storage for the same price as the iPad 8—making this a great starter iPad.
And of course there was a new iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 to show off. This was another minor update overall, with the same case as the iPhone 12 but with a brighter display (800 nits) on the 6.1″ and 5.4″ screens and the new A15 chip. Of course there are better cameras, as well as a boost to battery life (2.5 hours longer than 12). The iPhone 13 mini starts at $699, and the iPhone 13 starts $799. There’s also a new top-of-the-line iPhone 13 Pro with a brighter screen, faster graphics, better cameras, and 1.5 hours longer battery life than the iPhone 12 Pro. Prices start at $999 for the 13 Pro and $1099 for the large screen 13 Pro Max.
Rounding out the event was the Apple Watch Series 7. This features the same basic shape as previous generations, but with rounded corners and larger text. It also offers 18 hours of battery life, a more durable and crack-resistant screen, but there are no new health sensors as some suspected. The Watch Series 7 starts at $399, and the Series 3 stays around for $199.