More than a few eyebrows shot up when Apple announced the new iPad Mini ($400) last month. After all, it had been three and a half years since the device had received any sort of hardware update — not to mention the fact that overall tablet sales have been dwindling for years.
So why, then, would Apple release a new 7.9-inch iPad that looks identical to the last iPad Mini; only supports Apple’s first-gen stylus, not the newest Apple Pencil; and shares similar specs to the also-new, much-sexier iPad Air.
Easy. Businesses love it.
Take Southwest Airlines, for example, whose flight attendants carry iPad Minis to communicate with other crew members; or Home Depot, where the staff uses iPad Minis to train new employees and field customer service queries.
The medical field has also taken to the iPad Mini. “We provide iPad mini to our residents and hospitalists,” says Dr. Richard Milani, Chief Clinical Transformation Officer at Ochsner Health System in Jefferson, Louisiana. “It fits in a physicians’ coat pockets and we use it to authenticate into the Epic Canto app with TouchID within seconds.” (Canto is used doctors quickly access things like a patient’s health history, test results and other notes.)
If you’ve been in a Chilis in the past year or two, or any number of fast-casual restaurants, you’ve liked used an iPad Mini to order. “It provides a platform for table-side ordering and is also compact enough to fit in an apron pocket,” says Wade Allen, SVP Chief Digital Officer at Brinker International, Chili’s parent company.
Of course, Apple wouldn’t try to sell everyday consumers on the iPad Mini if it didn’t think people would buy the thing. The size puts it in that comfortable middle ground between a smartphone and a computer — a great travel companion, deft at answering emails or streaming shows on the road. It’s also the only iPad you can wield one-handed, an underrated trait.
It’s tough to say where the iPad mini goes from here. Apple could add wireless charging, kill the bezels or simply get rid of the home button like featured on the iPad Pro. Then again, some things are better left untouched.