iPad mini retina vs iPad Air from a Knowledge Perspective

iPad_Air_on_stand_with_Coffee

Revised Jan 29. I have both iPads so have been using and comparing them for about two months now. Both iPads are extraordinary and leaps ahead of previous iPads. Choosing one is difficult.

Here are some of the places each wins:

iPad mini with Retina

  • Easier to Carry
  • Easier to Hold
  • More Portable – not for pockets but fits purses
  • Cheaper by $100

iPad Air

  • Bigger Screen
  • Faster
  • Better Color Gamut
  • Better for important work

The Casual User

In my view, the more casual user is better off with the handier, smaller, lighter device in most cases because the demands on it are less. If I’m a casual user, I want easy and fun above all else and the mini wins here. The casual user is reading, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, emailing, texting, looking at photos, taking notes, checking the weather.

The Knowledge Enthusiast / Professional User

This large group of knowledge enthusiasts and professionals may have different needs when it comes to iPads. An employed or self-employed knowledge professional is doing his life’s work at work or in off hours as a serious hobby. These people lose the distinction between work and leisure in a large part of there days, nights and weekends.

In my case, a lot of my reading, note-taking, research and creating is related to my technology consultant and software developer work. I try to take off one day a week – Saturday. Still and all I might do an experimental software project that day or read about designers or read the new Jony Ive book partly because I want to do better design in my work.

I need a tablet that does well in work and play. My 2 months work and play with these iPads tells me that the iPad Air competes well against the mini when you want an all-purpose iPad. Just like with paper notepads and notebooks, a roomier canvas can help the creative process. It can help you think.

The Argument For a Bigger Screen

If you like larger for your eyes and/or fat fingers, you’ll like the iPad Air:

  • If you have large fingers and get frustrated finding the exact spot to tap.
  • If you are big and strong, the iPad Air at 1 lb might seem small and light already. No need for an itty bitty iPad mini.

Any time you need to do a lot of interaction with the screen pressing buttons, selecting, pinching in and out and moving things,  or even typing, that extra screen real estate comes in handy. I will call this serious use. The serious nature of your work and benefits of the larger screen might trump the portability and holdability advantages of the iPad mini.

If you Can’t Decide Get the iPad mini with Retina

If you are right in the middle stuck there and can’t decide. I would recommend the mini just because that portability and hold-ability will have you use it and carry it more – so you get more value that way. And, you save $100 out of the box. That $100 could pay for the LTE version or double the storage, both nice to haves.

If you Can’t Decide Get Both

There is a third alternative if funds are available and you can justify the expense. Getting both. As a technology professional, I could justify the purchase. If money is a big concern, though, you may find it frustrating to have both and mostly be only using one at a time.

I use the iPad mini when:

  • Reading in bed or on the couch.
  • I’ve got it in my hand already which doesn’t happen as often with the Air.

I use  the Air when:

  • I want to do serious work with it.
  • I want to use an external keyboard and write. The portable keyboards like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover that I have are better with the wider iPad Air. But, an external keyboard like the Apple wireless works as well with the mini just takes up more space in your kit bag.
  • I’m home and can use whichever iPad suits me. Web browsing can be nicer on that bigger screen… Big screens rock!
  • As a laptop substitute when I am going out, expect to have some sitting time and I am not taking my laptop.
  • These iPads are so light that you can take both with you out the door and leave your Mac home and come out pretty well.

The Mac is not Dead Yet Either

This first month, I haven’t taken a keyboard with me to a coffee place to facilitate typing. Instead I either take my pretty light Macbook Pro retina along with the mini when I need to do FileMaker development (which can’t be done yet on an iPad) or use a Mac app that has no iPad equivalent like Scapple! I’ve been reassured that Scapple for iPad is in the works. And, I would bet money that modest FileMaker development will become a paid option on an iPad within a year or so. The roomier iPad Air screen will be nice for some of these applications.

Final Verdict

Ok, Ok. If I had to choose 1 today, I would go with the iPad mini. I’m a woman and the size of the mini is really nice. The mini is a better value by a hair and you’ll use it more often than the larger tablet unless you really don’t prefer the smaller size.

If you have further thoughts, I would love to hear them here or have you direct me back to your entry elsewhere.

Happy New Year!

I’m Posting FileMaker Tips over on my FileMaker Fever blog

FileMaker_Pro_12_BoxI call myself a computer professional. The way I make my living is primarily by developing custom applications and selling my FileMaker-based application for creative services businesses (Studio Manager). In my spare time I’ve been working on this app I call Knowledger (see my last post).

Now I’m starting to talk about easy ways to get FileMaker to talk to other apps by pressing a button over at my FileMaker Fever Blog.

FileMaker is the knowledge worker’s database. It means you can have your specialty that’s not FileMaker and still get amazing things out of it. FileMaker consultants may find some tips they haven’t thought of or seen before, but my intended audience is you.

I don’t believe in hard to use, arcane database apps. I like the easy stuff so I can remain human and not be required to become a full-time programmer just to access, collect, use and manipulate data the way I want.

Hopefully, my FileMaker Fever blog will provide you with some simple FileMaker tips that you can use without asking a professional for help. That doesn’t mean you might not want to ask for a little help once and a while if you get ambitious and have a question.

Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Knowledger

I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.

Creativity

Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.

Travel

There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.

Coffee Shop Computing circa Dec 2012

Let’s agree that computing extends to iPads and iPhones, tablets and smartphones and the iPod touch. I prefer to get my morning exercise and some caffeinated computing done while outside the house at a local coffee spot. My rule is that I can’t go play at the local coffee shop unless I walk there. Seems fair.

I have a near weightless REI backpack to carry my gear – the kind designed for carrying water while cycling. Here is my current configuration:

  • retina MacBook Pro 13″
  • iPad 3 and/or iPad mini
  • iPhone 5

With this lineup, there’s no need for an extra keyboard, I’ll use the rMBP if there’s much typing involved. And love every minute of it. Cost 3.5 lbs.

Favorite writing apps include Day One, Byword and iA Writer. I’ve grown to prefer apps that support markdown because rich text isn’t universally supported across apps and is especially weak on iOS. I also prefer doing my email (Mail), strenuous web research (Safari) , free form diagramming (Scapple) and other non-iOS work like FileMaker Pro development on Mac (I just finished release 12 of my Studio Manager product – yay!). I got a lot more enthused about Mac once I acquired this retina wonder in October.

Reading, which is probably the biggest chunk of my time on these outings, is done on iPad 3 with its awesome retina and better reading form factor. It’s almost a toss up between the 3 and my cute, svelte, nearly weightless iPad mini. I often take both of these so I have the choice between the sheer eye pleasure of retina or the feather-weight delight of the mini. If you take the iPad 3, what’s another .68 lbs? Both offers you the chance to switch away from the iPad 3 if it starts feeling heavy after a while. The already rumored retina mini may make this twosome obsolete next year. The only casualty in all this has been a Kindle – I haven’t popped for a nearly free ($119) Kindle Paperwhite due to lack of juggling capability. Even I have my limits.

Where does that leave the iPhone 5 then? This handheld of choice is still relevant my friends. The form factor is incredibly ahem handy especially when moving or in line. You still can’t beat the ease of use you get when in motion – walking to and from my coffee place of choice. If not in hand, it is in pocket and ready at a moment’s notice. I still prefer this little guy when reading in bed or on the couch in many cases. This preference will probably go away once the retina iPad mini is here. But the iPhone 5 awesome retina – better than ever due to blacker blacks, is a serious competitor for reading with the much less rewarding text of the iPad mini. Don’t forget all those lines we wait in. The omnipresent iPhone 5 is there by your side. No pack or purse required. It doesn’t hurt that it has cellular data either.

Personal Technology for Independent Knowledge Professionals