The Apple Newton is Back
I was fascinated by the Apple Newton when it was introduced in 1993, but as a child of the 90’s I never actually owned one. These were expensive tools for professionals, not toys to be played with by school-age kids.
But these days I’m the highly mobile professional envisioned by the Newton product designers. I need one device that can serve multiple purposes. As a tablet, it's great for proofreading or entertainment. As a desktop, it's great for research and content creation. As a mobile device, it's great for communication, including email and phone calls. And all of this should be accomplished seamlessly through integrated applications.
The new iPad mini 6 fits these requirements almost perfectly. In just one week’s time, it has quickly become my go-to device for every use case. There are three killer features: size, battery life, and support for multiple input devices.
What makes iPad mini 6 so great?
Let’s start with the size. At 8.3 inches, it is small enough to take with you everywhere you go, but big enough to never feel too small. It is the perfect combination of portability and usability. Like the original iPad, it feels like holding the internet in the palm of your hand. With 326 PPI, the screen is both sharp and roomy, making it great for reading ebooks and general browsing.
Interestingly, the Newton 2100 was 8.3 inches tall with a screen that was about 6.5 inches. This makes for a PPI of just 88.
Apple rates the iPad mini for about 10 hours of battery life under ideal conditions. I notice the 5G in my cellular model is a bit of a battery drain, but I still get a full day of use out of it. This is with mostly using it for messaging, voice calls, and browsing.
Speaking of voice calls, if you also have an iPhone, you can enable “Wi-Fi Calling” in Settings > Cellular > Cellular Plan > Wi-Fi Calling. This will allow you to make regular phone calls and send text messages from your iPad using the same phone number as your iPhone. And, if you have the cellular model iPad, you can use your data plan on the go and leave your iPhone at home.
The Newton was designed for use with a stylus, while the iPad mini was famously designed for use with one of your 10 that are built-in. You can just pick it up and go, and get the same touch experience you are already familiar with. Or, you can use an Apple Pencil for precise input. And similar to the Newton, you can use the Pencil to scribble something down and have it instantly translated into typed text.
What about on the desktop?
The desktop, however, is where iPadOS still falls short. Plugging in to an external monitor is great for giving presentations or watching videos, but anything else is limited to screen mirroring. This means you can generally only use up to two apps at a time and screen resolution is limited.
Further, this limitation unfortunately hinders the desktop-class browsing offered by Safari, as it does not take advantage of the external monitor. But maybe Apple will provide this functionality in a future update.
On the up side, you can connect just about any keyboard and mouse to help make use of a larger external monitor, giving you a desktop-like experience. you could connect a keyboard to the Newton, too, but it used a proprietary interface that required a specific keyboard. You could either use it or leave it.
Despite the minor drawbacks, the iPad mini 6 is still the most productive personal computer I have ever owned. I have one device that can run all my critical apps across multiple form factors.
I love the new iPad mini 6 and I am excited for the future of the iPad in general. Apple has readily achieved the dream of computing working like an appliance. You don’t have to think about it. Its just there. Ready when you are.