Why the iPad mini is an essential business tool

Using the Apple iPad Mini and iOS 6 in your business

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iPads are already a familiar sight in Business Class and boardrooms, and with the launch of the iPad mini, Apple's tablet range has just become even more business-friendly. The iPad mini is as powerful as its predecessors but it's significantly more portable and much cheaper too.

The iPad mini: key specifications

The iPad mini is very similar to the iPad 2. It has built-in Wi-Fi and optional cellular connectivity, a 1024x768 touch-screen and a dual-core A5 processor. There are twin cameras, speakers and a microphone, a digital compass (plus GPS if you go for the Wi-Fi + Cellular model), a battery that's good for around ten hours of everyday use and Apple's latest operating system, iOS 6.

There are some crucial differences, though, and the most obvious one is that the mini is much smaller. It's just 200mm high, 134.7mm deep and 7.2mm thick, and it weighs in at 308g (312g for the Wi-Fi and cellular model). That's half the weight of a normal iPad.

The mini is much more portable than other iPads: it's half the weight of a full-sized tablet.
Smaller and half the weight of an iPad

The secret to the mini's small size is its display, which is a 7.9-inch panel rather than a 9.7-inch one. It isn't a Retina Display like the iPad 4's, but it does offer the same resolution as the iPad 2. There's also a smaller connector, called Lightning, instead of the familiar Dock connector. Lightning connectors are smarter and smaller than Dock ones, but compatible devices and cables are still relatively rare and Apple's own cables and adapters are pricey.

For many, the most important difference between the iPad mini and its bigger siblings is its price. A 16GB iPad mini is £269, compared to £329 for the equivalent iPad 2 and £399 for the iPad 4. The Wi-Fi + Cellular model is £369, compared to £499 for the iPad 4 (the iPad 2's cellular model supports 3G mobile data, but not 4G).

Those prices include VAT and are for models with 16GB of storage; if you want more memory, the 32GB iPad mini is £349 (£449 for Wi-Fi + Cellular) and the 64GB £429 (£529).

The iPad mini and iOS 6: business-friendly features

iOS 6's VIP Inbox for email enables you to mark contacts as VIPs and then see only messages from those people, and the VIP inbox also works on the lock screen - so you can see if colleagues or clients have contacted you without being notified of every junk email.

You can also flag messages for later action, and the improved attachment system makes it much easier to attach multiple items to a single email. For example, you might use the iPad mini's 5MP camera to take several pictures of a location and then send them all in a single email.

There's no shortage of big-name apps such as Adobe Reader for iPads, and the mini runs all of them
It runs all your standard iPad and iPhone apps like Adobe Reader

The iPad mini also has iMessage - Apple's alternative to SMS messaging - and FaceTime, its video conferencing service. iMessage works across multiple devices, enabling users to receive messages on a Mac, on an iPad or on an iPhone, and FaceTime now works on mobile data networks (if you have the Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad mini) as well as Wi-Fi ones.

Like the larger iPad 4, the iPad mini gets Apple's voice control system Siri, which now supports local business searching as well as commands such as "text Chris to say I'm running late", "invite Karen and Craig to a meeting at 9am on Friday" and so on, and you can dictate directly into applications such as email and word processing.

As with other iPads the iPad mini boasts PC-free activation and updating; encrypted email; secure private networking; location-based reminders; Microsoft Exchange and IMAP email, calendar and contact information; mobile device management to monitor, lock or even wipe managed devices; wireless app distribution for businesses who want to create and distribute their own internal apps; and an App Store full of software covering everything from time management to presentations.