Apple iPad mini review: One for the road
iOS 6 at the helm
iOS 6 on the Apple iPad mini looks just like you'd expect. It's an upscaled version of the iPhone UI, with subtle changes to make better use of the available space here and there. When compared to a full-sized iPad you'll notice that the icons on the iPad mini's display are smaller to compensate for the lower resolution.
Here's a video of the iPad mini in action.
The Apple iPad mini lockscreen has the familiar "slide-to-unlock" slider with a shortcut alongside it to go straight to the Photos app. Double-pressing the home button reveals music controls and a virtual volume rocker. There's no shortcut to open the camera, but given that tablets (even the smaller ones) aren't exactly the best devices for taking snaps on the go that's not too bad.
Once you unlock the iPad mini you dive right in to the simplicity of iOS. Unlike Android, its interface is one consists of a single layer, which has all your apps placed in a grid. You can reorder the apps however you like or place them into folders.
The settings menu is the one place where things get a little deeper. Most of the apps' settings are placed here instead inside the apps themselves. You can view settings for iCloud, Safari, Messages, Photos and so on.
The Do Not Disturb mode, which came as a part of iOS 6 gives you further control over your notifications. If turned on, it will mute incoming calls or alerts. You can allow calls from your favorite contacts and have the option to set a specific time interval during which you won't get any notifications.
There's a dedicated toggle to activate the DND mode and it can be customized in the Notifications submenu. When Do Not Disturb is on, a crescent icon appears next to the clock in the status bar.
As the other iOS 5+ devices, the iPad mini offers a pull-down Notification center a la Android. It looks rather awkward covering just a part of the screen, but that doesn't cause any issues with usability.
You can access the Notification Center from anywhere in the interface and even in games or apps. It does pause the app beneath, so there's no way you accidentally stray off the road while playing Need for Speed.You can set the behavior for the notification from each individual app. The system is pretty flexible and configurable now.
Ideally there would have also been some connectivity toggles in the notification center, but we'll have to wait a bit longer for that we guess.Notifications display on the lockscreen too and they're active. When you respond to a notification by sliding it across the screen, it will take relevant action (return a missed call) or launch the appropriate app
It's a pleasure working with iPad-friendly version of iOS on the smaller screen. The mini handling is boosted by the lower weight and size of the device. It's also possible now to hold the device with one hand and scroll through menus with the other, something almost impossible on a larger iPad.
Operating certain apps and games feels better on the iPad mini, too. Games with dual-dial controls can be problematic on the full-blown 9.7" iPads as they require you to stretch your fingers quite a lot or at least constantly readjust you grip.