A slightly slimmer design, speedier performance and improved multitasking could make the new iPad mini 4 ($399) better for business than last year's model. The new version was announced last week alongside the megasized, productivity-focused iPad Pro, a new 13-inch iPad that works with a keyboard and stylus. While that product is a radical departure from the established iPad formula, the new iPad mini stays the course, with a design that looks nearly identical to last year's iPad mini 3, but adds a few key extras that workers should really appreciate. Here's a quick rundown on what to expect.
As usual, a new round of iPads brings the obligatory performance upgrades. But Apple is also doing a lot to beef up the iPad mini 4's hardware compared to last year's iPad mini 3. In fact, the fourth-generation device will now run on the same A8X chip that powers the larger iPad Air 2. That's a huge upgrade; on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, the iPad Air 2 scored a blazing-fast 4,547, while the iPad mini 3 managed only a middling 2,481. That means you can expect faster, smoother performance overall, as well as speedier multitasking.
Multitasking won't just be faster on the iPad mini 4; it will also be more functional. That's because the device will support Apple's new Split View feature, which lets you run two apps side by side in a split-screen view. It's really handy for certain tasks, like referencing your calendar or a web page while typing up an email message. The iPad Mini 4 will be the first small iPad with split-screen multitasking; the iPad mini 3 wasn't powerful enough to pull it off.
Believe it or not, the iPad mini 4 is actually slimmer than the impressively svelte iPad mini 3. The new slate measures just 0.24 inches thick, compared to 0.29 inches for last year's model. It's a minor difference, but it's still a perk for workers who want the most portable tablet possible.
Longer battery life
We won't know for sure until we get our hands on the iPad mini 4 to test it, but reports indicate that the iPad mini 4 will likely last longer on a charge than last year's model did. While the iPad mini 3 lasted an already impressive 9 hours and 10 minutes on our battery test, Apple claims the iPad mini 4 will run for up to 10 hours. A battery-life boost would make sense, as the new model runs on a more efficient processor.
Editor's Note: Apple has since updated the iPad Mini 4 to be running iOS 10. Learn what you need to know about iOS 10 here.
The iPad mini 4 will run on iOS 9, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, which adds a bunch of handy new productivity-boosting features. For example, you get an improved version of Siri, Apple's personal assistant app, which includes new functionality like the ability to understand voice commands in context. That means it can interpret instructions like "Remind me to finish reading this later" when you're viewing an email message. Other additional perks include a new low-power mode to help you stretch your tablet's battery life, handy new keyboard shortcuts for quicker typing and beefed-up security features such as two-factor authentication.
You can choose from silver, gold and space gray. It starts at $399 for 128GB of storage and Wi-Fi-only connectivity. If you want the Wi-Fi plus cellular option, it will cost you $529.
Of course, iOS 9 isn't exclusive to the iPad mini 4; the OS upgrade is coming to all Apple tablets except the original iPad, which launched in 2010. But if you don't already own an iPad, the update provides some good incentives to consider getting one now.