Apple iPad mini 3 review: A touch of gold

A touch of gold

Ivan Petkov, 21 November 2014.

Apple iOS 8.1 on the iPad mini 3

The Apple iPad mini 3 runs on the latest version of iOS - 8.1 - but looks unchanged compared to iOS 7. It has a flat, colorful look with fresh icons and transparent elements throughout the OS. Here's a brief look at what iOS 8.1 looks like on the latest iPad.

The lockscreen is the same clean affair. It features a swipe to unlock and camera shortcut. A double press of the Home key will bring up the multimedia controls as usual. Lockscreen notifications are available as well.

You can passcode-protect the lockscreen but with the iPad mini 3 you can also finger-lock it thanks to Touch ID. The Touch ID sensor offers 360-degree readability translating into effortless scanning of your fingerprint. Apple has integrated Touch ID as an added security measure, but it'll still allow you to use your passcode as a backup form of validation. Enabling passcode is also a mandatory requirement in order to use Touch ID.

You can commit up to five fingerprint samples (yours or those of family and friends), which is cool for setting a limited list of people with access to your device. Apple warns that with all five fingerprint slots filled in, the Touch ID sensor operation may take a slight performance hit.

As of iOS 8 the Touch ID is available to developers and they can used it for third-party security layers and authorizations. The developers can't gain access to your actual fingerprints, nobody can. They just can use the Touch ID service.

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Since the iPad mini 3 doesn't have NFC it can't be used for Apple Pay's main service, sorry. But you still can authorize online payments once Apple Pay begins competing with PayPal.

Apple iOS 8 looks the same as its predecessor. All of your apps are on the homescreen, folders are available and there is the familiar dock that can take up to six shortcuts. System icons, color themes and transparency - everything is like we left it in iOS 7.

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The Notification Center has changed a bit more sine iOS 7. The All and Missed tabs are now gone, replaced by a unified Notification tab. The Today section has been improved and you can jump to its editing options from the bottom of the page.

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Notification center

The interaction with the pop-up notifications has been improved. Now you can quickly reply right inside the notification banner, discard calendar alarms, mark tasks as complete, comment and like on Facebook, among others.

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Interacting with popup notifications

While the refined Notification Center might look insignificant, it is among the places expected to make a big difference, in terms of usability. It has been unlocked to developers and various apps already offer interactive widgets. Unfortunately those have a long way ahead before they turn out as useful as Apple had in mind in the first place.

Control center is the same with controls for music, volume slider, brightness slider, camera shortcut, timer shortcut, AirDrop menu and six toggles for Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, Silent and Rotation lock.

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Control center • Spotlight

The task-switcher interface is invoked with a double press on the Home key. All apps are presented with cards that you can swipe up to close. Each card has the respective app icon so you can easily recognize what's what.

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Task switcher

Apple made a big deal of the Spotlight update - the unified search tool now supports smart suggestions. Spotlight is now capable of pulling suggestions from Wikipedia, IMDb, an assortment of news sources, nearby places, App Store and iTunes content, iBooks and more. This is indeed a tremendous usability boost. By the way, suggestions work within the Safari browser too.

Apple iPad Mini 3

Another notable improvement over the previous iOS version is enabling developers to add their own sharing options or actions in the iOS contextual menus. For example, if you have an app that sends files over Bluetooth, it can integrate with the iOS contextual menus and there you go - you get standard Bluetooth file sharing in just one click. You can edit the available sharing options and actions in these menus, so they don't get cluttered.

The Open In option is available as well - you can redirect any file of unknown format from anywhere to any app you want. For example you open a document within your Dropbox and they you can choose Open In and open (a copy of) the file with an office editor of your choice.

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This is where the new sharing and action plugins appear • Open In

Apple has finally added battery usage stats in the Settings menu. There you can find which app drained your battery and how (low signal, background usage, etc.). You get daily and weekly stats.

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Battery stats

Do Not Disturb mode is available on the iPad mini 3. It gives users further control of notifications, or rather their suppression. If turned on, it will mute incoming FaceTime calls or alerts. You can allow FaceTime calls from your favorite contacts and have the option to set a specific time interval in which you won't get any notifications.

The intelligent voice assistant Siri got better with iOS 8. Its most important new addition is the Shazam integration. There is no need to ask Siri to recognize a song - just open Siri and let it listen - then it will tell you the name of the song and will provide you with an iTunes link. Another new cool option is voice activation. If your iDevice is hooked up on a charger/cable you can summon Siri by saying "Hey, Siri".

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Siri UI

Siri can carry out commands affecting the iOS - it can turn Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on/off, increase brightness, play voicemails, check other people's social network status, play iTunes Radio stations, etc. It is a really powerful voice assistant capable of even POI search. Assistance with restaurant booking is part of Siri's set of skills. It will find you exactly the restaurant you are looking for and filter the results based on user reviews. You can run impressively detailed searches based on food type, location, outdoor, pool, price range, ratings, etc. This feature is not available in every country, though.

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Siri in action

Siri also answer slots of questions and including game scores. History, stats, player bios, player comparison, teams, records, etc. Siri should be able to return most of the info right onto its own screen, without switching over to the browser. The same applies to movies. You will get all of your movie-related answers right inside the Siri window - anything about actors, directors, awards, movie stats, premieres and tickets, reviews, trailers, etc. Siri also comes with Wikipedia integration.

Finally, Siri in iOS 8 can take dictation in 24 new languages, which will spare lots of people some typing on the keyboard.

iOS 8 brings a very familiar user interface and logic of operations with minor improvements towards better customization. We've yet to see how this will turn out once the developers start offering various interactive widgets, sharing options and actions, but the platform should benefit a lot.

The four/five-finger multi-tasking gestures are also available on the iPad mini 3. You can switch between the active apps using four (or five)-finger swipes. A similar swipe to the top will bring you the task switcher. Finally, you can use four (or five as it feels more natural) finger pinch zoom out. It will bring you the homescreen, while the app will go in background.

iOS 8 offers native integration with Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr but no new services, sadly.

Handoff and continuity

The new Handoff option is probably the most advertised iOS 8 feature. It allows you to start something on one Apple device and continue working on it on another. For example, you can start writing an email on your iPhone, get close to your Mac or iPad and you will be able to continue what you are working on from there. This works between iOS 8 running iPhones, iPods and iPads and Max OS X Yosemite powered Macs.

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And it goes beyond emails and messages. The continuity feature is available for Safari, Maps, Reminders, Calendars, Contacts, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Any Wi-Fi enabled iOS 8-running iPad or a Mac OS X Yosemite is also capable of picking your iOS 8 iPhone calls up. You can answer and make calls on your iPad or Mac via your iPhone thanks to the Handoff feature - the only other requirement besides the OS version is that all devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

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Apple guessed that anyone making calls via Handoff will eventually need to send SMS/MMS/iMessages the same way, so the functionality has been implemented. Just open your Messaging app on your iPad or Mac and you can send whatever message you want thanks to your iPhone connection.

Finally, there is a new Hotspot feature that once enabled will automatically set up a mobile connection for your iPads and Macs. You don't need to do anything! Your iPhone will know when your iPad or Mac stop using the hotspot and will automatically turn it off.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Iphone 12

  • Adik

why iPad is disabled amd and connect to iTunes

  • AnonD-540325

The future goes through cloud storage and cloud computing, so in a few years from now, sd cards will be obsolete and useless. You can still buy higher capacity mini 3 anyways, on a tablet 64 GB should be more than decent.