Powered by the previously mentioned A7 chip, the iPad mini 3 comes loaded with iOS 8. Recent history has not been kind to Apple and software updates, as bugs too often come attached (Update, April 2015: Despite enticements such as the ability to enjoy the discovered Vulcan hand salute emoji, reports state that iOS 8.3 brings with it a particularly frustrating bug that disables Touch ID. Some workarounds to the problem have been reported by various sources, despite the fact that others are calling 8.3 a disaster. Perhaps only the impending release of iOS 8.4 will bring a final fix, but that has yet to be proved out.)
The iPad mini 3 comes in two models: Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi plus cellular for greater roaming functionality. Both models sport 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.0, and download speeds that top out at 300 Mbps. The Wi-Fi plus cellular model is compatible with high-speed LTE. Presently, participating carriers in the U.S. are AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.
The iPad mini 3’s inclusion of a new “Apple SIM” (also only available in the iPad Air 2) makes it possible for you to hop between wireless carriers without having to insert a new SIM card every time you switch. Note that at the present time, Verizon isn’t on the list of carriers that are participating with this hop capability, even though they do offer iPad mini cellular plan support. This is, as all things, subject to change in the future.
Owing to having launched with a couple of exceptional built-in cameras from the very start, the iPad mini 3 camera offers no improvements in camera quality. While this isn’t necessarily a good thing, it’s also not a bad thing for the non-professional photographer.
The front-facing FaceTime HD camera snaps photos at 1.2MP and records video at 720p. Its rear-facing iSight camera captures images in 5MP and includes the same lineup of features and functions present in the mini 2, including face detection, autofocus, a five-element lens, a hybrid IR filter, and f/2.4 aperture. The rear-facing video camera captures moving images in 1080p HD, but possibly one of the biggest let-downs is the fact that there’s still no support for slo-mo video recording.
Other standard video inclusions are tap to focus during video recording, stabilization, 3x zoom and time-lapse recording. Standard backside illumination improves low-light performance, but that’s also par for the course with respect to all iPad iterations.
According to Apple, the iPad mini 3 lithium-ion battery is rated to provide as many as 10 hours for web surfing, video playback and audio playback when dialed in via Wi-Fi. Using a cellular data network as your primary connection should give you 9 hours of solid life. Our testing showed results comparable to Apple’s projections of estimated battery life, which brought little surprise considering the company’s reputation for producing mobile devices that can greatly outlast those of all other competitors.
Price and Availability
You can get the iPad mini 3 with Wi-Fi from Apple starting at $399 for 16GB storage, $499 for 64GB, and $599 for 128GB. The Wi-Fi plus cellular model starts at $529 and goes up to $729. A quick online search at Amazon turned up an iPad mini 3 Wi-Fi with 16GB at a slightly lower starting price of $369.