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5G telephones are right here however there’s no rush to improve

Judhajeet Das

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This yr’s Cellular World Congress — the CES for Android system makers — was awash with 5G handsets.

The world’s No.1 smartphone vendor by marketshare, Samsung, acquired out forward with a standalone launch occasion in San Francisco, displaying off two 5G units, simply earlier than quick-following Android rivals popped out their very own 5G telephones at launch occasions throughout Barcelona this week.

We’ve rounded up all these 5G handset launches right here. Costs vary from an eye fixed-popping $2,600 for Huawei’s foldable phabet-to-pill Mate X — and an equally eye-watering $1,980 for Samsung’s Galaxy Fold; one other 5G handset that bends — to a fairly extra affordable $680 for Xiaomi’s Mi Combine three 5G, albeit the system is in any other case mid-tier. Different costs for 5G telephones introduced this week stay tbc.

Android OEMs are clearly hoping the hype round subsequent-gen cellular networks can work a bit of advertising magic and kick-begin stalled smartphone progress. Particularly with stories suggesting Apple gained’t launch a 5G iPhone till at the very least subsequent yr. So 5G is an area Android OEMs alone get to personal for some time.

Chipmaker Qualcomm, which is embroiled in a bitter patent battle with Apple, was additionally on stage in Barcelona to help Xiaomi’s 5G telephone launch — loudly claiming the subsequent-gen tech is coming quick and can improve “every part”.

“We wish to work with corporations like Xiaomi to take dangers,” lavished Qualcomm’s president Cristiano Amon upon his hosts, utilizing 5G uptake to jibe at Apple by implication. “Once we take a look at the chance forward of us for 5G we see a chance to create winners.”

Regardless of the heavy hype, Xiaomi’s on stage demo — which it claimed was the primary reside 5G video name outdoors China — appeared oddly staged and was not precisely missing in latency.

“Actual 5G — not pretend 5G!” completed Donovan Sung, the Chinese language OEM’s director of product administration. As a 5G gross sales pitch it was all very underwhelming. Far more ‘so what’ than ‘should have’.

Whether or not 5G advertising hype alone will persuade shoppers it’s previous time to improve appears extremely unlikely.

Telephones promote on options relatively than connectivity per se, and — no matter Qualcomm claims — 5G is being gentle-launched into the market by money-constrained carriers whose growth occasions lie behind them, i.e. earlier than over-the-prime gamers had wolfed their messaging revenues and monopolized shopper eyeballs.

All of which makes 5G an incremental shopper improve proposition within the close to to medium time period.

Use-instances for the subsequent-gen community tech, which is touted as capable of help speeds as much as 100x quicker than LTE and ship latency of just some milliseconds (in addition to connecting many extra units per cell website), are additionally nonetheless being formulated, not to mention apps and providers created to leverage 5G.

However promoting a community improve to shoppers by claiming the killer apps are going to be superb however you simply can’t present them any but is as robust as making an attempt to make theatre out of a touch much less janky video name.

“5G might probably assist [spark smartphone growth] in a few years as worth factors decrease, and availability expands, however even which may not see progress charges just like the transition to 3G and 4G,” suggests Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at Artistic Methods, writing in a weblog publish discussing Samsung’s technique with its newest gadget launches.

“This isn’t as a result of 5G is just not necessary, however as a result of it’s incremental with regards to telephones and it is going to be different units that may ship on experiences, we didn’t even assume have been potential. Shoppers may find yourself, subsequently, sharing their finances greater than they did through the rise of smartphones.”

The ‘drawback’ for 5G — if we will name it that — is that 4G/LTE networks are capably delivering all of the stuff shoppers love proper now: Video games, apps and video. Which signifies that for the overwhelming majority of shoppers there’s merely no purpose to hurry to shell out for a ‘5G-prepared’ handset. Not if 5G is all of the innovation it’s obtained going for it.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G with a twin display accent for gaming

Use instances corresponding to higher AR/VR are additionally a troublesome promote given how weak shopper demand has usually been on these fronts (with the odd branded exception).

The barebones actuality is that business 5G networks are as uncommon as hen’s tooth proper now, outdoors a number of restricted geographical places within the U.S. and Asia. And 5G will stay a really patchy patchwork for the foreseeable future.

Certainly, it might take a really very long time certainly to realize nationwide protection in lots of nations, if 5G even finally ends up stretching proper to all these edges. (Various applied sciences do additionally exist which might assist fill in gaps the place the ROI simply isn’t there for 5G.)

So once more shoppers shopping for telephones with the overvalued concept of with the ability to faucet into 5G proper right here, proper now (Qualcomm claimed 2019 goes to be “the yr of 5G!”) will discover themselves restricted to only a handful of city places all over the world.

Analysts are clear that 5G rollouts, whereas coming, are going to be measured and focused as carriers strategy what’s touted as a multi-business-reworking wi-fi know-how cautiously, with an eye fixed on their capex and whereas concurrently making an attempt to determine how greatest to restructure their companies to interact with all of the companions they’ll have to forge enterprise relations with, throughout industries, to be able to efficiently promote 5G’s transformative potential to all types of enterprises — and lock onto “the sweep spot the place 5G is sensible”.

Enterprise rollouts subsequently look more likely to be prioritized over shopper 5G — as was the case for 5G launches in South Korea on the again finish of final yr.

“4G was much more pushed by the buyer aspect and there was an understanding that you simply have been going for nationwide protection that was by no means actually a query and also you have been delivering on the info promise that 3G by no means actually delivered… so there was a niche of know-how that wanted to be crammed. With 5G it’s a lot much less clear,” says Gartner’s Sylvain Fabre, discussing the tech’s hype and the truth with TechCrunch forward of MWC.

“4G’s excellent, you have got a number of networks which are Gbps or extra and that’s persevering with to extend on the downlink with a number of service aggregation… and different densification schemes. So 5G doesn’t… have as hole as massive to fill. It’s nice however once more it’s applicability of the place it’s uniquely positioned is sort of like a really slender area of interest in the mean time.”

“It’s such a step change that the actual energy of 5G is definitely in creating new enterprise fashions utilizing community slicing — allocation of specific points of the community to a specific use-case,” Forrester analyst Dan Bieler additionally tells us. “All of this requires some rethinking of what connectivity means for an enterprise buyer or for the buyer.

“And telco gross sales individuals, the telco go-to-market strategy isn’t based mostly on promoting use-instances, principally — it’s promoting applied sciences. So this can be a vital shift for the typical telco distribution channel to undergo. And I might consider it will maintain again lots of the 5G ambitions for the medium time period.”

To be clear, carriers at the moment are actively kicking the tyres of 5G, after years of lead-in hype, and grappling with technical challenges round how greatest to improve their present networks so as to add in and construct out 5G.

Many are operating pilots and testing what works and what doesn’t, resembling the place to put antennas to get probably the most dependable sign and so forth. And some have put a toe within the water with business launches (globally there are 23 networks with “some type of reside 5G of their business networks” at this level, in line with Fabre.)

However on the similar time 5G community requirements are but to be absolutely finalized so the core know-how is just not one hundred% absolutely baked. And with it being early days “there’s nonetheless an extended method to go earlier than we’ve an actual vital influence of 5G sort of providers”, as Bieler places it. 

There’s additionally spectrum availability to think about and the price of buying the required spectrum. In addition to the time required to clear and put together it for business use. (On spectrum, authorities coverage is essential to creating issues occur shortly (or not). In order that’s yet one more issue moderating how shortly 5G networks could be constructed out.)

And regardless of some wishful considering business noises at MWC this week — calling for governments to ‘help digitization at scale’ by handing out spectrum totally free (uhhhh, yeah proper) — that’s actually simply whistling into the wind.

Rolling out 5G networks is undoubtedly going to be very costly, at a time when carriers’ companies are already confronted with rising prices (from growing knowledge consumption) and subdued income progress forecasts.

“The world now works on knowledge” and telcos are “at core of this variation”, as one service CEO — Singtel’s Chua Sock Koong — put it in an MWC keynote through which she delved into the alternatives and challenges for operators “as we go from conventional connectivity to a brand new age of clever connectivity”.

Chua argued will probably be troublesome for carriers to compete “on the idea of connectivity alone” — suggesting operators should pivot their companies to construct out standalone enterprise choices promoting all types of b2b providers to help the digital transformations of different industries as a part of the 5G promise — and that’s clearly going to suck up lots of their time and thoughts for the foreseeable future.

In Europe alone estimates for the price of rolling out 5G vary between €300BN and €500BN (~$340BN-$570BN), in line with Bieler. Figures that underline why 5G goes to develop slowly, and networks be constructed out thoughtfully; within the b2b area this implies primarily on a case-by-case foundation.

Merely put carriers should make the economics stack up. Which suggests no “large monumental gambles with 5G”. And omnipresent ROI strain pushing them to attempt to eke out a premium.

“A number of the community gear distributors have turned down the hype fairly a bit,” Bieler continues. “For those who examine this to the hype round 3G a few years in the past or 4G a few years in the past 5G undoubtedly comes throughout as a smooth launch. Kind of an evolutionary sort of know-how. I’ve not come throughout a community gear distributors today who will say there shall be an entire change in every little thing by 2020.”

On the buyer pricing entrance, carriers have additionally solely simply began to grapple with 5G enterprise fashions. One early instance is TC dad or mum Verizon’s 5G house service — which positions the subsequent-gen wi-fi tech as an alternative choice to fastened line broadband with reductions when you go for a wi-fi smartphone knowledge plan in addition to 5G broadband.

From the buyer viewpoint, the service 5G enterprise mannequin conundrum boils right down to: What’s my service going to cost me for 5G? And early adopters of any know-how are likely to get stung on that entrance.

Though, in cellular, worth premiums not often stick round for lengthy as carriers inexorably discover they need to ditch premiums to unlock scale — by way of shopper-pleasant ‘all you’ll be able to eat’ worth plans.

Nonetheless, within the brief time period, carriers look more likely to experiment with 5G pricing and bundles — principally seeing what they will make early adopters pay. However it’s nonetheless removed from clear that folks can pay a premium for higher connectivity alone. And that once more necessitates warning. 

5G bundled with unique content material could be a method carriers attempt to extract a premium from shoppers. However with out big and/or compelling branded content material stock that dangers being a too area of interest proposition too. And the extra carriers cut up their 5G presents the extra shoppers may really feel they don’t have to hassle, and find yourself sticking with 4G for longer.

It’ll additionally clearly take time for a 5G ‘killer app’ to emerge within the shopper area. And such an app would doubtless have to nonetheless be capable of fallback on 4G, once more to make sure scale. So the 5G expertise will actually must be compellingly totally different to ensure that the tech to promote itself.

On the handset aspect, 5G chipset hardware can also be nonetheless in its first wave. At MWC this week Qualcomm introduced a subsequent-gen 5G modem, stepping up from final yr’s Snapdragon 855 chipset — which it closely touted as architected for 5G (although it doesn’t natively help 5G).

For those who’re intending to purchase and maintain on to a 5G handset for a number of years there’s thus a danger of early adopter burn on the chipset degree — i.e. if you find yourself with a tool with a suckier battery life vs later iterations of 5G hardware the place extra efficiency kinks have been ironed out.

Intel has warned its 5G modems gained’t be in telephones till subsequent yr — so, once more, that means no 5G iPhones earlier than 2020. And Apple is in fact a terrific bellwether for mainstream shopper tech; the corporate solely jumps in when it believes a know-how is prepared for prime time, not often sooner. And if Cupertino feels 5G can wait, that’s going to be equally true for many shoppers.

Zooming out, the specter of community safety (and potential regulation) now looms very giant certainly the place 5G is worried, because of East-West commerce tensions injecting a wierd new world of geopolitical uncertainty into an business that’s by no means actually needed to grapple with this type of enterprise danger earlier than.

Chinese language package maker Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping, used the chance of an MWC keynote to defend the corporate and its 5G options towards U.S. claims its community tech could possibly be repurposed by the Chinese language state as a excessive tech conduit to spy on the West — actually telling delegates: “We don’t do dangerous issues” and interesting to them to plainly to: “Please select Huawei!”

Huawei rotating resident, Guo Ping, defends the safety of its community package on stage at MWC 2019

When established know-how distributors are having to make use of a excessive profile business convention to plead for belief it’s unusual and unsure occasions certainly.

In Europe it’s attainable carriers’ 5G community package decisions might quickly be regulated because of safety considerations hooked up to Chinese language suppliers. The European Fee prompt as a lot this week, saying in one other MWC keynote that it’s getting ready to step in attempt to forestall safety considerations on the EU Member State degree from fragmenting 5G rollouts throughout the bloc.

In an on stage Q&A Orange’s chairman and CEO, Stéphane Richard, couched the danger of destabilization of the 5G international provide chain as a “massive concern”, including: “It’s the primary time we’ve got such an necessary danger in our business.”

Geopolitical safety is thus one other challenge carriers are having to think about as they make selections about how shortly to make the leap to 5G. And holding off on upgrades, whereas regulators and different requirements our bodies attempt to determine a trusted means ahead, might sound the extra smart factor to do — probably stalling 5G upgrades in the intervening time.

Given all of the uncertainties there’s definitely no purpose for shoppers to hurry in.

Smartphone improve cycles have slowed globally for a purpose. Cellular hardware is mature as a result of it’s serving shoppers very nicely. Handsets are each highly effective and succesful sufficient to final for years.

And whereas there’s little question 5G will change issues radically in future, together with for shoppers — enabling many extra units to be related and feeding again knowledge, with the potential to ship on the (a lot hyped but in addition nonetheless fairly nascent) ‘sensible residence’ idea — the early 5G gross sales pitch for shoppers primarily boils right down to extra of the identical.

“Over the subsequent ten years 4G will part out. The query is how briskly that occurs within the meantime and once more I feel that may occur slower than in early occasions as a result of [with 5G] you don’t come right into a vacuum, you don’t fill an enormous hole,” suggests Gartner’s Fabre. “4G’s nice, it’s getting higher, wi’fi’s getting higher… The story of let’s construct an enormous nationwide community to do 5G at scale [for all] that’s simply not occurring.”

“I feel we’ll begin very, quite simple,” he provides of the 5G shopper proposition. “Issues like caching knowledge or just doing extra broadband quicker. So extra of the identical.

“It’ll be nice although. However you’ll nonetheless be watching Netflix and perhaps there’ll be a few apps that come up… Perhaps some extra interactive collaboration or what have you ever. However we all know this stuff are getting used immediately by enterprises and shoppers they usually’ll proceed for use.”

So — in sum — the 5G mantra for the smart shopper is actually ‘wait and see’.

Tech Passionate and Heavy Geek! Into Blogging world since 2014 and never looked back since then :) I am also a YouTube Video Producer and a Aspiring Entrepreneur. Founder, MyDroidDoes

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Android

Opera’s VPN returns to its Android browser

Judhajeet Das

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Opera had a couple of tumultuous years behind it, but it looks like the Norwegian browser maker (now in the hands of a Chinese consortium) is finding its stride again and refocusing its efforts on its flagship mobile and desktop browsers. Before the sale, Opera offered a useful stand-alone and built-in VPN service. Somehow, the built-in VPN stopped working after the acquisition. My understanding is that this had something to do with the company being split into multiple parts, with the VPN service ending up on the wrong side of that divide. Today, it’s officially bringing this service back as part of its Android app.

The promise of the new Opera VPN in Opera for Android 51 is that it will give you more control over your privacy and improve your online security, especially on unsecured public WiFi networks. Opera says it uses 256-bit encryption and doesn’t keep a log or retain any activity data.

Since Opera now has Chinese owners, though, not everybody is going to feel comfortable using this service, though. When I asked the Opera team about this earlier this year at MWC in Barcelona, the company stressed that it is still based in Norway and operates under that country’s privacy laws. The message being that it may be owned by a Chinese consortium but that it’s still very much a Norwegian company.

If you do feel comfortable using the VPN, though, then getting started is pretty easy (I’ve been testing in the beta version of Opera for Android for a while). Simply head to the setting menu, flip the switch, and you are good to go.

“Young people are being very concerned about their online privacy as they increasingly live their lives online, said Wallman. “We want to make VPN adoption easy and user-friendly, especially for those who want to feel more secure on the Web but are not aware on how to do it. This is a free solution for them that works.”

What’s important to note here is that the point of the VPN is to protect your privacy, not to give you a way to route around geo-restrictions (though you can do that, too). That means you can’t choose a specific country as an endpoint, only ‘America,’ ‘Asia,’ and ‘Europe.’

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Razer hooks up with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming

Judhajeet Das

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Razer is summoning a big gun as it bids to develop its mobile gaming strategy. The Hong Kong-listed company — which sells laptops, smartphones and gaming peripherals — said today it is working with Tencent on a raft of initiatives related to smartphone-based games.

The collaboration will cover hardware, software and services. Some of the objectives include optimizing Tencent games — which include megahit PUBG and Fortnite — for Razer’s smartphones, mobile controllers and its Cortex Android launcher app. The duo also said they may “explore additional monetization opportunities for mobile gaming,” which could see Tencent integrate Razer’s services, which include a rewards/loyalty program, in some areas.

The news comes on the same day as Razer’s latest earnings, which saw annual revenue grow 38 percent to reach $712.4 million. Razer recorded a net loss of $97 million for the year, down from $164 million in 2017.

The big-name partnership announcement comes at an opportune time for Razer, which has struggled to convince investors of its business. The company was among a wave of much-championed tech companies to go public in Hong Kong — Razer’s listing raised more than $500 million in late 2017 — but its share price has struggled. Razer currently trades at HK$1.44, which is some way down from a HK$3.88 list price and HK$4.58 at the end of its trading day debut. Razer CEO Min Liang Tan has previously lamented a lack of tech savviness within Hong Kong’s public markets despite a flurry of IPOs, which have included names like local services giant Meituan.

Nabbing Tencent, which is one of (if not the) biggest games companies in the world, is a PR coup, but it remains to be seen just what impact the relationship will have at this stage. Subsequent tie-ins, and potentially an investor, would be notable developments and perhaps positive signals that the market is seeking.

Still, Razer CEO Min Liang Tan is bullish about the company’s prospects on mobile.

The company’s Razer smartphones were never designed to be “iPhone-killers” that sold on volume, but there’s still uncertainty around the unit with recent reports suggesting the third-generation phone may have been canceled following some layoffs. (Tan declined to comment on that.)

Mobile is tough — just ask past giants like LG and HTC about that… and Razer’s phone and gaming-focus was quickly copied by others, including a fairly brazen clone effort from Xiaomi, to make sales particularly challenging. But Liang maintains that, in doing so, Razer created a mobile gaming phone market that didn’t exist before, and ultimately that is more important than shifting its own smartphones.

“Nobody was talking about gaming smartphones [before the Razer phone], without us doing that, the genre would still be perceived as casual gaming,” Tan told TechCrunch in an interview. “Even from day one, it was about creating this new category… we don’t see others as competition.”

With that in mind, he said that this year is about focusing on the software side of Razer’s mobile gaming business.

Tan said Razer “will never” publish games as Tencent and others do, instead, he said that the focus is on helping discovery, creating a more immersive experience and tying in other services, which include its Razer Gold loyalty points.

Outside of gaming, Razer is also making a push into payments through a service that operates in Southeast Asia. Fueled by the acquisition of MOL one year ago, Razer has moved from allowing people to buy credit over-the-counter to launch an e-wallet in two countries, Malaysia and Singapore, as it goes after a slice of Southeast Asia’s fintech boom, which has attracted non-traditional players that include AirAsia, Grab and Go-Jek, among others.

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Review: Apple’s new iPad mini continues to be mini

Judhajeet Das

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The iPad mini is super enjoyable to use and is the best-sized tablet for everything but traditional laptop work. It’s very good and I’m glad Apple updated it.

Using Apple Pencil is aces on the smaller mini; don’t worry about the real estate being an issue if you like to scribble notes or make sketches. It’s going to fall behind a larger iPad for a full-time artist, but as a portable scratch pad it’s actually far less unwieldy or cumbersome than an iPad Pro or Air will be.

The only caveat? After using the brilliant new Pencil, the old one feels greasy and slippery by comparison, and lacks that flat edge that helps so much when registering against your finger for shading or sketching out curves.

The actual act of drawing is nice and zippy, and features the same latency and responsiveness as the other Pencil-capable models.

The reasoning behind using the old pencil here is likely a result of a combination of design and cost-saving decisions. No flat edge would require a rethink of the magnetic Pencil charging array from the iPad Pro and it is also apparently prohibitively expensive in a way similar to the smart connector. Hence its lack of inclusion on either Air or mini models.

Touch ID feels old and slow when compared to iPad Pro models, but it’s not that bad in a mini, where you’re almost always going to be touching and holding it rather than setting it down to begin typing. It still feels like you’re being forced to take an awkward, arbitrary additional action to start using the iPad though. It really puts into perspective how fluidly Face ID and the new gestures work together.

The design of the casing remains nearly identical, making for broad compatibility with old cases and keyboards if you use those with it. The camera has changed positions and the buttons have been moved slightly though, so I would say your mileage may vary if you’re bringing old stuff to the table.

The performance of the new mini is absolutely top notch. While it falls behind when compared to the iPad Pro, it is exactly the same (I am told, I do not have one to test yet) as the iPad Air. It’s the same on paper though, so I believe it in general and there is apparently no “detuning” or under-clocking happening. This makes the mini a hugely powerful tiny tablet, clearly obliterating anything else in its size class.

The screen is super solid, with great color, nearly no air gap and only lacking tap-to-wake.

That performance comes at a decently chunky price, $399. If you want the best, you pay for it.

Last year I took the 12.9” iPad Pro on a business trip to Brazil, with no backup machine of any sort. I wanted to see if I could run TechCrunch from it — from planning to events to editorial and various other multi-disciplinary projects. It worked so well that I never went back, and have not opened my MacBook in earnest since. I’ll write up that experience at some point because I think there are some interesting things to talk about there.

I include that context here because, though the iPad Pro is a whole-ass computer and really capable, it is not exactly “fun” to use in non-standard ways. That’s where the iPad mini has always shined and continues to do so.

It really is pocketable in a loose jacket or coat. Because the mini is not heavy, it exercises little of the constant torsion and strain on your wrist that a larger iPad does, making it one-handed.

I could go on, but in the end, all that can be said about the iPad mini being “the small iPad” has already been said ad nauseam over the years, beginning with the first round of reviews back in 2012. This really is one of the most obvious choices Apple has in its current iPad lineup. If you want the cheap one, get the cheap one (excuse me, “most affordable” one). And if you want the small one, get the iPad mini.

The rest of the iPads in Apple’s lineup have much more complicated purchasing flow charts — the mini does indeed sell itself.

Back even before we knew for sure that a mini iPad was coming, I wrote about how Apple could define the then very young small-tablet market. It did. No other small-tablet model has ever made a huge dent on the market, unless you count the swarm of super-crappy Android tablets that people buy in blister packs expecting them to eventually implode as a single hive-mind model.

Here’s how I saw it in 2012:

To put it bluntly, there is no small tablet market…Two years ago we were talking about the tablet market as a contiguous whole. There was talk about whether anyone would buy the iPad and that others had tried to make consumer tablets and failed. Now, the iPad is a massive success that has yet to be duplicated by any other manufacturer or platform.

But the tablet market isn’t a single ocean, it’s a set of interlocking bodies of water that we’re just beginning to see take shape. And the iPad mini isn’t about competing with the wriggling tadpoles already in the ‘small tablet’ pond, it’s about a big fish extending its dominion.

Yeah, that’s about right, still.

One huge difference, of course, is that the iPad mini now has the benefit of an enormous amount of additional apps that have been built for iPad in the interim. Apps that provide real, genuine access to content and services on a tablet — something that was absolutely not guaranteed in 2012. How quickly we forget.

In addition to the consumer segment, the iPad mini is also extremely popular in industrial, commercial and medical applications. From charts and patient records to point-of-sale and job-site reference, the mini is the perfect size for these kinds of customers. These uses were a major factor in Apple deciding to update the mini.

Though still just as pricey (in comparison) as it was when it was introduced, the iPad mini remains a standout device. It’s small, sleek, now incredibly fast and well-provisioned with storage. The smallness is a real advantage in my opinion. It allows the mini to exist as it does without having to take part in the “iPad as a replacement for laptops” debate. It is very clearly not that, while at the same time still feeling more multipurpose and useful than ever. I’m falling in real strong like all over again with the mini, and the addition of Pencil support is the sweetener on top.

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