iPad mini 2

Two years after I got my wifi iPad mini in Norfolk, I’ve occasionally been running up against the limitations of its older hardware and lack of cellular data. Essentially the iPad mini is a smaller iPad 2, with the same A5 processor and only incremental upgrades from the iPad 2’s system. While that’s continued to mostly suffice for my portable computing needs — as long as I don’t open too many tabs in Safari or play Infinity Blade for too long — I’ve been wanting a little more processing power with cellular data for travel. Tethering with my iPhone has proven horribly unreliable, and I want to get prepaid cellular data on another network from my mobile phone plan to provide backup data access on a network with better coverage.

iPad 2 and iPad mini

I planned to wait and see if Apple’s next iPad mini would offer improvements over their Retina model — and was sorely disappointed when the Oct 2014 keynote introduced an iPad mini with TouchID and ApplePay, but not even a spec bump. It seems Apple would rather focus on larger devices first, treating the Mini line as an afterthought. While I do want TouchID, I don’t want it badly enough to pay over $100 extra for just that on the same hardware as last year.

Apple iPad model comparisons.

So I hit Craigslist instead, and found a seller with a lightly used 32GB Cellular Retina iPad mini 2 for $360, pretty cheap, with 2 years of Applecare still left on it. Good deal on a good device, with Verizon LTE for mobile data. One catch: the nano SIM for the prepaid mobile plan was deactivated, and Verizon makes it very difficult, even impossible, to replace the SIM in-store if you want to stay prepaid. Store rep in DC flat out told me that he’s not allowed to sell new SIMs to customers without a new device or postpaid plan, so I ended up going to a third-party mobile seller on eBay for an unactivated Verizon nano SIM. Once inserted, however, setting up prepaid was quick and straightforward.

iPad mini 2 (retina)

I’ve wrapped it in the same backshell and smart cover as the old iPad mini, and topped the screen with a cheap but clear “Gtopin” tempered glass shield. It’s mostly an incremental upgrade with a year-old device, and that’s at least another year or two that I’ll be tapping in a PIN rather than scanning a fingerprint, but I paid about half the price of a matching* brand new iPad mini 3 with Applecare, so I’m happy and this will do for now.

* Price point matching for second level storage, anyway. Somewhat annoyed at the jump from 32GB to 64GB for next step above base.