iPad Mini: How Many Screens Does One Man Need?

I’m sure the new Apple iPad Mini will be super awesome, but do I really need yet another screen in my life? Especially since I already have a full-size iPad? Does anyone?

Is 8 Enough?

After all, I already have at least eight screens in my regular rotation. And that doesn’t count spares, backups and obsolete or little-used devices still hanging around the house. Nor does it include the many devices owned and used by other members of my household – don’t ask, that number is truly shocking.

Still, I know that eight is an absurd collection of screens for one person.

Or is it?

As a professional technology journalist, I’m probably not typical. But I bet, if you think about it, many of the people reading this have almost that many screens in their own lives, or maybe even more.

The scary thing, though, is that all eight screens of my screens are actually used almost every day. Some are more important to me than others, of course, but I don’t FEEL like they overlap. I need them all. Or at least I want them all.

The question for me now, of course, is whether I need or want yet another one, no matter how cool it is. The question for Apple, meanwhile, is how many people will want a mini iPad – especially if they already have a full-size iPad?

My Screen Collection

To try to answer those questions, I had to think about how I use all my screens. Step one is to inventory them all by size and device:

1. 3.5-inch iPhone (being upgraded to 4-inches!)

2. 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet

3. 9.7-inch iPad 2

4. 24-inch monitor for Windows 7 desktop PC in home office

5. 21.3-inch second monitor for Windows 7 PC

6. 13.3-inch screen on ReadWrite laptop

7. 24-inch external monitor for ReadWrite laptop

8. 50-inch plasma TV

As I said, that list doesn’t include the 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus I’m not currently using, an old 15.6-inch laptop stored under my desk that may or may not even work, and a 10.1-inch netbook that now serves as a Linux test machine. Oh, and I think there’s a Palm Pilot and a Treo 650 hiding somewhere in the house, too, along with a Nokia NGage (look it up). Finally, there’s a review model of a weird XX-inch Samsung tablet running a beta version of Windows 8 and Microsoft Office that’s simply too clunky to even remember, much less try to use.

Which Screens Are Essential? And Which Ones Aren't?

Of all of them, the only truly indispensable screens are on the smartphone, the work laptop and - I have to admit – the big plasma TV. I could easily live without the rest of them if I had to.

Importantly for this discussion, though, the least critical ones are the two tablets. While I’d miss either one of them, I know I could get along pretty well without both of them. (I suspect that’s true of most tablet owners. It’s a nice to have, not a need to have, device.)

The big question for Apple, though, is that what’s the real need and overlap for two tablets of different sizes? Does anyone really need or want both a ~10-inch tablet and a 7-inch model? If you already have a full-size iPad is there any reason to also have an iPad Mini?

Surprising even myself, I’m going to answer “yes.”

There's Always Room For One More Screen

While I’m not sure I’d rush out and buy an iPad Mini – for my purposes, it’s important to me to regularly use at least one Android device to make sure I know (THAT)? what I’m current – I find that I do use both tablets. Sometimes that’s just because one happens to be closer at hand, and the immediate task I want to accomplish will work well enough on either one. Other times, though, I might want to do something that I feel is more natural on the smaller or larger device.

Reading text – like in a book, for example – is usually more comfortable on the 7-incher. So is anything involving walking around while carrying the thing.

Surfing the Web or watching a movie? Much more satisfying on the bigger screen. Writing/creating is easier with more real estate, too.

If I was forced to give one up, which one would it be? The 7-incher, no question. While it’s more portable, it’s just not as powerful, versatile or fun. It’s also much cheaper.

So no, I won’t be buying an iPad Mini any time soon. But I bet a lot of people who already have iPads will. And they’re not all just fanboys who have to have whatever Apple is offering. My entire screen collection tells me that dual iPad owners will find plenty of reasons to choose one or the other for the various things they do.

I'm curious, though... how many screens do you have? And do you have room for any more?

Photos by Fredric Paul.