Apple’s iPhone Xs Max seems like a natural upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus. But its more like the spiritual successor to one of my favorite Apple devices ever made. I’m talking about the iPad Mini, and more specifically, the likely last living heir of the bloodline, the iPad Mini 4 with LTE.
Yup, I said it. The runty and ignored middle child of the iPad family is one of the best Apple products ever. It was more of a literal notebook computer than almost anything else dubbed that before or since, and far more comfortable to hold one-handed than the original iPad as a result.
When Apple launched the first bendy iPhone Plus back in 2015, though, the move immediately brought the plucky tablet’s raison d’etre into question. The 6 Plus was an actual iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen that approached the 7.9-inch Goldilocks form of the Mini, yet still remained pocketable. No wonder the last update to the Mini line came just a year later in September of 2015.
Still, the presumed end of the Mini line is a technological swan song that’s served admirably for many years beyond its launch. So much so that Apple’s continued to sell the damn thing almost four full years after it initially launched. That fact alone is a testament to the Mini 4’s uniqueness within the greater iOS lineup. In its prime, the device was a lean, focused, entertainment wunderkind that wrapped a 7.9-inch, pixel-rich 326ppi screen (which if you’re into details, is the same pixel density of the new iPhone Xr) in a package weighing slightly more than half a pound. It’s a combination that produced a fantastic sweet spot for casual web browsing and media consumption, one I’ve yet to find matched by other iOS devices since. And with the added LTE connection, you could reasonably take it anywhere and still enjoy a noticeable bump in screen size to complement all of the iOS goodness found on the iPhone Plus.
Now with the announcement of the new iPhone Xs Max, Apple seems to have finally revived the tweener spirit of the Mini 4 in a device that walks the perfect tightrope between power and portability. The iPhone Xs Max features a 6.5-inch OLED screen that’s only 20% smaller than the iPad Mini while measuring just 6.20-inches tall by 3.05-inches wide. The Xs Max is also just as thin as its smaller iPhone Xs sibling and weighs roughly just one ounce more. For perspective’s sake, the iPhone 8 Plus announced last year shares essentially the same physical dimensions as the Xs Max, measuring 6.24-inches tall by 3.07-inches wide. However, it’s 5.5-inch LED screen is still 20% smaller than the Xs Max.
When you consider the screen-to-body ratio with a few other notable improvements initially reserved for the iPad Pro line — a buttery smooth 120hz refresh rate and improved stereo sound — on top of the flagship features you’d expect in Apple’s best iPhone, you’ve got a portable media consumption powerhouse that finally feels like a worthy descendant of the iPad Mini 4, minus a headphone jack, of course.
Call it a miniaturized tablet or a maxed out phone, either way, it sounds like the perfect mobile device to me.