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Useful iPad Mini Accessories

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The Apple iPad mini provides users with all the computing power and functionality of the full-size iPad tablet, but it offers a smaller, lighter, and easier-to-hold design. In this article, best-selling author and avid iPhone/iPad user Jason R. Rich takes a look at a handful of cases, covers, and iPad mini accessories that enhance the tablet’s functionality, without compromising its size or weight too much.
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When it comes to powerful, feature-packed, and highly functional tablets, none come close to what Apple’s iPads have to offer. It’s not just from a technological standpoint, but also in terms of what’s possible because of the iOS 6 operating system, the apps that come bundled with the tablet, and the more than 300,000 optional iPad-specific apps currently available from the App Store.

If you’ve opted to purchase an iPad mini because of its more compact design, chances are you don’t want to add too much size and weight to the tablet by connecting or using too many optional accessories with it. A handful of iPad mini accessories, however, can help you get more use out of the tablet.

Consider Protecting Your Investment

One of the most popular accessory categories for the iPad mini is protective screen films, covers, and cases, each of which can help to protect your iOS mobile device against scratches, screen cracks, dirt, and in some cases, liquid.

A screen protector is a clear, ultra-thin film that fits over the tablet’s screen and remains on it. The film is less then 1 or 2 mm thick, but typically offers military-grade protection against scratches, cracks, and dirt. A protective film can be used in conjunction with other screen covers, an iPad mini case, or other accessories.

Instead of just covering the screen, however, a similar pre-cut protective film (also referred to as an optional skin) can be applied over the entire tablet. While this won’t protect the iPad mini from breaking if it’s accidently dropped, for example, and it does not make the tablet waterproof, it does help a lot in protecting the device if it’s exposed to a small amount of liquid or dirt.

Protective films that cover just the iPad mini’s screen (or the entire casing of the tablet) are available from a wide range of manufacturers. All serve the same purpose, but the texture of the film and how it feels, as well as the film’s ability to reduce glares or fingerprint smudges, varies, as do the price of these films. You can order a protective film online from companies like Zagg.com and iSkin.com, or purchase them from consumer electronics stores (such as Best Buy), and apply the film yourself in 15 to 30 minutes.

An alternative is to visit a mall kiosk that specializes in these protective films and have it applied for you for slightly more money. Plan to spend between $14.95-$49.95 for a protective film, depending on the manufacturer and whether or not the screen or entire tablet is being covered.

Next, consider investing in a screen cover. This is a thicker, often padded cover that goes over the screen when the tablet is not in use. Apple’s own Smart Covers ($39), for example, attach to the iPad mini using magnets. These colorful covers fold back into a two-position stand for the tablet when it’s in use.

Many other companies also offer optional screen covers for the iPad mini. However, if you want to protect your entire iPad, both when it’s in use and when it’s not, consider using an optional case that covers the entire tablet (including the screen when the tablet is not in use).

Literally hundreds of different iPad mini cases are available in a wide range of colors and styles. An inexpensive case will cost less than $20; however, it’s easy to spend $100 or more on a handcrafted leather case for the tablet. Any Apple Store, Best Buy, or another consumer electronics store will offer a nice selection of iPad mini cases.

For an even greater selection, shop online. Using any Internet search engine (such as Google), enter the search phrase “iPad mini case” or “iPad mini cover” to view what’s available from companies like Saddleback Leather, BoxWave, A*Case, and Twelve South.

Add Functionality to Your Tablet with Other Optional Accessories

If you plan to do any word processing or extensive data entry using the iPad mini, instead of using the tablet’s virtual keyboard, consider using an optional Bluetooth wireless keyboard. Once again, a handful of companies offer external keyboards that have tactile keys and that come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a full-size keyword to a tiny keyboard that allows you to type faster using your thumbs.

Even if the keyboard is built into an iPad mini’s case, this accessory will add some weight and bulk when carrying around the tablet, although it’s still lighter and smaller than a traditional notebook computer. In addition to being able to touch-type faster using an external keyboard, another benefit is that most of the optional keyboards include directional arrow keys that are very useful for on-screen navigation. These arrow keys do not appear on the iPad mini’s virtual keyboard.

The Apple Wireless Keyword ($69) is the full-size wireless Bluetooth keyword that Apple recommends and offers. It’s the same keyboard that can be purchased for the iMac, for example.

The Verbatim Wireless Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard ($104) is also a full-size keyboard with tactile keys, but the benefit to this accessory is that when it’s not in use, it folds in half and measures 6.25” x 4”, so it’s easy to transport.

Through its retail stores, catalog and website, Brookstone offers a selection of optional keyboards that are compatible with the iPad mini, such as the Bluetooth Keyboard with Tech-Grip Case ($79.99), which is a foldable case for the tablet (that fully protects the unit during transport), but it unfolds into a stand with a keyboard.

Brookstone’s Bluetooth Silicone Keyboard for iPad Tablet ($49.99) is actually made from soft silicone that is flexible. When laid out on a flat surface, it serves as a thin, but full-size external keyboard. However, when not in use, it literally rolls up for easy transport or storage. It weights just 0.3 pounds and is water-resistant.

Enjoy Better Audio Generated by Your iPad mini

When it comes to listening to music; audiobooks; audio from TV show episodes, movies or YouTube videos; or when engaged in a FaceTime or Skype video conference, you have the opportunity to utilize external headphones or speakers with your iPad mini.

Headphones or ear buds (such as Apple’s EarPods, $29) cover or are inserted into both ears to provide high-quality stereo sound. Some headphones and ear buds include noise-cancelling technology to drown out outside noise, which is particularly useful on an airplane, for example. Headphones or ear buds typically plug into the headphone jack that’s built into the iPad mini, although wireless Bluetooth headphones are also available.

Headphones or ear buds are ideal for private listening, while connecting external speakers to your tablet allows you to fill an entire room with the audio or music generated by your iPad mini. External speakers are available that can be connected to the tablet wirelessly via Bluetooth or AirPlay, or using a cable that plugs into the iPad mini’s headphones jack or Lighting port.

You’ll find a vast selection of stereo headphones, ear buds, and external speakers available from many different companies, such as Bose, Sonos, Brookstone, Jawbone, iHome, Beats by Dre, JBL, Bowers & Wilkins, and Bang & Olufsen. Prices range from under $25 to several thousand dollars.

Add an External Microphone to Your iPad mini

Many business people and students alike use the iPad mini as an information-gathering, research, or note-taking tool. While the tablet has a built-in microphone, it’s also possible to connect an external microphone, either into the built-in headphones jack, the iPad’s Lightning port, or wirelessly via Bluetooth. Using the iPad mini with an external microphone will dramatically improve the audio recording quality the tablet is capable of when using a digital audio recording or dictation app.

An external microphone works well for capturing audio clips and dictation, or for recording meetings, classes, or phone conversations when used in conjunction with a popular information gathering and organization app, such as Evernote, or a more specialized app.

Depending on your needs, different types of external microphones are available. Some are best suited for recording voice conversations or dictation, while others can capture CD-quality audio when recording music or singing, for example.

Some of the optional external microphones that are compatible with the iPad mini include:

  • Apogee MiC ($199): This handheld microphone plugs into the Dock Connector port of the full-size iPad, but can be used with the iPad mini if you plug the microphone into Apple’s Lighting To 30-Pin Adapter ($29).
  • TASCAM iM2 ($79.99): This small microphone also attaches to the Dock Connector port of the full-size iPad, but can be used with the iPad mini if you plug the microphone into Apple’s Lighting To 30-Pin Adapter ($29).
  • iRig Mic ($59.99): This handheld microphone plugs into the headphones jack of the iPad mini using a 6.5-foot cable. It comes with several digital recorder apps that are ideal for singers and public speakers, and for recording music.
  • MicW ($150 and up): This company offers six different extremely tiny external microphones that plug into the iPad mini’s headphones jack to provide CD-quality digital recording capabilities.

Use Your iPad mini with Apple TV

The iOS 6 operating system that runs your iPad mini has a built-in feature called AirPlay. When used in conjunction with the optional Apple TV device ($99), any music or audio that’s generated by your tablet (using the Music app, for example) can be wirelessly streamed and played on the speakers built into your HD television set or home theater system.

AirPlay also works in conjunction with the Videos and Photos apps. Thus, any TV show episode, movie or music video you acquire from the iTunes Store and download to your iPad mini can be experienced on the tablet’s screen while you’re on the go, or streamed to your HD television set when you’re at home.

If you have digital photos stored within your tablet, you can also view them individually or in an animated slideshow format on your HD television set using AirPlay in conjunction with the Photos app. For these features to work, an Apple TV device must be connected to your HD television set or home theater system, and both the Apple TV and your iPad mini need to be connected to the same home wireless network via Wi-Fi.

Using Apple TV in conjunction with your iPad mini greatly enhances your ability to experience multimedia content that’s stored on your tablet, and share it with others in the room when it’s displayed on your HD television set.

Without using Apple TV, it’s possible to connect your iPad mini directly to an HD television set that’s equipped with an HDMI port using Apple’s Lightning Digital AV Adapter ($49). If you want to connect the tablet to an LCD projector, for example, in order to present a digital slide presentation created using Keynote, the optional Lightning To VGA Adapter ($49) is available.

Transfer Digital Photos Directly from Your Camera to Your iPad mini

When you use Apple’s optional Lighting To USB Adapter ($29), you can connect your digital camera directly to the lightning port of your iPad mini in order to directly transfer image files between your camera and the tablet using the USB cable that was provided with your digital camera.

Another option for transferring digital images from an SD memory card directly to your iPad mini is to use the optional Lightning To SD Card Camera Reader ($29).

Final Thoughts

As a stand-alone tablet computing device, the iPad mini is extremely versatile in terms of the tasks it can help you handle in your personal and professional life. When you use optional accessories in conjunction with the tablet, this expands what’s possible and helps you further customize the tablet to better meet your needs.

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