Apple’s new iPad Mini, the newest worst-kept secret in the company’s history, has finally been officially announced. In comparison to its larger siblings, the Mini features a 7.9-inch screen, is a mere 7.2 mm thick, and weighs less than seven-tenths of a pound. But perhaps most importantly, it can be held in one hand, and costs a mere $329. And if you’re not already controlling your home from the palm of your hand, you really have no excuse left.
Just as the original iPad made touchscreens commonplace in the home two years ago (has it really only been two years?) due to its features, apps, and yes it’s price, the iPad Mini’s reduced barrier to entry will almost certainly lead to a new boom in the proliferation of touchscreens in the home. Before the iPad, home touchscreens were generally only sold as part of much larger home automation systems. They were the remote control interfaces for advanced home theater, lighting, climate, and security control. And yes, they made it easy to see at a glance what was going on around the home, as well as activate sophisticated, complicated home control scenarios at the touch of a button, but at upwards of $1500 apiece, they were also a significant investment, especially when you consider that home control and monitoring (and maybe rudimentary web browsing) were all they could do.
The iPad changed all of that, putting touchscreens in the hands of a much larger audience, who naturally wanted to control their lights and security and home entertainment systems, too. It still required a custom installer to configure all of the additional hardware needed to truly tie the home’s electronic systems together—not to mention a lot of programming—but in the long run, it was cheaper for consumers, who now had a device that would not only open up a world of new potential in terms of home control, energy savings, convenience, and safety, but also play Angry Birds.
At first glance, it isn’t obvious how the iPad Mini plays into (or changes) this paradigm. But what you may not have noticed is that in the couple of years since the iPad launched, the few remaining companies who still manufacturer dedicated touchscreen remotes for home automation have changed their offerings quite a bit in response to Apple’s paradigm shifter. Touchscreens have gotten smaller, for one thing, and in fact, most new dedicated home automation touchscreens are of the seven-inch variety. So the size of the Mini certainly isn’t a surprise. It’s the perfect middle-ground between the smart phone and full-sized tablet: still small enough to be held one-handed, but large enough that you don’t have to squint to read the screen (or, especially in the case of home control apps, flip through multiple control screens to get to the page you want).
Granted, the iPad Mini might not have quite the same impact on home control as the original iPad did for one other reason: control companies have also started adding a lot of exclusive functionality to their touchscreen remotes in the past two years that no standalone tablet can match. Control4’s new 7” Portable Touch Screen is just one example, adding two-way intercom capabilities and communication with its new Door Station, which can’t be replicated on the iPad—Mini or otherwise.
So if Apple’s new toy sparks your desire to do more with your home, in terms of lighting, security, multiroom music, or home theater control, talk to your local custom installer to find out how to integrate your iPad Mini (and iPhone, or even your Android device, for that matter) into a comprehensive home automation system. And maybe ask about adding a few dedicated touchscreen remotes to your system, as well. It’s not an either/or proposition.