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How the iPad Mini Works

        Tech | Tablet PCs

iPad Mini Software and iOS
Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Apple worldwide marketing, announced the iPad Mini during an Apple press event on Oct. 23, 2012.
Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Apple worldwide marketing, announced the iPad Mini during an Apple press event on Oct. 23, 2012.
┬ęKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Have you ever owned an iPhone or an iPad? Listened to music and played games on an iPad touch? Looked at a friend's phone and browsed through hundreds of apps? If so, you know exactly what to expect about the iPad Mini. Everything here is exactly the same. The Mini runs all the apps released for Apple's iOS platform, including apps designed for the iPhone, those built specifically for the iPad, and those that are designed to play nice with both devices.

iOS apps are designed to be run at specific resolutions, which was a challenge for Apple when the company decided to make larger, higher resolution screens. When Apple introduced the retina display with the iPhone, it made things simple by doubling the number of pixels on each axis, from 320 by 480 to 640 by 960. By quadrupling the pixel density, Apple claimed that individual pixels weren't discernible to the human eye at the distance people normally hold the smartphones, making for a very sharp picture. When Apple introduced the third-gen iPad with a retina display, it did the same thing, upping the resolution from 1024 by 768 to 2048 by 1536. Developers could again simply double the horizontal and vertical proportions of their apps, making it simple to support the new resolution.

The iPad Mini introduces yet another screen size, but it smartly keeps the same resolution of the old iPad: 1024 by 768. (There's a trade-off, of course: The Mini's screen isn't as crisp as the higher resolution iPad display -- more on that later.) That makes it easy for the Mini to run Apple's native apps, such as Maps, Messages, Photos and Mail, as well as popular third-party apps like Amazon Kindle and Yelp. More than 225,000 apps listed in Apple's app store are designed for the iPad.

One important software question remains, though: Will apps run on the older processor found in the iPad Mini as well as they do on the much faster fourth generation iPad? The Mini has a much smaller, lower resolution screen to power with its CPU and GPU. Short answer: The iPad Mini can run any app on the Apple store as of its release in late 2012. Longer answer: Let's compare the Mini to the fourth generation iPad released alongside it.