Apple announced the iPad mini this morning, with the new gadget to start at $369 and launch in Australia on November 2.
The price is roughly in line with expectations, but it sets up a key challenge for the holiday season: will consumers pay more for the smaller iPad, or end up spending under $300 on rivals like the Google Nexus?
Tim Cook also took to the stage to announce an updated version of the iPad, a new iMac and a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina screen, in a relatively brief Apple demonstration.
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But the main event of the morning was the announcement of the iPad mini, which features a 7.9 inch screen, an aluminium build and a Lightning connection port.
Senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said in his demonstration the device was suited to users who want a tablet experience, but in a smaller format.
“What can you do with an iPad mini that you can’t already do with the amazing fourth generation iPad?”
“Well, this: You can hold this in one hand.”
The iPad mini showed off this morning is 7.2mm thin, with Apple bragging it’s 53% lighter than the current large-format iPad. It features a thinner bezel, rounded edges, a unibody aluminium structure and two colours: white and black.
The display itself is 7.9 inches and features a 1,024×768 resolution. iOS apps that already run on the iPad will work on the iPad mini, they’ll just be shrunk down. The size of the screen takes up much of the surface area, with a bezel that’s much thinner than on the larger format iPad.
The device will also use the A5 chip, so the speed will be on par with iPhone 5 and the current generation iPad.
Connectivity-wise, the device can use Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G LTE wireless connectivity. There are two cameras, a five megapixel lens on the back and a HD front-facing lens – the improvement will be welcome to users who prefer taking pictures with the iPad.
Pre-orders start from this Friday, October 26, and the full release will come a week after on the morning of November 2.
But the pricing is the most interesting point.
The iPad mini costs:
- 16GB Wi-Fi: $AU369
- 32GB Wi-Fi: $AU479
- 64GB Wi-Fi: $589
- 16GB 3G: $AU509
- 32GB: $AU619
- 64GB: $AU729
The pricing puts it at odds with some of the more popular Android tablets on the market, including the Google Nexus and Kindle Fire, which can be purchased for under $300.
But Phil Schiller took some time to point out why he thinks they’re sub-par.
“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they’ve failed miserably,” Schiller said. “These are not great experiences.”
This is an unusual take for Apple to make, using such strong language to dismiss other products. It usually makes a comment or two and leaves it there, but this was unusually pointed and snarky.
Schiller demonstrated the iPad mini in comparison to the Google Nexus on-stage, and said when web surfing you’re able to see 49% more content because there are no on-screen controls. In landscape mode, the iPad mini shows 67% more content, he argued.
“In fact, the entire Android product is thicker and heavier than iPad mini even though it has a smaller display,” he said.
”You get a tablet experience on the iPad mini,” Schiller said. “You get a scaled-up phone experience on the other.”
One of the better announcements of the morning was that developers won’t have to work hard at all to make their apps fit the new sized screen. The iPad mini keeps the 4:3 screen ratio, so every app will work exactly as it does on the larger form factor.
Apple also claims a 10 hour battery life, which is so far the biggest number attached to an iPad product yet.
The next generation iPad
The iPad mini wasn’t the only announcement this morning – the large-form factor iPad has also received an update, just seven months after the last version was announced.
While the update is nothing huge, the timing is odd. Apple never usually updates products in the middle of a production cycle, unless it’s moving to a new schedule. This could mean the next iPad update is a year away.
The fourth generation iPad features a new A6X chip, which Apple says gives the device extra graphics power, and a Lightning connector.
The device also comes with expanded LTE. This is especially important for Australians, as the third-generation iPad wasn’t able to connect to Australian 4G networks. Apple was fined over misleading advertising at the time for advertising 4G connectivity in Australia earlier this year.
Apple also claims the new device will feature 10 hour battery life as well, same as the iPad mini.
Prices will start at $AU539 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, with the most expensive model the 64GB 4G at $899.
The iPad 2 is still on the market, although only in the 16GB version. It’ll cost either $429 for the Wi-Fi version, or $569 for Wi-Fi and 3G.
It’s an interesting move to keep the iPad 2 around, and suggests perhaps Apple doesn’t view the latest update as a significant milestone in the iPad timeline.
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