We’ve been hearing rumours about it for what seems like ages and now Apple has finally unveiled the newest addition to its ever-growing family – the iPad Mini. As expected, the iPad Mini is a toned-down version of the iPad line with less attention paid towards high end specs and more of a focus on keeping the iPad experience fluid while bringing down the starting price.
Despite Steve Jobs’ adamant opposition to the idea of a smaller iPad (and 7-inch tablets in particular) during his time as Apple’s CEO, it makes perfect sense that Apple would pursue this direction now. Both the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 are smaller, cheaper tablets and it is these two products that have given the iPad its stiffest competition since it revitalised the tablet market in 2010. The Nexus 7 in particular was mentioned more than once in the iPad Mini’s demonstration, with Apple brazenly drawing comparisons between the two devices.
Design and Dimensions
The iPad Mini is still very much an iPad in look. Available in both black and white, from the front it really does just look like a smaller iPad with slightly thinner bezels on the sides of the screen.
The rear plate has seen a change-up with the black model, coming in a “slate” colour rather than silver. The white model still has a silver rear plate. We’re curious to see how easily the black model’s slate colouring can be scratched, as this is already a common complaint with the iPhone 5. If the same process is used we can definitely see this becoming an issue, especially with Apple pushing smart covers in favour of full-body protective options. There are also more chances for a device to become scratched in a bag than in a pocket, which is where iPad Minis will be spending a lot of their time.
Dimensions-wise the Mini is pretty impressive. Weighing in at just 0.68lb (roughly 308g), the iPad Mini is less than three times the weight of an iPhone 5 and is 53% lighter than the new 4th generation iPad. It’s also a bit lighter than the 340g of the Google Nexus 7 and 395g of the Kindle Fire HD. We can definitely see this becoming a selling point, as the lighter weight not only makes it easier to carry around, but to use as well.
The profile is very minimalistic. From the side the iPad Mini measures just 7.2mm thick; a full 23% thinner than the 4th generation iPad and much thinner than the 10.45mm of the Nexus 7 and 10.3mm of the Kindle Fire HD. Apple has done well to fit everything in to such a compact and light-weight package.
These figures are for the 16GB WiFi-only model iPad Mini. Other models will vary slightly in weight and possibly profile thickness.
iPad Mini Display
The iPad Mini’s display is a little bigger than its most direct competitors, measuring in at 7.9mm diagonally. Apple’s trademarked retina display is missing this time around; the Mini offering instead the familiar resolution of 1024×768 found on the first generation iPad back in 2010 and iPad 2 in 2011.
Opting for this resolution means that any app or game designed to work with the original iPad, as most new ones still are due to the 1st and 2nd generations of iPads’ continued use by original customers. This is a smart move by Apple. The smaller resolution helps keep costs, battery life and general weigh/dimensions down without taking too much away from the user experience or causing undue grief for app developers.
Hardware and Cameras on the iPad Mini
The old A5 dual-core processor from the iPad 2 has made a come-back, which should be powerful enough to compete with the Mini’s direct competition. Remember, while Android devices often sport more impressive hardware than iOS offerings, Apple is able to get the best use out of their parts by designing everything to work with everything else, OS and software included. As a result the iPad Mini should hopefully be able to keep up with the powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor of the Nexus 7, despite being less impressive.
Other specs include dual-band WiFi (a/b/g/n) that can offer up to twice the WiFi speeds of previous iPads, the new Lightning Connection that was introduced with the iPhone 5, Bluetooth 4.0 and the option for 4G LTE connectivity, should you go for the cellular version.
As for storage the familiar options of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB are available.
The cameras, certainly the rear camera, are a bit of a surprise on the iPad Mini. Generally lower-budget tablets tend to forgo the rear camera and focus on a front-facing option for video calls. The iPad Mini, however, sports a 5MP rear iSight camera that should be as good or even slightly better than the one found on the iPhone 4. It’s hardly impressive when compared to some of the digital shooters out there, but it’s a great addition for any tablet, let alone one of the slimmed-down variety.
The front-facing camera supports 720p FaceTime and is a 1.2MP shooter.
iPad Mini Pricing and Availability
The iPad Mini comes in six models:
- iPad Mini 16GB WiFi-only: $329
- iPad Mini 32GB WiFi-only: $429
- iPad Mini 64GB WiFi-only: $529
- iPad Mini 16GB 4G LTE: $459
- iPad Mini 32GB 4G LTE: $559
- iPad Mini 64GB 4G LTE: $659
The iPad mini will be available for pre-order this Friday the 26th of October.
It will hit shelves on the 2nd of November.
What This Means for Apple and the Tablet Market
Firstly, the iPad Mini is set to be a success and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Even without its super-thin bezels, its tiny profile and extremely light-weight frame it would still sell well based on two features: it’s made by Apple and it’s called “iPad”.
iOS 6 has been a roaring success despite the Maps debacle. It is the fastest-adopted OS update in history and is incredibly popular across a wide range of demographics. Unlike Android and Windows RT/8, iOS 6 does not need to prove itself to consumers as a tablet OS. For the most part customers are already aware of what they’re getting when they’re shopping for an iPad. This should mean more confident customers who are more willing to go with an experience they’re familiar with, rather than risking their cash on a new or unproven product.
The hardware backing the iPad Mini is easily impressive enough to contend with the lower end of the market and many Apple fans will be more than happy to pay a little more in order to get a cheap iPad over a cheaper Android tablet.
That being said the iPad probably won’t be killing the Google Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire any time soon. Both Android devices have incredibly low price-points (starting at around $199) that allow them to appeal to customers who normally wouldn’t even consider buying a tablet. At that price range they’re almost within impulse-buy territory, while the iPad Mini is well outside at $329.
Where the iPad Mini might do some damage is against sales of the upcoming Microsoft Surface RT tablets. The Surface RT starts at $499 and, while is more competitively priced with the full-sized iPad, the lower price of the iPad Mini may be enough to sway some buyers to Apple’s camp. That being said, the Surface RT is a different kind of tablet than we’ve seen before and is geared towards a slightly different kind of customer, so it’s left to be seen what kind of impact the iPad Mini may or may not have against it.
We also don’t think that this will cause Apple to lose any money in the long term. Many have speculated that a large number of potential iPad customers will be taking the cheaper option and going with the Mini, rather grabbing a full-sized version. This is probably true. However, the number of customers that Apple receives who would not have otherwise bought the more expensive 4th generation iPad should equal things out.
Moreover, adding another reliable and affordable device to its already prolific line-up is a great move for Apple. Apple products are everywhere, they’re so abundant that they’re almost a marketing campaign unto themselves. Throwing an affordable and casual device out there should only add to the number of people you see walking around with Apple devices on a day to day basis.
Overall this was a good move by Apple that should yield many positive returns. We’re not sure how effectively the iPad Mini will compete with its Android counterparts, as the price differences are considerable enough to put them in different leagues, but that doesn’t mean Apple won’t see some juicy profits.