Apple’s unveiled its highly anticipated iPad mini, offering up a 7.9-inch screen built into a device that you can hold in one hand. The iPad mini and its larger sibling, the fourth generation iPad, will ship on November 2, with pre-orders beginning this Friday.
The entry-level mini, with 16GB of memory, will cost $329 for a WiFi version and $459 for Wifi and cellular. The new full-sized iPad will start at $499 for WiFi and $629 for WiFi and cellular.
For folks who’ve balked at paying the iPad’s premium price, the mini takes some of the sting away. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that way, the device will be more attractive to a wider range of customers. Apple’s faced a lot of pressure in the market to temper its prices: Amazon’s popular Kindle Fire HD sells for $199 in a WiFi version, while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab goes for roughly the same price.
“They covered the right price segment with the mini,” says Steve Baker, a senior consumer technology industry analyst with NPD Group. “But if it were me, I think I’d price at $299. I don’t know why they picked $329 but their track record is good at finding the right price points.”
Under the hood, the mini features:
- Dual-core A5 chip
- Facetime HD camera
- 5 MP iSight camera
- LTE wireless
- 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi
- 10 hours of battery life
Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design, emphasized the effort to design the mini from the ground up rather than simply reduce the size of existing iPads.
Start of iPod Product Portfolio, Take II?
Apple unveiled the iPad mini with a couple subtle references to its iconic iPod. It held the iPad mini event at the California Theatre in San Jose, Calif., which served as a venue for some of its high-profile iPod announcements. And it chose to introduce the iPad mini on the 11th birthday of the iPod.
While some Apple observers may wonder whether the company is preparing a broader product portfolio for the iPad, much like it did for its maturing iPod line, Baker doesn’t think the company is headed down that path.
“There’s not enough space in a tablet to change its form factor too much,” says Baker, noting there is only so much that can be done because the device is largely made up of a display screen.
The iPod family has several form factors from the small iPod shuffle that serves as an MP3 player to the beefier iPod touch that can do just about everything an iPhone can except make calls. And with these various form factors come different price points for consumers.
“The iPhone hits various price points too and I think Apple will push this strategy with the iPad to cover different market segments,” Baker says. “But I don’t think they’ll do too much with different form factors. A 6-inch tablet may be too small and I’m not sure they’d want to go with a 13-inch tablet.”