Steve Jobs had a lot to say about the market for 7-inch tablets back in October 2010: in his eyes, it boiled down to a conflict of hardware and software. “Apple’s done extensive user-testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff… there are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen…. this is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps”. Jobs saw the emerging 7-inch tablet category as “tweeners” that were “too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad” and his conclusion was blunt. “We think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA, dead on arrival”. Needless to say, the Cupertino tech giant’s decision to enter the 7-inch fray with the newly announced iPad Mini ($350+) shows a significant turn around in thinking — proving just how much the market has changed in a few short years.
Read more after the break.
Spec-wise, the new device is in many ways just a smaller iPad 2, cramming a 7.9-inch 1024 x 768 screen, A5 processor, optional LTE antennas, a FaceTime HD front and rear 5MP iSight camera and up to 64GB of internal storage into a frame that’s a quarter thinner than the current iPad (measuring 7.2mm) while weighing 53% less at 0.68 pounds. Naturally, that new-fangled lightning port first introduced on the iPhone 5 is also onboard for solidarity.
While those hardware goodies unquestionably put the device on a lower hardware tier than the newly announced 4th generation iPad or even its predecessor, the dialed-back specs have allowed Apple to offer the Mini at a significantly lower price point that starts at $329. If you’d like LTE connectivity, the entry price jumps to $459. Yes, even those baseline models are still well above Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s entry-level Kindle Fire HD, but Apple has never taken the bait in the battle over pricing — and the high quality construction combined with the smaller screen bezel do provide a distinct premium feel over the competition. Pre-orders for the wi-fi version of the iPad Mini start today and ship November 2nd. Expect their LTE companions to leave the roost sometime after that.
As for the 4th generation iPad, there’s not much to say. The biggest changes come in the form of the lightning port, an upgraded FaceTime HD camera and a new A6X processor that provides double the performance of the 3rd generation just released 6 months earlier. Pricing, colors and model configurations are the same as last time — making the new model a kick in the crotch for earlier buyers of “The New iPad”, but such is life as a first adopter.