Apple took aim at its fast-growing competition in the tablet market Tuesday by unveiling its new iPad Mini, a downsized device that fits in the hand — and, Apple hopes, will fit consumers’ wallets.
But with a price tag starting at $329 and pre-orders starting this Friday, Apple and analysts watching the company won’t have to wait long to find out if the Mini’s price tag is too rich for consumers who already have a choice of small tablets in the sub-$200 to $250 price range.
Apple’s marketing wizard Phil Schiller defended the $329 price tag, saying consumers will be willing to pay for quality not found in less expensive devices from rivals like Google and Amazon.
And despite concerns that the high price tag may curb demand, most analysts were still bullish on the company, which releases its fiscal fourth-quarter results on Thursday.
“In spite of concerns about the price, we would be buyers of the stock even in front of earnings this Thursday, as we do believe that customers will pay a premium for an Apple tablet,” said Shebly Seyrafi, an analyst at FBN Securities.
In an event livestreamed around the globe, Apple surprised viewers by announcing not only the long-rumoured iPad Mini but also a completely redesigned iMac desktop computer, a new retina-display 13-inch notebook computer and a revamped Mac Mini.
And Apple also announced a new fourth-generation iPad, barely seven months after the release of its predecessor, the third generation iPad – drawing the ire of some who had just purchased a third-generation device.
Apple’s sleek new lineup is being rolled out in time for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day in the U.S. and the precursor to a busy holiday season.
The new iPad Mini is the width of a pencil. At 7.9 inches on the diagonal, it is slightly larger than Apple’s competition in the downsized tablet market but delivers 35 per cent more screen real estate. In a demonstration at the launch event in San Francisco, Schiller did a side-by-side comparison of the new Mini against Google’s Nexus 7, showing that the small hike in screen size produces considerably more viewing area in web browsing.
In a video showcasing the new Mini, Apple calls the new iPad “a concentration of, not a reduction” of the original.
But unlike the 10.7-inch iPad, the Mini fits in one hand; it is 23-per-cent thinner than the third generation iPad and 53-per-cent lighter.
It fits midway in size between an iPhone and the full-sized iPad; has many of the same features of those devices, including front and back-facing cameras and it will run the more than 275,000 apps designed for the iPad. The iPad Mini also has a “smart cover” that comes in a range of colours including blue, green, pink, white, grey and red.
Apple also unveiled its newest iMac, an elegant and super-thin redesign of its popular desktop computer that makes its predecessor look almost clunky by comparison.
“There’s an entire computer in here, it’s hard to believe there’s even a display in here,” said Apple’s Schiller, as he showed off the newest desktop in a line that has seen the Mac outgrowing the PC market for the past six years.
The iMac has a new hybrid storage system, a Fusion Drive option that combines both 128GB of flash memory with a one- or three-terabyte hard drive, for faster performance. It is super-thin, measuring just five millimetres at its edge.
The 21.5-inch iMac will be available starting in November at $1,299, while the 27-inch iMac, which starts at $1,799, will be released in Apple’s online stores and through Apple retailers in December.
Apple’s new Mac Mini is available now, starting at $599. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display starts at $1,699 and is available now.
iPad Mini Price and Specs
64GB Wi-Fi: $529
16GB Wi-Fi/LTE: $459
32GB Wi-Fi/LTE: $559
64GB Wi-Fi/LTE: $659
The new iPad Mini has:
- A dual core A5 chip
- FaceTime HD front camera
- 5 megapixel iSight camera
- LTE capability, meaning it will work on the latest, fastest wireless cellular networks
- The latest dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi support for speeds up to 150 Mbps, twice the Wi-Fi performance of previous iPad models
- A lightning connector, same as the iPhone 5 and the new fourth-generation iPad
- 10 hours of battery life
- It weighs 308 grams (.68 pounds) and is 7.2 mm thin