After months of speculation, Apple has launched their answer to Google’s Nexus 7. Called the iPad Mini, it boasts a 7.9 inch screen and retail prices will start at $329.
In a presentation that included a number of surprises alongside plenty of chest thumping, self-aggrandizing and at least 23 uses of the words “amazing” or “incredible”, Apple finally launched the iPad Mini. As with most Apple launches, both Twitter and Facebook lit up with both negative and positive commentary. However, the general vibe pointed towards the Mini being an enticing device which costs slightly less than initially expected.
With 7.9 inch screen, a thickness of just 7.2mm and weighing in at about 0.68lbs, the iPad Mini is both lighter and thinner than Google’s Nexus 7 while incorporating more screen real estate. With a 1024×768 resolution, the screen certainly can’t be called Retina Display quality but its minimal side bezels have allowed Apple to maximize viewable space while still allowing the Mini to be held in one hand.
When designing the iPad Mini, Apple very much retained the minimalist elements which previous iPad generations have exemplified while adding some subtle changes. Its external design very closely follows that of the iPhone 5, with a milled aluminum edge band that blends seamlessly into a rear metal plate and front glass panel. The black versions come with the same anodized finish which has been causing fits for iPhone 5 users but Apple will also be introducing a classic white edition with milled aluminum sides. It seems like the Nexus 7’s brilliant rubberized back may have a leg up on the durability front.
In terms of specifications, the iPad Mini’s A5 processor (which was also used in the iPad 2) really doesn’t bring anything new to the table but it should be more than adequate to power through apps and games on the 1024×768 screen. It is also efficient enough that Apple claims the Mini will achieve up to 10 hours of battery life when used under normal conditions.
Instead of the low-resolution front facing camera on lower-end Android devices like the Nexus 7, Apple is using a 2-camera system with front and backside lenses. There’s a 720P front facing camera for Facetime HD and an iSight unit with 1080P recording capabilities on the back side.
Connectivity has never been Apple’s strong suit so don’t expect SD expansion slots or mini USB connectors here. Instead, the Mini is equipped with Apple’s controversial Lightning connector, ensuring that nearly every current generation device (iPhone 5, iPad w/ Retina Display & iPad Mini) in their new mobile lineup allows for the same I/O docking options. Upgraded 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi have been included and unlike the Nexus 7, there will be LTE-equipped versions available at launch.
Alongside the new iPad Mini, Apple has also announced a new lineup of Smart Covers which wrap the Mini and have been designed without the typical metal clips from the larger version’s design. According to information released to journalists, these covers are equipped with slightly stronger magnets, ensuring a snug and secure fit with the new iPad’s slimmer edge profile.
As one might expect from its features, the iPad Mini is aimed at a premium market and starts at a price of $329 for the 16GB WiFi-only version. Meanwhile, the 32GB and 64GB WiFi-only models will be available for $429 and $529 respectively. Adding LTE / cellular network capabilities typically adds significant cost to any wireless device due to licensing fees and the Mini hasn’t been spared in any way. The 16GB Mini equipped with LTE will go for $459 (just $40 less than a full size WiFi iPad) while the 32GB and 64GB models will cost $559 and $659.
iPad w/ Retina Display Refresh
In a surprise announcement that is sure to anger buyers of the months-old third generation iPad, Apple has announced a refresh for their full size tablet. While the chassis design and Retina Display have remained largely unchanged, the iPad’s internals have been updated to include a speedy A6X processor and optimized 5GHz WiFi for quicker browsing speeds on supporting wireless networks. The processor upgrade alone allows for a twofold increase in processing horsepower over its predecessor.
This fourth generation device includes a Lightning connector as well, making it compatible with the boatloads of new dockable accessories that are sure to follow. Pricing hasn’t changed with the 16GB WiFi version retailing for $499 while larger capacities are also available.