Fancy an iPad but find it just too big and heavy? Apple now has an alternative. Mind you, so does Google. And Amazon.
When the original iPad launched in spring 2010 it created a new category of electronic device. Though touchscreen laptops had existed before, none had been that successful. But Apple created a perfect storm of desirable aluminium-and-glass hardware, a sublimely intuitive interface and an ecosystem of many thousands of quickly downloadable apps. There are now, Cook said, 275,000 apps specifically designed for the iPad and earlier this month Apple sold its 100 millionth iPad.
Now, in 2012, the iPad mini has finally arrived after months of rumours and speculation, as stores around the world gear up for its November 2 release date.
So what is it? Essentially, it’s an iPad, only smaller. Or an iPhone, only bigger.
The new iPad mini has an aluminium back and comes in either black and slate or white and silver models. It’s quite squat for an Apple product at 20cm x 13.5cm, but it’s extremely thin – just 0.7cm – and weighs 308g, making it the lightest in its field. This makes the iPad Mini thinner than the iPhone 5, and a bit thicker than the iPod Touch. The result is that it can be comfortably held with one hand and fit into a jacket pocket or handbag (which is probably the single most significant difference between the Mini and its bigger and smaller siblings).
The iPad mini is powered by a dual core A5 processor – the same chip you’ll find in the iPhone 4S. This is also the same processor that runs the iPad 2, which makes it about half as fast and offers half the graphical performance as the A6X chip in the new iPad.
The screen is bigger than the Nexus 7, as well as being both thinner and lighter than its closest rival. When browsing the web, Apple says, the iPad mini has around 50 per cent more display area in portrait mode and 67 per cent in landscape. In other words, you can see a lot on this small screen.
But it is not a ‘Retina’ display. The new iPad Retina has a huge 326 pixels per inch. Comparatively, The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ has 254, the 7″ 216, and the Nexus 7 also has 216. So another win for Apple here.
Apple has retained the same 4:3 aspect ratio as the iPad, meaning that all iPad apps should still work, even though the screen is smaller. The apps will simply be shrunk down versions of the iPad apps and Buttons will be around the same size as iPhone buttons.
This is all nice. But since the iPad Mini’s specs are similar to the iPad 2, its primary selling point remains its mini-ness. However, even though it went smaller, Apple didn’t go as small as its biggest competitors, allowing it to still dangle that “size matters” specification over Amazon and Google’s heads.
During the presentation, Phil Schiller. Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, compared the iPad Mini to what looked like a Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has received good reviews and has a few advantages over the iPad Mini, including a non-proprietary micro-USB charging port (the iPad uses Apple’s new Lightning connector), and its screen packs in more pixels per inch. But the iPad Mini’s biggest advantage is its simple operating system and well-stocked App Store. If someone opts to pay the higher price for an iPad Mini, they will do it for the brand and the ecosystem.
Apple also dropped a bit of a surprise at the iPad mini launch event, announcing the new iPad 4 as well, with a beefed up processor and HD FaceTime camera. So bad luck if you splashed out on an iPad 3 earlier on in the year.
Apple exec Philip Schiller also revealed an updated MacBook Pro and a desktop computer that drew huge applause as its thin, curvy design was revealed. It was just 5mm deep at the edge, with a curvy bulge hiding the computer parts. Controversially, none of the new computers included a DVD drive. Apple wants you to download movies from iTunes, thank you.
But back to the main event: the iPad mini is onsale from 2 November for the wi-fi only version, with models including 4G. On the price, it starts from £269. This is more than Apple’s rivals – but it is likely to take the battle to Amazon and Google with great effect.
The new iPad Mini is not breaking any boundaries – as no new product from Apple Corp has managed to do since the passing of their former CEO – and it’s primary appeal remains it’s middling size. This, then, is the phone for Goldilocks. Not too small, not too big. Just right. Comfortable even.
And just a tad underwhelming.
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