Apple's long-awaited "mini" tablet PC – a smaller version of its iconic iPad – is here, but is the price low enough?
The Silicon Valley giant unveiled the new device Tuesday morning at an event in San Francisco. Calling it "as light as a pad of paper," the new iPad is a 7.9-inch tablet that will be available for pre-order starting on Friday. The price?: $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only version; $459 for one that will operate on cellular networks. Add $100 to the price for 32GB and $200 for 64GB. But is that too much moolah?
16GB versions of the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HD – Apple's two primary competitors in this "small tablet" category – sell for $249 and $199, respectively.
The launch of the device has analysts buzzing about both the target audience for the iPad mini and the real shift in strategy that Apple is putting on display.
"In our view, the iPad mini stands to target price-sensitive users and the e-reader crowd," JPMorgan analyst Mark Moskowitz told investors before the event, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Given the global economic uncertainty, we think price-sensitive users could gravitate toward an iPad mini instead of making a PC purchase."
"Apple in the past has defined new products with new form factors and waited for the market to follow, in this instance Apple is following the market trend towards smaller cheaper tablet form-factors, noted Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, before the launch. "This reflects a fundamental change in the way Apple operates. Apple is assuming that a lower cost iPad will allow them to sell sufficiently more units to offset the dilution in ASP that a cheaper device is likely to cause."
It's hard to argue with Apple's track record: The company has sold almost 85 million iPads since the larger version made its debut two-and-a-half years ago.
Customers who can stand to wait until the device hits stores only have to wait until Nov. 2 for the Wi-Fi version. Its cellular counterpart hits retail outlets two weeks later – still in plenty of time for holiday shopping.
And the iPad mini wasn't the only highlight of Apple's Tuesday event. The company surprised everyone by announcing the fourth-generation of its standard, 9.7-inch iPad. It features an expanded LTE chipset, faster Wi-Fi and processor, improved front-facing camera and more. It's priced at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only 16GB version and $629 for LTE. Apple has previously unveiled iPad updates in the spring; this one comes just seven months after the launch of the third-generation device. Release dates are the same as for the mini.