Well, I’ve been proven wrong before and it’s happened again. Contrary to my previous expectations, Apple has finally come out with an iPad Mini to exploit the market for 7” tablets currently occupied almost entirely by the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7. Apparently they were willing to swallow their pride and cut costs and profits to the point where it’s hard not to consider an iPad instead for all your budget tablet needs! Ok…not so much.
Apple made the dubious decision to price the iPad Mini starting at $329. This means that the basic model will be $170 more than the Kindle Fire and $130 more than the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. When we’re talking about devices that are popular at least in part due to their affordability, it’s insane to think that the iPad Mini can compete with comparably performing products running from 48-60% its price.
This is, of course, an iPad we’re talking about. It will do well. Part of that is due to the overwhelming weight that Apple’s reputation with consumers carries. An Apple product will meet with a disproportionately high number of people willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, it is an iPad and therefore connected to the established iOS ecosystem.
Even if the hardware is inferior (and it is, which we’ll get to in a moment), having the ability to pull from the 250,000+ iPad apps currently in circulation is a big advantage. Realistically Android has comparable selections available, and nobody is ever going to find themselves wondering “would be life be complete if there were only 1,200 more tablet-optimized apps I could buy today”, but the side by side comparison of app ecosystems is still unequivocally in Apple’s favor.
We have to wonder if this will be enough to push the product this time around. Consider the specs to the right, courtesy of CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt. The practically iconic point of superiority for iPads, the high quality display, is missing. In this case we get a larger 7.9” screen at a lower resolution than either of its two main competitors. The lower weight is nice, though not a huge difference. The A5 processor is quite outdated by comparison at this point. Even the onboard storage presents a problem since Apple is charging a $100 fee for each level of upgrade compared to Google and Amazon’s $50 (Google is rumored to be refreshing the Nexus 7 shortly to use 16GB as the baseline for their $199 model as well).
I’m going to have to call this a failed effort on Apple’s part. They will get their piece of the 7” tablet market, I’m sure, but they won’t be able to dominate it like the larger playing field. The only really appealing aspect of the iPad Mini is the cellular connectivity and even that adds another 30+% to the base price. The Kindle Fire HD is in no danger here, at least until the 8.9” model is released and we can start drawing comparisons with the real iPad.