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Apple announces the iPad mini

Apple has unveiled its new, smaller iPad at the California Theatre in San Jose. Called the iPad mini, this new iPad will join the current iPad lineup, which includes the iPad 2 and ‘the New iPad’.

While Apple former CEO Steve Jobs once said that Apple was not interested in creating a smaller iPad, Apple’s competitors, including Google and Samsung, have found some success in the 7-inch Android-based tablet space. Apple currently leads the world in tablet market share, and it’s clear now that it too wants a bite of the 7-inch tablet pie. Apple CEO Tim Cook proudly stated that “…people love iPads,” during his keynote speech, and reiterated their importance to educational publishers and institutions along with corporations and small businesses.

Thin, light and you can hold the mini in one hand.

A closer look

As predicted by the recent rumors, the iPad Mini sports a smaller display, which measures 7.9 inches in diagonal. At the keynote, Apple’s Phil Schiller said “…it’s not just a shrunken down design, it’s an entirely new iPad.” The iPad mini is thinner than an iPad, measuring 7.2mm and weighs just 308 grams, or about as light as a pad of paper. This smaller form factor is intended for those who want a more portable device that can be carried easily in purses or small bags, while still providing wireless connectivity, and a comfortable viewing environment to read books, watch video, browse the internet and stay in touch with social networks.

The mini also operates well in landscape mode.

Processor-wise, the mini has similar grunt to the iPad 2, with Apple’s dual core A5 chip driving the unit. Battery-wise, the mini is expected to last 10 hours on a single charge.

On the connectivity side, the mini has the same ‘international’ 4G LTE connectivity, and is compatible with Telstra, Virgin and Optus 4G networks. The iPad Mini also scales back to DC HSDPA and 3G connections when 4G is not available. The mini comes with support for the latest dual-band Wi-Fi (801.11n) as well, which can reach speeds up to 15oMbps.

The iPad mini beside a full-sized iPad

Interestingly, the mini’s 7.9 inch display has a resolution of 1,024 x 768, which is the same resolution found on the larger iPad 2’s display. While the same number of pixels are now squeezed into a smaller screen, this is not quite up to Apple’s ‘retina’ display quality, although it’s perfectly usable. In addition, there was speculation that the iPad mini would use the wider 16:9 shaped screen aspect found on the new iPhone 5, though Apple has kept true to the 4:3 shape used on all other iPads. 4:3 is generally a more appropriate shape of screen for reading books and web browsing, as there is more screen width available when compared to 16:9, which is what Android-based tablets use. Another bonus is that the mini’s 4:3 screen shape means all of the apps created for other iPads will work without modification on this model.

Apple’s Phill Schiller was fairly critical when comparing the iPad mini’s screen to an average 7 inch Android tablet, pointing out that the mini has thinner bezels and 35 percent more screen space. Schiller described a 7-inch Android tablet as “…a scaled up phone experience” when compared to the iPads mini’s “tablet” experience.

A side by side comparison of a 7-inch Android 16:9 screen shape (left) beside the iPad mini's 4:3 shape (right).

A comparison of the available screen space between an Android 7 inch tablet (left) and the iPad mini's 7.9 inch screen (right).

A comparison of how an Android tablet displays search results from Trip Advisor, which appear more like they would on a smartphone, versus the iPad mini's 'tablet' experience.

On the outside

The mini follows similar engineering and design updates found on the iPhone 5. Colours include white/silver and black/slate. Also, as expected, the iPad mini features the new Lightning connector. This is arguably a much better connector for Apple’s devices moving forward, although adaptors to the older 30-pin connector have only just become available, making it tricky to connect Lightening-enabled devices to older Apple accessories.

The slate finish on the back of a black iPad mini.

On the camera side of things, the Mini has two cameras including a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back and a 720P FaceTime HD camera on the front. Both cameras have backside illumination that improves low light performance, and the the iSight camera on the front includes video image stabilisation and can capture 1080P videos.

There's also a smaller Smartcover that attaches to the mini and operates just like a full-sized Smartcover.

When and how much?

In terms of price, the iPad mini with just Wi-Fi will start at a recommended retail price of AUD$369 for the 16GB model, AUD$479 for the 32GB model and AUD$589 for the 64GB model. Wi-Fi + 4G LTE models start at AUD$509 for the 16GB model, AUD$619 for the 32GB model and AUD$729 for the 64GB model. Orders will begin on the 26th of October, and Apple will begin selling the Wi-Fi only models from Nov 2, and expects the Wi-Fi + LTE versions to be available a couple of weeks later.


Valens Quinn traveled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple Australia.