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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.