Tag Archives: iPad mini

10″ iPads are minivans

In a particularly poignant analogy at the D8 conference in 2010, Steve Jobs compared tablets to cars and PCs to trucks. As the market for tablets has matured, we’re seeing more differentiation between different sizes of tablets. Clearly, Apple started with the 9.7″ iPad, which still retains the main iPad branding proper with the smaller iPad being dubbed the mini. That latter device competes with a host of inexpensvie 7″ Android tablets that grow in number while shrinking in price.

Starting with a 10″ device allowed Apple to significantly differentiate from the iPhone in terms of size and the MacBook in terms of user experience. Had Apple started with the mini, it would have been harder to encourage developers to create more robust apps, something that Android tablets continue to struggle with. But, among users, the temptation is strong to turn the iPad into a faux PC, the new netbook. And indeed, this is the main thrust of the approach — encouraged by Microsoft’s positioning — that PC vendors pursue.

The adoption of smaller tablets has been driven in large part by lower prices, but also by greater portability and practicality. They have replaced e-readers for books in many cases, and are large enough to handle the recreational tablet staples of video, games, maps and books. They haven’t been as great with the Web, but higher resolution is helping with that as well. They are becoming the sedans of the Web while larger tablets are the minivans; they can be pressed into service to haul a bunch of cargo and get things done, but they’re not built for industrial duty.

This holiday, $299 is the new $199

This holiday, consumers will have at least three strong new consumer electronics products from which to choose converging around a $299 entry price — the Nintendo Wii U (basic set), the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, and the iPod touch. The other product that comes close and which may give that all a strong run for their money is the $329 iPad mini.

While these products may come with different descriptions worthy of Breakfast Club-style stereotypes — the video game, the tablet and the media player — it’s a  sign of the times is that all are platforms and converged devices. The main differences are the size of the screen they address and the maturity and the strength of the ecosystems they support.

The tradeoffs of an iPad mini Retina display

Marco Arment:

Apple didn’t make an arbitrary decision to withhold Retina on the Mini to save money, upsell more buyers to the iPad 4, or “force” the first generation of iPad Mini owners to upgrade next year. They chose not to ship a Retina iPad Mini because it would be significantly worse than the previous iPads in very important factors.

Marco makes astute observations about the often non-obvious tradeoffs in product design. There are always compromises. However, the new Nook HD has a high-resolution display and presumably has more than three hours of battery life.

The dwindling case for the iPad 2

(No, this post is not about a new protective cover that wraps around Apple’s second-generation tablet ever more tightly.)

Breaking a bit with tradition at the debut of the iPad mini, Apple did not keep the previous version of the iPad 3 in the lineup with the release of the fourth-generation iPad. Instead, it eliminated the third-generation iPad and instead left the slower, second-generation (iPad 2) product in the lineup. About the only possible explanation for this was that Apple couldn’t get the price of the third-gen iPad down to the $399 price point it was seeking to address competition in the 10″ Android tablet category. Costs have also likely come down more on the iPad 2 components so that that product can now be more profitable at $399.

However, it also puts the older iPad 2 closer to the new iPad mini that shares its processor and resolution. This begs the question, what is the case for the iPad 2 given that the iPad mini is 80 percent of its size and identical in most other respects. In fact, the iPad mini’s cellular models can connect to LTE networks whereas the iPad 2 is limited to 3G.

As smartphone trends clearly show, there is a large group of consumers that will flock to the larger screen. There’s also something to be said for having a product below a pricing milestone ($350) and another below $400. But, all things being equal, and most are in this case, the iPad mini just seems a bit too close to the 10″ iPad’s price and capabilities. The lineup would have been a bit cleaner with either the iPad mini at $299 or the third-gen iPad between Apple’s latest tablets.

Marketing a mid-sized mini

Apple devoted a good chunk of the iPad mini introduction doing a direct comparison with the Google Nexus 7 (by ASUS as everyone has clearly forgotten). It was at once necessary and wasted, depending on the audience. For those open to comparing the two, the less convincing focus on the increased screen real esate and the more convincing (if oft-trotted out) focus on tablet app superiority helps to justify the 65 percent price step-up from the baseline. But for many, the availability of a capable $200 tablet is basically the end of the story. Apple’s messaging is of the iPad mini in of the smallest, least expensive iPad, not a relatively big and expensive “small tablet.”

The sad truth for Android tablets is that there have already been two tablets from major manufacturers released at close to the size of the iPad mini — the well-received Galaxy Tab 7.7 and the Motorola Xyboard 8.2. Neither was priced close to the $200 asking amount for the Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7. In fact, most or all distribution of those models was through carrier stores, which have not been successful in moving tablets to date.

iPad mini: the Retina Display question

Most coverage that we’ve seen of the rumored iPad mini notes that it won’t have a Retina Display. There is, however, a counterargument.  Clearly, Apple has been on a Retina tear (although hopefully without any actual torn retinae) as it has become a defining and increasingly anticipated feature crossing many product lines: MacBook, iPhone and iPod. If Apple was willing to put a Retina Display on the iPod touch, why wouldn’t it put one on the iPad mini? The technology is clearly available. The display on the imminent Barnes & Noble Nook HD is Retina-sharp. Adding credence to this is rumors that the iPad mini may start at $329, which would be relatively high for the sub-8″ tablet category even given that Apple is profitable (and quite) on hardware. Pulling off a Retina Display iPad mini at $299 would be a coup.

How the iPad mini stacks up

The iPad mini appears to be imminent, buttressing Apple’s tablet franchise from lowball, razor blade-focused models such as the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7. One way the company can save face in light of its earlier comments rebuking smaller tablets is by going a bit larger. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7, for example, has been well-received, and I’ve had a good experience with the screen size of the Motorola Xyboard 8.2.

Eddie Cue’s comments that came to light regarding the Apple-Samsung trial regarding the challenging Web experience on such tablets is spot on. Hopefully, Apple can address this with a high-resolution display. Obviously, a new smaller iPad would use the new Lightning connector. And judging from the pictures published by CNET, it appears that Apple may continue with the wider aspect ratio introduced on the iPhone 5. That’s a bit disappointing in some ways as the 4:3 aspect ratio helped the iPad stand out and was superior for photos, magazines and documents.