Apple finally announced the long rumored iPad Mini, a 7.9″ “mini” version of its successful iPad tablet, which holds approximately 52% of the tablet market. The price of the iPad Mini is set at $329 for the WiFi 16 GB storage variant and $459 for the 3G variant. While I am happy to see Apple providing their customers a choice (I personally enjoy a 7″ tablet for reading), I am disappointed with the hardware and software for the price.
The processor used in the iPad Mini is the same A5 processor that is found in 2011’s iPad 2 revision. In addition, the memory is rumored to be a measly 512 MB instead of the iPad’s 1 GB RAM. In comparison to its direct competitors, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, the iPad Mini does come out ahead in form factor and the inclusion of a rear camera. However, the price makes it a tough pill to swallow when the Nexus 7 is believed to be receiving a small revision and keep its $199 price point.
The iPad Mini wasn’t the only product Apple announced. It also announced a new, fourth generation, iPad. The third generation iPad just came out this year with its retina display and Apple is already refreshing it with its new speedier A6X processor. Beyond a couple of other hardware changes (WiFi, camera, lightning connector), the newer iPad is much the same as the new iPad. Wow, that is extremely confusing. Apple refused to call their third generation iPad an iPad 3, instead calling it the “new” iPad, but at this point, it is simply easier to label it the iPad 3 and label this newest iPad an iPad 4.
I feel sorry for anyone who bought an iPad 3 this year. Sure, some Apple Stores are allowing people who just bought an iPad 3 in the last 30 days to return the product, but others, such as my parents who bought one a couple of months ago, are out of luck. What makes it even more irritating is that my dad just bought into the Apple ecosystem by updating his Motorola Razr (the flip phone one!) to an iPhone 5 after much longer than the suggested two year cycle. He is now stuck with two devices that share the same software ecosystem, but not the same connector since the iPad 3 still uses the old 30-pin connector, while the iPhone 5 introduced lightning, which is being continued here with the iPad 4 and iPad Mini.
To top everything off, Apple’s competitors are on the horizon. In a couple of days, Microsoft will officially release Windows 8 and Windows RT. Some of the early reviews are already singing the praise of a more robust operating system (OS) that allows users to actually be productive with their tablets, going as far as to call the iPad “immediately out of date.” Google isn’t resting on their laurels either with an Android conference scheduled for Monday, October 29. Rumors say Android will be updating to 4.2 and Google will be introducing a new Nexus phone, as well as a 10″ Nexus tablet. Google has also been attempting to motivate its developers to create tablet-optimized apps, which is the last hurdle Google needs to clear to make Android on a tablet appealing.
The competition is fierce and is about to get even more heated. Today, Apple attempted to expand its market size by appealing to more price conscious consumers or by attracting consumers who are looking for a smaller than 10″ option. My fear is that Apple has already captured most of the consumers who would have bought an iPad anyway. Apple consumers, historically, have never been very sensitive to screen size and Apple offering size options is a step back from its one hardware design roots. Now, app developers will have to code for the iPhone 5’s longer screen, the original iPhone screen size, the original 9.7″ iPad screen size, and now the 7.9″ iPad mini screen size – and let’s not forget all the variations of pixel density (aka retina display or not). At the same time, Apple betrayed customers who bought an iPad 3, thinking it’s the best tech for at least a year.
With the building threat of competition from Microsoft and Google, it is a bad time for Apple to play it safe by sticking to what it knows and is comfortable with. iOS, the software running Apple’s various mobile devices, is old and due for a major refresh. Many tech enthusiasts were hoping for iOS6 to be the huge revolution, but it instead gave us these maps (to be fair, Apple has made some good progress with their maps app).
iPad Mini? No thanks. I rather save my income and go with something new; something that has a bright and robust future ahead of itself. A Windows 8 or Windows RT (I strongly prefer Windows 8 over RT because it provides backwards compatibility and a more “Windows” experience) slate is the ticket. Microsoft has a strong chance of becoming a powerful force in the mobile market just by leveraging its unified ecosystem of Windows 8 on desktops and laptops with Windows RT on tablets and Windows Phone 8 on smartphones. If only Microsoft can build its app ecosystem and become more flexible with pushing updates to add more functionality.
Apple? Step up your game.