Apple Rolls Out Thinner, Smaller, iPad Mini

Does the world need a smaller, lighter iPad? Matt DeLuca weighs in on the iPad Mini launch.

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

If you didn’t hear it, maybe that’s because you don’t have an iPad.

A collective “ooh” washed over the Internet Tuesday as Apple CEO Tim Cook debuted the iPad Mini at San Jose’s California Theater after months of speculation and rumor.

Apple fans from around the world joined via a live video stream—the first time the world’s sleekest tech company has live-streamed an event in two years. The video feed was restricted, however, to users of Apple devices, locking unconverted Windows users out of the party.

With all the buzzy energy and sartorial blandness of the departed Steve Jobs, Cook and Phil Schiller, vice president of marketing, slide-showed their way through the Apple lineup—and announced the long-awaited, smaller version of the iPad. Among other additions to the Apple family, the company also announced a new full-size iPad 4.

“This is an amazing new edition to our iPad family,” Schiller said of the Mini. “I’m so excited to tell customers about it.”

Sleeker, thinner, lighter, tinnier—what exactly is the iPad Mini? Is it a bigger iPhone? A shriveled iPad?

“It’s every inch an iPad,” Schiller assured the applauding crowd. And it joins a pretty big family. One hundred million iPads have been sold in the two and a half years since the product was first introduced, as Cook noted.

Measuring 7.9 inches on the diagonal—compared with 9.7 inches on the standard iPad—the new product is capable of running 275,000 apps designed for the iPad. The pencil-thin new gadget fits in one hand, Schiller said. Weighing in at 0.68 pounds, it is 53 percent lighter than the previous, larger version of the device.

“It’s great for managing all your photos and sharing them with friends and family,” Schiller said, adding that the iPad Mini makes it easy to read a book or a magazine.

“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they’ve failed miserably,” Schiller said, comparing the iPad Mini’s screen size and Web-surfing capabilities to an Android tablet's.

“It’s a powerhouse,” Schiller said. “We’re so far ahead of the competition, I can’t even see them in the rear-view mirror.”

The baseline iPad Mini will be priced at $329. The 32GB version will sell for $429 and the 64GB for $529. Preorders will begin on Friday, Oct. 26, and WiFi versions will begin to ship on Nov. 2. Cellular versions of the iPad Mini will ship two weeks later.

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The iPad as a brand has been booming, Cook said. “It seems like each time we get together, there’s a new number or statistic to illustrate the growth and momentum of this product,” the chief executive gushed. “But we’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

Prior to the unveiling of the one-hand device, tech watchers predicted that pricing would be the main concern, as Apple tried to carve out another slice of the tech market all for itself.

“We believe the key metric to watch are price points for iPad Mini,” wrote Shaw Wu, a senior technology analyst for Sterne Agee, in an event preview note. A competitively priced iPad Mini would be “the competition’s worst nightmare,” Wu wrote. “The reason is that competitors are already having a tough time competing against the $399 iPad 2 and $499 iPad, and we believe lower price point iPads will make it even more difficult.”

And those fears may still play out. Immediately after the iPad Mini price tag of $329 was announced, shares of Apple dropped $8 dollars—though that hardly leaves a dent in the $631 a share Apple opened at on Tuesday morning.

Aside from the iPad Mini, Apple also introduced a new 13-inch Mac Pro, designed to be 30 percent thinner than the previous version of the product. And a new notebook computer, the MacBook Pro, features a retina display with 2560 x 1,600 pixels and is the world’s second-highest resolution computer, Schiller said. With the new display, he said, “Surfing the Web can be like a fine print magazine.”

Some things might never change.