Jimmy Kimmel isn’t impressed with Apple’s new smaller, lighter, slightly cheaper venture: the iPad mini. On his show Thursday night, a few hours before the tech giant released the iPad mini, Kimmel ran a spoof ad, calling the new tablet “a bigger but not gigantic iPod you cannot talk on.” He took a stab at Apple’s timing, joking that the new iPad could also be used as a paperweight for those without power.
On Friday morning, reports of mini-size lines and disappointing sales prevailed on Twitter and the blogosphere, but was the head-shaking justified? With a starting price of $329, and a smaller screen, the bite-size gadget is intended to knock competitors out of the smaller-tablet market, just as its big brother has done to other full-size options. Here’s a look at what the people who know best think of Apple’s latest venture.
Surprisingly, the best turnout was in New York City, where Hurricane Sandy had knocked out power to all of downtown. A Fortune reporter counted the line at the Fifth Avenue flagship store at 9:56 a.m.—four minutes before the doors opened—and tallied 801 eager consumers. Comparatively, the line was only topped by the iPhone 4, which had 1,300 waiting in line, and the iPad 2, with 1,190. But elsewhere, the lines were dismal—compared to the normally epic releases—which led Apple observers to shake their heads. The Los Angeles Times reported a dismal 30-person line at one local Apple store and in Palo Alto, Calif., Apple-head central, less than 100 people lined up.
Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun Times had mixed feelings about his new toy. He liked the size and the fact that it really was “just a smaller iPad,” though he noted he found the scaled-down interface “plain weird,” and was disappointed in a lack of retina display. All in all? “I certainly like what I’ve seen so far,” Ihnatko wrote. “There’s little question that this mini-iPad won’t be a lesser iPad.”
Mashable reported that early sales reports were weaker than the larger versions, even though Apple noted it had sold out of pre-orders online. But market watchers were optimistic. Apple analyst Gene Munster predicted they would be selling 1 million to 1.5 million units for its opening weekend—quite a bit lower than other product releases. But, Munster argues, the nature of the smaller version makes it likely that many won’t adopt it right away, and more important, Apple isn’t releasing its LTE-enabled minis until later this month. Other analysts who spoke to Mashable predicted sales would be 4 million to 10 million this quarter.
Apple-aficionado MG Siegler at Tech Crunch had a glowing review of the iPad Mini, saying it was no question “one of the best devices Apple has ever made.” The reason? “The iPad mini seems like it will be much more complementary than the regular iPad is to pretty much any size MacBook,” Siegler wrote.
Overall, the reception was mixed. “The product isn’t revolutionary, has a defined role, and is saddled with a price that just doesn’t scream value,” tech blogger Larry Dignan wrote in his CNET review. But on the homepage of the site, another post had a slightly different take: “If you want the full, polished Apple tablet experience in a smaller package, the iPad mini is worth the premium price.” Only the sales figures will tell if this latest gadget was just a “jump-on-the-Apple-bandwagon” impulse purchase, or if the iPad mini is a lasting investment that customers will continue buying past opening weekend.