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Hands on with the iPad mini

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Michael Liedtke

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iPad mini joins the competitive tablet market

Apple introduces a smaller, cheaper version of its popular iPad, the iPad mini, available to pre-order in Australia on the 26th of October from $369.

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Apple's iPad mini will bring a lot more excitement and a little more confusion to the holiday shopping season.

It only takes a few minutes playing with the iPad mini — which starts at $369 — to realise the scaled-down tablet computer will be a sure-fire hit with longtime Apple disciples and potential converts who've been looking for a more affordable entry into the mobile computing market.

Hands on ... Apple's newly introduced iPad mini.

Hands on ... Apple's newly introduced iPad mini. Photo: AFP

The iPad mini is perfectly sized to be stuffed in Christmas stockings. It's 7.87 inches tall and 5.3 inches wide, compared with the full-size iPad, which is 9.5 inches by 7.31 inches. Recipients who will discover the pleasure and convenience of being able to take pictures, surf the web, watch video, read books and listen to music on an exquisitely designed device that's pancake thin.

As enticing as that all sounds, the iPad mini also causes a dilemma, albeit a pleasant one.

The new option will make it even more difficult for holiday shoppers to figure out which mobile device to buy for their loved ones — or for themselves.

The MacBook Pro with Retina Display now comes in both 15-inch (left) and 13-inch models. Click for more photos

Apple launches the iPad mini

Apple unveils the iPad mini - a 7.9-inch tablet that is 23 per cent thinner and 53 per cent lighter than the third generation iPad. 

I felt the pangs of indecision within a few minutes of picking up the iPad mini for the first time.

As the company usually does at its product unveilings, Apple only provided reporters with limited, strictly supervised access to the iPad mini. That meant I could only experiment with it for about 15 minutes, but as an experienced user of the iPad 2, I could quickly see that the smaller tablet does just about everything its bigger brethren does.

Even though the mini's 7.9-inch screen (measured on the diagonal) is 1.8 inches smaller than the standard iPad, the movie The Avengers looked lush, even in a side-by-side comparison with the larger tablet. When I pulled up the latest issue of The New Yorker, I didn't have to strain to see the text or pictures on the smaller screen. A quick check of other websites verified that the mini's screen isn't so tiny that it's going to cause a lot of squinting. After I took a very crisp picture of another reporter testing out a mini, I decided to email it to her to test how easy it was to use the keyboard on the smaller screen. No problem there. Best of all, the iPad mini can be held in one hand and is about half the weight of the larger iPad.

The mini worked so much like my standard iPad that it immediately caused me to have second thoughts about a decision I thought I had already made. I like my iPad 2 a lot, but it's just too big to carry with me wherever I am. But there have been times I really wished I had it with me, like when I spot something that would make a great picture or when I've needed to check something on the web. For various reasons, I didn't want a smartphone that would require a data plan, so I had my mind set on buying the latest iPod Touch, which has an iPhone-size screen and superb camera.

Now, the iPad mini has me vacillating. Apple isn't making it easier with its pricing strategy. The latest iPod Touch with 32 gigabytes sells for $329. An iPad mini with 16 gigabytes of storage sells for $369. I'm tempted.

Like others who will no doubt be weighing the same decision, I'll have to make up my mind. Do I want something that can fit in a pants pocket like the Touch? For starters, it comes in more colors than the black-or-white mini and offers more storage capacity for a cheaper price.

Or do I want to pay a little more for another tablet computer that can slip into a coat pocket and offer a richer experience with a screen nearly two times larger than the new Touch?

The iPad mini is so mighty that I can't believe the iPad 2 will be on the market too much longer. As of November 2, Apple will sell two versions of the larger iPad: The iPad 2 starting at $429 and the new fourth-generation iPad, introduced this week, starting at $539. The iPad 2's price now looks too expensive, given that the iPad mini can do just about everything it does on a slightly smaller screen. The iPad 2 still may hold some appeal for people who want a larger tablet, but I can't see too many consumers buying the iPad 2 now that the mini is available.

Consumers who aren't set on buying one of Apple's devices will have even more choices to make. The iPad mini is clearly aimed at siphoning sales away from the Nexus 7 tablet that Google began selling four months ago and the longer-established Kindle Fire from Amazon.com. Figuring out which one is best-suited for you (or that special someone on your shopping list) will likely come down to weighing price against performance.

Amazon sells a Kindle Fire HD with 16 gigabytes of storage and a 7-inch screen for $US199 and a similarly sized Nexus 7 goes for $A249. That means an iPad mini will cost $120 to $170 more, a price that Apple believes is justified because it boasts more features, such as front- and rear-facing cameras. The mini's reliance on aluminum instead of plastic for its exterior also makes it look more stylish and more enjoyable to hold.

If the speculation on technology blogs pans out, Google might make things even more interesting — and dizzying for holiday shoppers — by introducing a cheaper version of the Nexus 7 in the coming weeks.

AP

89 comments

  • Holy Cow have you drunk the Kool Aide!!! Why on Earth would you by the iPad mini for $329 when you can get a 32GB Google Nexus 7 for $249?

    Apple fans are silly.

    Commenter
    TheJoker1214324
    Date and time
    October 25, 2012, 9:35AM
    • Because the Nexus is made of plastic, has a smaller screen, doesn't load content correctly and comes with an unstable operating system.

      Commenter
      Quality
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 9:49AM
    • Welcome trolls, who will give you reasons not to buy an Apple product.

      Commenter
      SK
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 9:50AM
    • Because unfortunately Apple still hold the market for tablets. I am an android fan and have an android phone but I dont like their tablets. The ipad works very well with the android phone and while I wont be wasting money on the ipad mini, I can see a market there for it.
      Android fans are just as closed minded and one sided as apple fans, the first post just confirms this.

      Commenter
      Jo
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 9:52AM
    • And where are you getting this nexus tablet for $249? An Australian version 16GB is almost $300. So I guess you are importing and expect everyone wants to do that too? And have limited or no warranty unlike Apple who have exceptional service and after sales support. Unfortunately their products have a premium cost to cover this awesome service. No other and I repeat NO OTHER manufacturer even comes close to what apple do when there is a warranty issue.
      Google cant even create a full back up which just works like Apple have, you have to root and stuff with the phone just to get it to do simple features which should already be included. No different to having to jailbreak apple products in order to access other features. Its the age old argument and theres no right or wrong but you just look like a fool arguing your point.

      Commenter
      Jo
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 9:58AM
    • @TheJoker, I really hope you're just trolling the Nexus7 is only in 8GB or 16GB flavors... If you could get a 32GB Nexus7 for $249 I'd be getting that, but this product doesn't exist yet or for that price... 8GB Nexus7 is $249 the 16GB Nexus7 is $299.

      However, apparently there is a 32GB Nexus7 with 3G in the works and being released on the 29th of October for $429 (which is tempting).

      Commenter
      Gumbercules
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 10:04AM
    • Wow @Jo!!! "You have to root and stuff with the phone", sounds kind of kinky to me! Is there a port for doing that?!!!

      And having to do that just to get it "to do simple features which should already be included", makes it sound like quite a few women I've known over the years!!!

      Still; the i-Pad mini sounds a little expensive to me, even if I don't have to "root and stuff" with it just to get it "to do simple features which should have been included". ;-)

      I'll wait until the Surface Pro is released...

      She'll be apples!!!

      Commenter
      Steve_C
      Location
      Blue Mountains
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 10:14AM
    • Because its a mac and they work.

      Commenter
      LongtimeTabletUser
      Location
      Liverpool
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 10:19AM
    • Steve, If youre not understanding what I mean by that then you havent used android.. its like androids answer to jailbreaking. You know the thing the android fans say is bad about apple, you have to jailbreak to get any extras? Well its the same with android. You have to "root" to get any extras there too or to get it to do full back ups etc.
      Its just something android users turn a blind eye to so they can keep attacking apple. I have to say I see pretty strong "fanboism" from both sides when looking through forums, but android users are by far the worst - very aggressive. They dont like anyone liking something they dont or having a differing opinion. Its one reason I hate the fact I enjoy my android phone because I hate to be associated with these people. Makes it hard to get any form of support through open forums though given I cant bring myself to become a teenager again just to fit in with the lingo...

      Commenter
      Jo
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 10:44AM
    • To those regarding this as a stocking filler, I can confirm that a full sized iPad comfortably fits into a pair of elastic fishnets.

      Commenter
      Matt
      Location
      Glebe
      Date and time
      October 25, 2012, 10:54AM

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Apple introduces a smaller, cheaper version of its popular iPad, the iPad mini, available to pre-order in Australia on the 26th of October from $369.

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