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Friday, November 2, 2012

This Apple Fell Far From The Tree

With over 100 million iPad’s sold and Microsoft releasing their own tablet, Surface, this holiday season, Apple has been rumored to be developing a smaller version of its popular iPad tablet…

…and on October 23rd they announced it to the world.

The iPad mini’s tech specs include:
  • 7.9″ IPS Display (1024 x 768 px)
  • 16/32/64 GB Storage
  • 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.28 inches (height/width/depth)
  • 10.86 ounces
  • A5 Dual Core Processor (Same as iPad 2/iPhone 4s)
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
  • LTE 4g on Cellular Models
  • New Lightning connector (replaces old dock connector)
You may be wondering why I titled this article “This apple fell far from the tree”, because the specs list seems pretty good (the processor and screen resolution are exactly the same as the iPad 2).

The reason is simple: relative price, and design.

Relative Price

If the iPad Mini was the first tablet to come out in this size you could argue that $329 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi model ($459 with cellular) was a reasonable price, but the Amazon Kindle HD 7″, Google Nexus 7″ and a host of other 7″ tablets are available for $199. Additionally, the screen resolution is lower than the competitors, the processor is slower and the device features less connectivity/expandability than the competitors. Normally the Apple premium price is rewarded by a device with some of the best specs, but this time you pay a lot more and get a lot less.


When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad he made it clear the bezel (the black space around the screen) was designed to perfectly fit the human thumb so you can hold the device easily. The iPad mini doesn’t appear to follow that design, with a very thin bezel meant to be held in a claw grip from behind. Why is this such a big problem? Well, the sides of the screen register touch so you’ll be flipping pages, accidentally clicking links and doing all other manner of annoying things if you try to hold the Mini like a full size iPad.

The picture to the left below shows the claw grip Apple expects you to hold this nearly 8″ by 5.5″ device in. I have large hands, and it was a challenge for me to hold it. The picture below to the right shows a person trying to hold the iPad Mini as you would hold other tablets, but clearly your thumb ends up over content and on the touch screen.

It’s not that the iPad Mini is the worst tablet ever made – it is amazingly thin, it’s made out of aluminum, has Apple’s fantastic app store and iOS operating system, which means it is sure to be a commercial success. But in my opinion, it has a serious design flaw and is too expensive. This is a rare miss on some pretty basic aspects from a company which redefined the tablet market from bulky, overpriced, hard-to-use devices into sleek simple and affordable tablets.

The iPad Mini will be available for pre-order on Friday October 26th, with retail availability starting on November 2nd. Expect long lines and the traditional camp outs at Apple stores to be one of the first to purchase, but I would consider one of the cheaper alternatives for a 7″ tablet – or if you want an Apple device, the full size iPad (refurbished iPad 3 available for only $379 right now at Apple’s online store and new iPad 2′s starting at $399)

P.S. Apple also announced the iPad 4, which is identical to the iPad 3 with an upgraded A6X processor featuring 2x the performance, new lightning connector and faster 4g LTE service on cellular models. Not an Earth-shattering upgrade, but just enough to upset everyone who bought the brand new iPad 3 which was released a little more than 6 months ago.

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