Apple's New iPad Mini Is Sleek But Pricey

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 23 2012 2:20 PM

Apple's New iPad Mini Is Pricey But Sleek. Or Is It Sleek But Pricey?

iPad mini
Apple on Tuesday unveiled a new, smaller iPad with a 7.9" display.

Screenshot / Apple.com

It's a computer! It's a phone! It's a tablet!

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Well, yes, it's a tablet. But Apple's new iPad mini, announced at a launch event Tuesday, is a very small and sleek tablet, with a screen that measures 7.9 inches diagonally. More impressively, it's the width of a pencil and weighs just 0.68 pounds, about as much as a pad of paper, noted Apple vice president Phil Schiller. It has the same 1024-by-768-pixel display as the iPad 2, has front and rear cameras with HD video capability, and runs all of the same software as its larger sibling.

Advertisement

“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they’ve failed miserably,” Schiller said graciously, before launching into a side-by-side comparison of the iPad mini with a similarly sized Android tablet.

The iPad mini will start at $329 for the WiFi-only version, which Schiller noted is the lowest price ever for an iPad (though still more expensive than many other tablets on the market). Versions with more memory will cost $429 and $529.

For the version with cellular service, the prices are $459, $559, and $659.

The WiFi version will begin shipping in the U.S. on Friday, Oct. 26, with the cellular version coming in November.

Apple also announced a fourth-generation iPad Tuesday, just half a year after it announced the third-generation model. The company sold its 100-millionth iPad two weeks ago, and it said the iPad accounts for 91 percent of all browser traffic from tablets.

Meanwhile, the company launched a new MacBook Pro and iMac. The latter is now the top-selling desktop in the United States.

Update, 2:45 p.m.: The $329 starting price is on the high side of initial estimates, some of which had been as low as $250. That's twice the price of Amazon's Kindle Fire, and the figure has clearly disappointed some. And while the screen's resolution is the same as that of the iPad 2, it is not a retina display, so those looking for super-high-definition games and videos may prefer its full-size counterpart.

On the plus side, the device maintains the iPad's 10-hour battery life, and its cameras are unparalled by cheaper tablets. In addition, Schiller noted, "It's not just a shrunken-down iPad. It's an entirely new design." That design is reminiscent of the iPhone 5, with its aluminum frame, and like the iPhone 5 it comes in white and silver or black and slate. It will also share with the phone the new "Lightning" connector.

But Schiller highlighted the differences between the iPad mini and a phone more than the similarities. He emphasized that, unlike some competitors, it runs apps tailor-made for the tablet as opposed to scaled-up smartphone apps. That made it shine in the side-by-side comparison.

In all, it looks like another impressive feat of Apple engineering. And, along with a flurry of other new tablets and phones on the market, it represents another step toward a day when the distinction betwen phones, tablets, and personal computers becomes arbitrary.

Update, 3:10 p.m.: I couldn't decide whether the headline should be that the iPad mini is "pricey but sleek" or "sleek but pricey," so I went with both. Those who think it's the former—that is, Apple loyalists who care more about how cool a new product is than how competitive it is on price—will probably buy the thing. Those who prefer the latter formulation—people who comparison-shop Apple devices against Androids and others on the basis of price and features—may pass on the iPad mini for now. Fortunately for Apple, there seem to be an awful lot of people in that first camp.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.