By Chris Ciaccia
Apple's (AAPL) iPad Mini has been a huge hit with reviewers and consumers, as Apple announced it sold over three million iPads since it announced the iPad mini, as well as the fourth-generation iPad. After demoing the iPad mini, this is going to one of, if not the top-selling tablet this holiday season.
The iPad mini, which has a 7.9-inch screen, is a smaller version of the iPad, but it's a perfect gift for parents looking to give their kids a tablet without paying $499 and up for an iPad. Though some are saying that Apple launched the iPad mini just to compete with the smaller tablet offerings from Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG), the differences between the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7 are vast. It's 49% larger in in a portrait setting, and 67% larger in landscape mode, said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, as he demonstrated the product during the product announcement.
Any parent's concern is that the gift they give their children on Christmas will be played with for a few days or weeks, then wind up in a drawer. That won't be the case with the iPad mini, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Cook said in a recent conference call Apple doesn't make shoddy products, when talking about the iPad mini, and expects people will use them for quite some time. "... One of the things we try to do is to create a product that people will love for months and years after they purchase it and continue using it in a robust way," Cook noted on Apple's fourth-quarter earnings call. "I would encourage you to use an iPad Mini and I don't think you'll be using anything other than maybe another iPad or something after you do that."
The great thing about the iPad mini when giving it to kids is it's incredibly light, but durable. At 308 grams, it feels as if there isn't anything in your hands, but not to the point where it feel like a toy. It's also incredibly thin, at just 7.2 millimeters. "It's as thin as a pencil," Schiller said during the presentation.
Apple helped keep the cost of the iPad mini by not including Retina Display and using the A5 chip Apple used on the iPad 2, which are a few drawbacks for those used to faster speeds and a crystal clear display, but it's definitely a step above the competition for lower-end tablets.
Screen resolution is lower than what the other 7-inch tablets offer, as the iPad mini has a screen resolution of 1024 x 768, with 163 pixels per inch (ppi). By contrast, the Nexus 7's screen is 800 x 1280 pixels, with a 216 ppi pixel density, and the Kindle Fire HD's screen is 1280x800, with a 212 ppi pixel density. This is a bit of a drawback, but Apple more than makes up for it elsewhere.
Apple really shines with its mobile operating system, iOS 6, and its App Store. The operating system looks gorgeous on the smaller screen, and there are no freezing or bugs. As CEO Cook has said before, Apple makes products that "just work." All 275,000+ apps that are iPad specific work on the iPad mini, so no need to worry about new apps.
The iPad mini comes in both Wi-Fi and Long Term Evolution (LTE) versions, as consumers demand faster data. LTE tends to drain battery life on devices, but Apple was staunch in their claim that the battery life on the iPad mini is 10 hours, which will make parents happy on long car rides and trips. It's impressive that Apple was able to include LTE in such a small and light device, all things considered. The LTE version is pricier than the Wi-Fi version, but you can get Internet access anywhere. It will run on the 4G networks from AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and Sprint (S). This marks the first time Sprint has carried an iPad on its network.
Pricing of the device surprised some people, with Apple starting the iPad mini off at $329 for the 16 GB model. Similar tablets from Amazon and Kindle start much lower, but Apple has never competed on price, and it's betting that parents who want to give the very best for Christmas, will pay up. The LTE version starts at $459 for the 16 GB version.
The iPad mini is likely to cannibalize sales of the larger iPad, but Apple has expected this, and priced the iPad mini accordingly. Apple wants to expand its already strong hold on the tablet market, and by announcing the iPad mini, it opens up its ecosystem to a slew of new users. Given the price point, the App Store, iTunes, and Apple's brand cache and sleek design, the iPad mini is sure to be a hit this holiday season.
Connect with Chris on Twitter @Commodity_Bull