Can the Apple iPad mini compete in the bargain tablet market?

Tony Bradley
26 October, 2012
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It’s real. Finally.

On Wednesday, Apple finally pulled back the curtain and revealed the hotly rumoured, and highly anticipated iPad mini. The leaks and rumours were so accurate, though, that Apple had little new to add. It’s a smaller version of the iPad that will be available starting November 2 at prices that start at US$329 in the US ($369 in Australia) for a 16GB Wi-Fi only model.

My money was on a starting price of US$199. Initially, I predicted US$249, but after I heard predictions it would be US$329, I assumed that would be for the 4G-equipped based model. In my mind, the US$199 price tag made sense relative to the rest of the 7in tablet market, and the cellular option has always added US$130 to the price of an iPad, which would make a 4G iPad Mini US$329.

So, US$329 was a bit of a sticker shock. The 4G option still costs an additional US$130, so the 16GB 4G iPad mini is US$459. At US$199, the Apple iPad mini would have been 7in tablet genocide. No competitors would be left standing. At US$249–another popular 7in tablet price point–the Apple iPad mini would be aggressively priced, and still crush most competitors. Even at US$299, the Apple iPad mini would almost be a no-brainer for someone looking for a smaller tablet option.

That extra US$30 makes a huge psychological difference, and places the iPad mini in a sort of class of it’s own–a cheaper alternative to the iPad, that’s still enough of a premium compared with 7in tablet rivals that you almost can’t compare them directly. It’s like Apple’s way of subtly letting customers know that this isn’t “another 7in tablet”–it’s an iPad.

The question is, how will that work out in the real world? A business considering purchasing ten iPads at US$499 each can instead acquire 15 iPad minis for the same money. However, businesses willing to consider the smaller display might then also consider a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, or a Lenovo IdeaPad A2109. The Google Nexus 7 has been a huge success, and according to reports from The Verge it seems that a 32GB Google Nexus will soon be available at a mere US$249.

A business that is already invested in iOS, and already set up to manage iOS devices like iPhones and iPads will still have reason to choose an iPad mini over other small tablet options. But, a business or consumer that simply wants a smaller tablet without regard for platform might find one of the Android options a better fit.

To quote from the hands-on review by Dan Moren and Jason Snell, “When you see one, and hold one, you’ll know if you want one.

I guess we’ll find out on November 2 if that price point is worth it.

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