From the reaction on the Internet yesterday and today, you would think the iPad mini is the most expensive tablet on the market. Gizmodo says it’s “crazy expensive;” Business Insider says it’s “overpriced;” Reuters was so concerned it made Apple’s Phil Schiller defend the $330 price tag; and InformationWeek is so hopped up about it that it’s written an article called “The Great Price Debate.” Those are only a few of the many hurt, angry journalists. But let’s look at the facts: Apple is releasing a far more portable, 7.9-inch iPad that retains all of the capabilities of its larger 9.7-inch brother, for $170 less. I cannot be the only person who’s excited about this… Whether or not it’s shocking enough for the Web’s second-to-second news coverage, a smaller cheaper iPad is a huge deal.
The iPad was the first tablet to capture the public’s attention when it debuted two and a half years ago, and it’s still, by far, the top selling tablet today. Apple revealed the other day that it has sold 100 million iPads. Think about that number. How many units has its nearest competitor sold?
In the second quarter of 2012, Apple held a 68 percent market share with the iPad. That means all other tablets — the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet, the Nexus 7, and dozens upon dozens of tablets by the likes of Samsung, Asus, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, Motorola, LG, Dell, Sony, Pantech, ZTE, RIM, Archos, Coby, Pandigital, and ViewSonic — have, combined, only sold somewhere between 25 and 40 million tablets. And that’s being generous, as Apple held a 90+ percent tablet market share for well over a year before any of these companies got their act together at all.
Here’s the bottom line: $200 tablets like the Kindle Fire have been around for a year now and Apple’s single iPad started at $500. And in that year, when potential buyers were faced with the choice of a $200 non-iPad and a $500 iPad, they chose to pay $300 extra dollars to get the iPad seven times out of 10. There were also a slew of other 7-, 8-, 9-, and 10.1-inch tablets for $300-$400, and people have still been choosing the one $500+ iPad. On Tuesday, Apple doubled the number of iPads it sells. Now it has a smaller iPad too, so people who want a tablet that they can use one-handed or keep in their purse/bag can opt for an iPad mini. Oh, and it’s now one of the cheapest tablets on the market, at $330. Is it the cheapest? No. Is it the best? Well, aside from the iPad, it might be.
There are big benefits to buying a Google Android phone — namely, maps and real-time notifications. Tablets are a different story. I’ve used nearly every tablet that’s been released and enjoyed many of them, but none of them compare to the usability and versatility of the iPad. There aren’t enough apps built for them and they aren’t as responsive. Judging by the sales, I’m not the only one who has noticed this.
Tablets are not a necessity; they are a luxury. You have to shell out money, and sometimes settle, to buy a new phone because without one you’re completely disconnected from your friends and family, but no one is going to die without a tablet. We can all live without playing searching up Honey Boo Boo on the toilet or playing Angry Birds during the presidential debate. Every function that a tablet provides can be done by a laptop or a smartphone, and almost everyone has one or both of those already.
This is why, so far, when most people have chosen to buy a tablet, they’ve opted to buy a really good one, the iPad, despite its higher price. Of course, there is a small (growing) percentage of people willing to settle, but the iPad mini has just doubled Apple’s appeal. It may not have a super high-resolution display or cutting-edge internal specs (it’s basically a shrunken iPad 2), but the iPad mini can run all of the nearly 300,000 iPad apps (every one of them designed solely for the iPad). They all work. It’s a complete iPad out of the box. You don’t even have to wait for apps to be shrunk or put up with black bars or any other inconvenience. This means that the iPad mini is now, by default, likely the second best tablet on the market, after the fourth-generation iPad.
I am looking forward to using the iPad mini. Eight- to 9-inch tablets have been my favorite size range since I first used Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 8.9 a year ago. Tablets the size of the iPad mini are small enough to easily hold with one hand, but have a little more screen space than 7-inch screens, which remain a bit cramped and don’t always offer a noticeably enhanced experience than you can achieve on your smartphone. Early hands-on accounts appear to show that Apple has put a lot of time into picking the right screen size for the mini.
The iPad won’t dominate the tablet market forever. That’s just not how things work. But I’m fairly convinced that the iPad mini will encourage millions more people to shell out for an Apple tablet than would have before. It’s going to be a hit. Cheaper tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 won’t die on Nov. 2 when the iPad mini launches, but selling at bargain bin prices may continue to be the only way competitors make mild gains against Apple. Both Amazon and Google make no profit from their cheap tablets. In fact, they’re likely losing money on each tablet they sell in the hopes that they’ll recoup their losses based on app and content sales. That’s not a strategy that will work for many companies.
I am not an Apple lover, but I can spot a good idea when I see one. The iPad mini is a good idea. It’s a product Apple should have released a year ago and it’s going to do incredibly well. As journalists, sometimes we just want eyeballs. When the iPad came out, writers at Business Insider labeled it a “big yawn” and Gizmodo listed “8 things that suck about the iPad.” In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I say. It only matters what people buy, and a lot of them are going to buy an iPad mini.