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iPad Air & iPad Mini,
Both come with Retina Display

Apple Adds Retina Screen To The iPad Mini, And That's Big

Apple just made its tiny iPad Mini almost as powerful as its big new iPad Air.

As we'd expected, although some commentators and analysts (what do they know?) questioned it, Apple just revealed its new iPad Mini with a retina screen. It's totally upgraded compared to last year, and just might be more important than the new iPad Air.

The new iPad Mini is externally the same as the old one. It's the same size, has the same ports, but it is a little heavier. That weight may have to do with the larger battery needed to power the Mini's newest feature: A 2048-by-1536-pixel screen, at a retina-beating resolution of 326 pixels per inch.

iPad Mini with Retina Display

The bigger battery is also needed to power the A7 chip inside, which is the same class as the A7 chip inside the new iPhone 5S and iPad Air (though, because Apple doesn't talk specs any more, we don't know if its clocked at a lower speed or has other performance changes). There's also the new M7 motion chip inside, which means the iPad Mini may be useful as a fitness-tracking device.

The new iPad Mini is the same price as the old one, $399 and up for the Wi-Fi only model. Apple is using a trick it's used for the iPhone by keeping the old 16GB Mini on sale at $299—presumably to counter the swelling market of cheap Android tablets.

But there's a couple of things that stand out about this device. First, it's not going on sale as soon as the iPad Air is, which could support some earlier rumors about yield issues in the manufacture of its new screen. And second, the iPad Mini is as powerful as the full-size iPad, only smaller, and we know Apple is pushing the bigger device as having "desktop class" apps and content-creation potential.

This means you could look at the 4G-capable iPad Mini as Apple's own version of a "phablet," priced more aggressively in some ways than some of its rivals, like the Galaxy Note.

Considering the new tablet is so cheap, and comes with free iWork business apps that quite definitely rival Microsoft's Office and Google's productivity services, the new iPad Mini could appeal to a new class of user, and may be Apple's most important tablet yet.

Want to go inside the Apple design lab? Fast Company is gathering several former Apple designers for a Live Oral History at our Innovation By Design Conference on November 6. Find out more here.

[Images courtesy of Apple]

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  • jeff bellin

    This artice is written as pretty much a promotional piece for the new (and even old!) iPad mini. That's ok, maybe, as long as it's made clear that the author has a bias and a point of view, commentary far more than reporting. What's not even close to ok are some misstatement of facts - important ones - and a total failure to speak to the thesis of the article as described by its headline.

    The misstatements of fact:

    1) "The new iPad Mini is the same price as the old one, $399 and up for the Wi-Fi only model." The "old" Mini was priced at $329 for the same configuration as the $399 model has in the new product. That's more than a 20% error and pricing is germane to this model and its market segment. This error is compounded when tied to a supporting comment, see below.

    2) "...the iPad Mini is as powerful as the full-size iPad, only smaller..." While the details were intentionally kept ambiguous, it was abundantly clear from the presentations yesterday that the new "iPad Air" has a more powerful chip than the A7 that is found in both the new Mini and the iPhone S. There were numerous references in the Apple presentations to the Air having a more powerful chip - dubbed "A7X" by some reports, but I'm not sure if that was Apple's nomenclature. In any event, the $499, 9.7" iPad Air is absolutely NOT the same tablet as the Mini in a larger form factor - different chip, different clock speeds, very possibly different capacity of cpu, gpu and memory. The author correctly states that these variables are all different in the Mini than they are in the iPhone 5s, but gets it 100% wrong suggesting that internally the Mini and Air are clones (his inference, my term).

    These two factual misstatements were supported by the author by conclusions and inferences that were as incorrect as the pricing and specifications were flat-out wrong:

    1) "Considering the new tablet is so cheap..." Since this is an expression of opinion we can't state categorically that it is "wrong," per se. But given that the new Mini's closest competitors - the Nexus 7 and Kindle HDX - are anywhere from 25% to 40% "cheaper," with generally comparable specs, Apple has clearly gambled by increasing both the Mini's absolute price (by $70) and the price differential - from $130 to $170 in the case of the Nexus 7, similarly in the case of the Kindle - without providing a value proposition to justify its ever more lofty prices. The product is a stunner, with many subjective areas of superiority to it's main rivals - and also some relative deficiencies - but its price has been widely characterized as its biggest disadvantage, even "disappointment," in the view of many commentators. Cheap? Don't think so.

    2) "Apple is using a trick it's used for the iPhone by keeping the old 16GB Mini on sale at $299--presumably to counter the swelling market of cheap Android tablets." Neat trick: drop $30 (less than 10%!!) off the price of an already overpriced, now pathetically obsolete product and imply that this represents a shrewd strategy of Apple's to participate in the "swelling market of cheap Android tablets" which sell for an average of $150 - half the price of the "new/old" Mini at $299 - and offer performance and screen resolutions that already vastly exceeded those of the previous Mini. In another three months, this flood of competitive Android tablets might well outperform the new Mini, much less the old one, which was vastly under-spec'd when it came out a year ago!

    Just one additional small point, maybe some will say I'm being picky. The article's headline reads: "Apple Adds Retina Screen To The iPad Mini, And That's Big." Nowhere in the article is this thesis addressed, much less supported. Truth is, if they hadn't added a Retina screen - much less at a price increase that exceeds its cost differential - the market would have viewed it as such a "fail," that it would very likely have tanked Apple's stock price. Talk about a "dog bites man," news story; this sole feature change, to play catch-up with the likes of Amazon, Asus and a handful of unknown Asian manufacturers, was about as "big" as, well, announcing that they would sell the tablet in gold color. Oh, they actually aren't!