The rumors are now rampant. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that mass production is underway. So what's an iPad Alone guy, who uses an iPad as his primary computer, think about the iPad Mini?
To be honest, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, my iPad stands Alone with a capital A. I mean heck it's the title of the blog. I don't want to carry around other stuff, even if it's another iPad. Once you get used to being laden with only an iPad it's really tough to start throwing other stuff into your bag. Light weight is everything.
But perhaps that's the key for the iPad Mini and me: weight. With the release of the iPhone5 there's never been a wider weight gap between the iPhone and iPad. Will Apple find a way for the Mini to split the difference so it's “just right?”
Beyond weight, what is the case for overall utility? If there is one area where I can honestly say my iPad falls a bit short for me it's in casual reading. I almost never hold my iPad in one hand – it's too heavy and awkward. Two handed, or on my lap, it's wonderful. But quick, on the go reading…not so much. Reading on an iPad is more akin to reading a hardcover novel. Reading on my iPhone5 is more like…something my eyes aren't so happy about. So perhaps the iPad mini is a paperback. Hmm. I might like that.
But is there any use case for me beyond reading? On my iPad I type pretty much exclusively in landscape. I don't expect that the Mini's smaller screen will be particularly conducive to typing. I'm sure I could do it in a pinch, but it's tough to imagine any input scenario wherein I'd pick the Mini over the iPad. Music? iPhone5. Games? Maybe, but I think I'd likely go bigger (iPad) or smaller (iPhone5). Video? Same.
Then there's the question of how light is light enough? Judging by my wife's 7.5 ounce Kindle Touch (same weight as the newer Kindle Paperwhite), 7.5 ounces is about right. Less than half a pound. Spread over its size it feels quite minimal in the hand. Can Apple deliver an iPad Mini of less than half a pound? To be honest I doubt it. I'd expect it to be more in the 14-15 ounce range. Under a pound, but no featherweight.
Obviously, the iPad Mini will be capable of several orders of magnitude more stuff right out the box than the Kindle Paperwhite will ever be. And clever devs will no doubt release apps which are perfectly geared toward the Mini's screen size.
But finally of course comes the question of price. What is the value to me of a device which is (again, for me) primarily a casual ereader? The Kindle Paperwhite can be had for as little as $119, weighs 7.5 ounces, and obviously excels for reading. Tough to justify an iPad Mini at say…14 ounces and $249. Even if they squeak to $199 to better match the Nexus 7, that's quite a premium for the iPad Mini. That said, if Apple can get to $179 and 8 ounces, then they may have another customer on their hands…
EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention that the recently introduced iPod Touch (with the same 4″ screen as the iPhone 5) sells for $299. That makes it seem quite unlikely that the iPad Mini would be $199 let alone $179. That said, maybe supply chain dynamics are at work here. The internals of the mini are rumored after all to be those of the iPad 2, with a shrunken version of the SoC at its core.
But the market may dictate that Apple has to get to at least $249 if not $199. The Nexus 7 is $199. So is the new Kindle Fire HD. And those have higher resolution screens than what is rumored for the mini. Going to be tough I think for Apple to price the mini at a serious premium unless people are so completely locked in with apps and media that they can’t conceive of purchasing a non Apple tablet.