New iPad Mini Tiptoes Into the Market
Whether Apple's new iPad mini with Retina display is worth the $400 to $830 price tag may be a moot point if the company is unable to stock store shelves. It appears manufacturers of the display have been slow to ship. Once the supply chain kinks are ironed out, consumers will have a chance to see for themselves how the vaunted Retina display model compares with less-pricey 7-inch tablets.
Apple snuck out the iPad mini with Retina display in a low-key launch on Tuesday, making it available for purchase online, through personal pickup of Web orders at its retail stores, or from various carriers.
The device is also available at selected authorized resellers, Apple said, although it did not give details.
However, the iPad mini with Retina display apparently is not available for direct purchase at Apple stores.
Mini With Retina Display Specs
Consumers can purchase the mini with Retina display in a Space Gray or silver finish, with either WiFi-only or WiFi and cellular connectivity.
The devices come with a choice of 16-GB, 32-GB, 64-GB or 128-GB capacities.
Pricing ranges from US$400 to $700 for the WiFi-only versions, and from $530 to $830 for the WiFi-and-cellular devices.
The iPad mini with Retina display has a 7.8-inch screen and runs on a 64-bit A7 processor. Battery life is up to 10 hours.
The device runs iOS 7.
All four major carriers -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile -- support the iPad mini with Retina display, and offer no-contract data plans ranging from free in T-Mobile's case to $50 a month, for allotments of 200 MB to 6 GB of data per month, depending on the carrier.
Consumers with existing flexible shared plans can upgrade them to add the iPad mini with Retina display.
Wrestling With Screen Resolution
The iPad's Retina display has been unfavorably compared to that of the less expensive Kindle Fire HDX.
"In pure resolution count, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9-inch is higher," said Vinita Jakhanwal, director, small and medium displays at IHS iSuppli.
However, the difference is slight -- the HDX 8.9 offers 339 pixels per inch and the iPad mini with Retina display has 326 PPI.
"All these products, including the second-generation Google Nexus, are in the same range of resolution in terms of PPI," Jakhanwal remarked. "With the iPad mini's Retina display, Apple is standardizing its display performance and user experience across all its devices, which has its own merits when working with apps across platforms."
However, display quality is critical when it comes to content, Ray Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies, told MacNewsWorld.
"Both Amazon and Apple want you to buy and consume lots of content, so if your tablet is as good as your HDTV -- or, in some cases, better -- that will encourage you to buy content," he pointed out.
Still, the iPad mini with Retina display doesn't fall into the same category as the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9-inch tablet, which Soneira classifies as a flagship tablet, together with the iPad Air and Google Nexus 10.
DisplayMate's comparison of the flagship devices' screens can be viewed here.
Constipation at Cupertino?
The low-key rollout has sparked speculation that Apple might be having supply problems.
"Reports from the display supply chain suggest a slow ramp-up of shipments from display suppliers for the iPad mini Retina," iSuppli's Jakhanwal suggested. "Only one of the suppliers currently seems to be ramped up; others are ramping slowly."
The main display suppliers are LG Display, Sharp and Samsung, Jakhanwal told MacNewsWorld.
The Importance of Honesty
Apple "warned very early on, and it was in their financial call, that they expected there to be challenges with getting a substantial supply of the new iPad mini in the market for the holiday marketing season," Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research, pointed out.
"It was nice to hear them say that up front, compared to a year ago when the first iPad mini came out and they had supply issues," he added.
One reason for the tight supply is the late introduction of the iPad mini with Retina display, Orr told MacNewsWorld, because "it takes some time to transition production lines from one product to the next."