Apple took the wraps off an anticipated new smaller-screen iPad at an event in California last night, but surprised many by not pricing the new tablet at the level of similarly-sized devices from the likes of Google and Amazon.
Apple-watchers were also surprised to see the firm unveil a fourth-generation version of the larger-screen iPad, just six months after its predecessor was launched.
The new 7.9-inch ‘iPad mini’ claims to be 23 percent thinner and 53 percent lighter than the third generation iPad, but boasts the same number of pixels as the original iPad and iPad 2.
The lowest-price model (16GB, Wi-Fi only) will sell in the US for US$329, making it significantly more expensive than rival tablets such as Amazon’s US$159 Kindle Fire and Google’s US$199 Nexus 7 – and at a higher price point than many had expected.
“We were hoping the mini could be priced at least a little lower given its competition is situated as low as US$99, with many starting in the US$199-US$249 range,” said Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes in a research note. "That being said, Apple seems convinced that consumers want the iPad and its ecosystem, which has worked so far at the high-end."
Meanwhile, the new version of the 9.7-inch iPad includes a new self-made A6X chip that claims to deliver up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the A5X, and a new LTE baseband chip that supports a greater number of 4G networks worldwide. The base model (16GB) will retail for US$499.
The Wi-Fi only versions of both the iPad mini and the new iPad will begin shipping on Friday 2 November. The models with cellular support will arrive “a couple of weeks after.”