Taking aim at rivals, Apple unveils the iPad mini
SAN JOSE, California (AFP) - Apple unveiled a smaller version of its hot-selling iPad on Tuesday, taking aim at the smaller tablet computers offered by rivals Amazon, Google and Samsung.
"This is iPad mini," Apple's senior vice-president for marketing Phil Schiller said as he displayed the new iPad at an Apple event in San Jose.
"This isn't just a shrunken down iPad," Schiller said. "It is an entirely new design." The iPad mini's touchscreen measures 7.9 inches diagonally compared to 9.7 inches on the original iPad.
A 16-gigabyte version of the iPad mini with Wi-Fi connectivity costs US$329 (S$403), while a 16GB model with both Wi-Fi and cellular capability costs US$459.
The top-of-the-line 64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity will sell for US$659. Like later versions of the original iPad, the new Apple tablet also features rear- and front-facing cameras.
Mr Schiller said customers could begin pre-ordering the iPad mini on Oct 26 and that Wi-Fi versions would begin shipping on Nov 2 to about three dozen countries in Asia and Europe in addition to the United States.
Mr Schiller said the iPad mini weighs 0.68 pounds, less than half the original, and is 7.2mm thick - thinner than a pencil.
"We told you early this year that you would see some incredible innovation from Apple across the year," said Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who replaced Steve Jobs last year shortly before the death of the iconic co-founder of the California technology company.
"We think we kept our promise and we hope that you agree," Mr Cook said.
Apple also unveiled a fourth generation of the original iPad on Tuesday for the same starting price of US$499 for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Mr Cook said Apple has sold over 100 million iPads in two and a half years.
He also said more than 275,000 applications were now available for the iPad in Apple's App Store and that customers have downloaded a total of more than 35 billion apps.
Apple set the tablet computer market ablaze with the first iPad in early 2010 and stuck with its 9.7-inch screen while rivals introduced lower-price tablets with screens closer to seven inches.
Amazon's seven-inch Kindle Fire proved popular last year, and a new version was launched last month. Meanwhile, a Google Nexus 7 powered by Android software has since joined the Samsung Galaxy in the seven-inch tablet market.
While the cheapest iPad mini costs US$329, less than the original iPad, the device is still considerably more expensive than the seven-inch tablets from Amazon, Google and Samsung which start at US$199.
Independent technology analyst Jeff Kagan said the new, smaller iPad was a gamble for Apple in that it risked cutting into sales of the original iPad.
"This should both cannibalise and open up new opportunities for Apple," he said. "This will open up new segments of the market to Apple. Segments that would like an Apple, but which prefer a smaller screen or a lower price tag.
"Yes this will cannibalise some of the iPad, but pull the camera back and you can see how it will increase the size of the Apple customer base," Kagan said.
The unveiling of the iPad mini comes a little over a month after Apple released the iPhone 5, the latest model of its popular smartphone, which was greeted with record sales.
The Apple event also comes three days ahead of the release of Microsoft's new Windows-powered Surface tablet and two days before Apple reports quarterly earnings.
Microsoft's Surface has a 10.6-inch screen and starts at US$499, challenging the larger-format iPads.
Apple shares were down 1.71 per cent at $623.18 on Wall Street following the unveiling of the new iPad mini.