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Opinion: Crazy iPad mini pricing makes iPad look like the best deal

And makes iPod touch look expensive

Opinion: Crazy iPad mini pricing makes iPad look like the best deal
Apple might have lost the capacity to surprise through bold innovation alone, but it's still capable of coming up with revelations that set the internet on fire.

Unfortunately for its loyal following, this week's announcements left many observers feeling perplexed or even downright sickened.

We all knew the iPad mini was coming at some point in the proceedings, and right on cue, Apple pulled out its 7.9-inch version, and told us how fabulous its 1024x768 screen was - right after telling us, yet again, how amazing its retina screens are.

And then, with a completely straight face, it told us that the device would retail from $329/£269. I'm sorry. What?

Sanity check

Now, I don't doubt for a second that millions of people won't rush out and buy the mini the second it appears around the world on 2 November. It's just the way of things.

But if we can sanity check the pricing here for a moment, it's obvious that the iPad mini pricing makes little sense - either compared with Apple's own competing products, or its rivals.

The most obvious observation is the mini is too expensive for what it is. None of us expected Apple to race to the bottom. That isn't its style, and never had been. But $329? Really?

Most expected something more around the $249/£199 mark, especially in the context of Google's $199 Nexus 7 and Amazon's $159 Kindle Fire. It would have still made Apple's offering the more expensive option, but with an appropriate 'Apple tax' levied for build quality.

At $329/£269, the iPad mini begs the question 'Why bother?'

Why not spend the extra £60 and get an iPad 2 - a tablet that does an even better job - or an extra £130 and get the lovely, powerful, retina screen version? So your bag's too small for the 9.7-inch iPad. Get a bigger bag!

Dual kindling

That said, some people just prefer the smaller size. Fair enough. But for $329, you could buy two Kindle Fires and have change for return travel to your nearest shopping centre.

And then there's the issue with the iPod touch, which, at £249/$299, is now looking even more expensive than it did already.

As a gamer on a budget, if I was looking for a bigger screened iOS device to play my games on, then I'd be mightily tempted to spend the extra $20 on getting an iPad mini.

Frankly, the mini has just made the touch look redundant.

More choice doesn't mean bigger sales

As for upgrading the 9.7-inch iPad just seven months after the release of 'The New iPad', I can't say I'm too surprised.

At some point or another, Apple was always likely to want to put its product cycles into some sort of logical sync, and this just happens to be the time it has elected to do it.

I don't expect that this is the shape of things to come from Apple. I don't expect it to now bring out new versions twice a year, because that's never been how the company has behaved on any of its product lines.

In this instance, it's easy to read between the lines.

Firstly, the third generation iPad was patently ill-equipped to deal with the retina resolution, and Apple took swift action to fix that. Secondly, it felt the need to roll out a version with the new Lightning port so that all its entire range of iPods, iPhones and iPads all have the same standards. Fair enough.

Too soon?

Unfortunately, doing so has just irked millions of customers around the world. Not because their existing iPads have suddenly become obsolete, or will suddenly become less useful than they were, but because no-one in their right minds expected that a version with twice the graphical performance would appear this soon.

At the very least it leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths, and at worst, it could drive people away from Apple altogether.

Given the vast profits Apple rakes in, it would do well to offer a token gesture to its loyal customers, in a similar way to how it dealt with the massive $200 price drop of the original iPhone back in 2007.

Of course, it's a different situation now, and we're not talking about a massive price drop. But if you were one of the many people who bought the third generation iPad in the past few weeks, you'd feel justified in taking back your device. How Apple deals with the seething disquiet amongst its consumers will be significant.

Finishing blow

For the game development community, though, the arrival of yet another super powerful version is an interesting problem. On the one hand, more power generally equates to more expense, but also more possibilities for the big guns to exploit.

Still, the rampant pace at which Apple's tablets are progressing, once again illustrates what an aggressively disruptive platform the iPad really is.

If we assume Apple will be on the sixth generation of iPad by the time the next Xbox and PlayStation finally emerge, it's going to be even harder for Microsoft and Sony to convince gamers that their systems are worth investing in.

Dedicated home consoles can always boast superior controls, but if and when Apple decides to solve that little conundrum, the gloves really will be off.

There's no such thing as 'not enough time' in Kristan's world. Despite the former Eurogamer editor claiming the world record for the most number of game reviews written before going insane, he manages to continue to squeeze in parallel obsessions with obscure bands, Norwich City FC, and moody episodic TV shows. He might even read a book if threatened by his girlfriend.

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jon jordan
It will either have to cannabalise iPod touch and/or iPad or be a relative failure.
Phil Maxey
I can see the iPad mini becoming the number 1 handheld gaming device within the next 2 years.
Owain Bennallack Publisher
Interesting and provocative piece Kristan. :)

Another way of reading your views could be that Apple has reluctantly created the Mini due to market demand/competition, but that the pricing is explicitly designed to make people think it's worth paying that bit more for an iPad -- in the same way that paying 50p extra for a latte with your sandwich makes sense in a meal deal.

The big news then of iPad Mini sales might be that it ironically helps bolster sales of full-size iPad! :)