The Hills Are Greener: The iPad Mini is Not an Android Killer

The Hills Are Greener: The iPad Mini is Not an Android Killer

Oct 29, 2012

So Apple announced the iPad Mini, and it is both exactly what we thought it would be and what we didn’t. It’s a 7.9″ iPad, but comes in at $329, well above the entry-level price of many 7″ Android tablets.

The strategy seems curious: make a smaller iPad, but tout it as being bigger than other smaller tablets. Don’t know how well that’s going to work. Also, since the screen isn’t Retina, it’s another downgrade from the full-size iPad, and technically has a worse PPI than the Nexus 7, and Kindle Fire HD.

The iPad Mini does seem like a half-measure at first, a device that won’t kill the Android tablet market on price while also not being the latest hardware. But Apple might not have wanted to undercut the iPod touch, and maybe even position the iPad 2 as a moderate upgrade.

But really, the big thing that Apple seems to be focused on here is quite simple: they can ‘win’ by making a profit off of the iPad Mini where the competition cannot. Google/Asus, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are trying to expand out the reach of their music, video, and app libraries, and getting their tablets in as many hands as possible is very important. Apple already has that with iTunes. While there’s the possibility of another increase in iTunes downloads, it won’t have the kind of marginal value that the competition gets.

Maybe Apple realizes that they can’t kill Android tablets, much like how the Android phone market still exists alongside the iPhone market. But they can position themselves as a high-quality alternative to those tablets. They’ll be making a hefty profit by using mass-produced parts like the A5 chip, which power the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, 2011 devices that are still be produced, and also powers the iPod touch 5th generation. Oh, and by getting more people into the iPad market, they encourage more iPad apps to be made.

And maybe by getting cheaper, smaller iPads in people’s hands, Apple can expand their reach in education. The overall stability of the platform with wider selection of optimzized apps may be more appealing to schools looking to integrate the iPad. So Apple could make a product that will not kill the competition, but will make them plenty of cash. The early reports of preorders selling out is a sign of that.

But this is also a sign that Apple does see value in competing with their Android competition. Look at the way the Nexus 7, while unnamed, was constantly compared to in the presentation. Just the very existence of this product is a sign. The competition is having an impact on Apple and the iPad market.

The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

Sep 10, 2012

Size matters. This past week, we saw Amazon try to take on the iPad with a tablet size that's still a bit smaller than the flagship iPad, but definitely something more for the tablet customer who wants a bigger device, without paying the iPad premium. This will likely be competing for dollars with the Nexus 7 this holiday season as well, and Amazon's hooks in traditional along with online retail make it a force to be reckoned with, especially if the device is as powerful as it could be.

Meanwhile, with Apple holding an event this week, reportedly for the iPhone 5 as hinted by the big "5" shadow in the invitation, it will be all about getting bigger as well. Reportedly, the iPhone 5 is going to grow taller to 16:9 resoultion, while remaining 640 pixels wide for the comfort of developers used to the screen width.

Expect iPhone apps to go through some hurdles. With no time to prepare for the new aspect ratio like with the iPad being announced months ahead of time, and with developers not used to designing around aspect ratio neutrality, there could be a slew of awkwardly-designed apps. Android developers, used to bajillions of hardware and resolution permutations, were born ready for every resolution on the face of the earth, or at least ready for when resolutions change. iPhone developers may need to learn quickly, though the horizontal resolution remaining the same will make it simpler.

But the very fact that even Apple is recognizant of the idea of different screen sizes after staying static for so long shows that there is a shift in the market. Consumers like being able to have big phones, and occasionally smaller tablets. That may be part of the reason why Android has gotten to take off: it's provided a choice that Apple has not. And though Apple is now starting to expand into this area, it may not be in time to really slow down Android to a significant degree, though it could win them back customers who liked Apple, but not enough to prefer Android's options.

As well, if NFC is not in the iPhone 5 as rumored, then it's another blow to mobile payments, and one that could be hurting the entire movement due to Apple's largesse. It's a catch-22: they won't take off until iOS uses them, but Apple may be hesitant to put them in because of their non-ubiquity. What a confusing web being woven.

Of course, what this is really leading to is the singularity 6" size, something big enough to fit in our pockets without sticking out (even if it's uncomfortable), but something that we can all enjoy. The one size to rule them all! Of course then no one except me, who wants a huge phone anyay, would be truly happy.

It's silly. These device sizes are really only nominally bigger than each other, and yet they're such a big deal. In the world of mobile technology, size does matter. What a first world problem. And yet, as a mobile technology addict, I know how the subtle differences do matter.

The Hills Are Greener: Would the iPad Mini Kill Android Tablets?

The Hills Are Greener: Would the iPad Mini Kill Android Tablets?

Aug 6, 2012

So far, Android’s tablet advantage has been in the low-cost and 7" size space: the people want tablets, but don’t want to pay iPad prices for them, and because there’s nothing really to do with the BlackBerry Playbook, Android tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire are extremely popular.

However, the internets are currently quite abuzz with the possibility that Apple has reneged on keeping the iPad at 9.7“ – there’s a lot of smoke building around the idea of an ”iPad mini" and given the tenacity of the Apple rumor scene, there’s probably fire there.

It makes sense for Apple to release an iPad mini – while it may not be as productive of a device, it is fantastic for media consumption, and lest we forget that iTunes is the media supply behemoth. No matter what they do with the size. Will they do what the Nexus 7 does and use a special hybrid phone/tablet interface for the smaller screen size, or just stick with the standard iPad interface? Good question.

But the most important question for the tablet market will be price. The odds that Apple would release at $199 to compete with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire seem unlikely, if they’re planning to make a profit, or make it as powerful as the 3rd generation iPad currently is. However, pricing at $299 could make it a compelling option: cheap enough to where people might rationally consider it over the cheaper Android options, yet expensive enough to where Apple could potentially make their profit off of it.

Now, there’s been hardly anything conclusive to prove that the iPad mini will exist, just a lot of rumors and these seeming photos of its shell. There’s been other seemingly-solid rumors out there that haven’t panned out. Plus, the iPad is pulling down a solid profit for the company and this is despite being at least $300 more than most 7" tablets. However, the big barrier to a $299 price point is the high cost of components that are in the current iPad, though smaller screen size and battery components will help lower the cost slightly.

Now, what about the market of Android tablets? Unless Apple somehow does get into the $199 range, there will be people who would rather save $100. And there’s always the “Anything but an Apple product” factor at play with some people as well. But, what obvious advantage would Android tablets have besides being lower cost devices? Phones come in a variety of price points along with being bigger than the iPhone (though the smoke signals with the iPhone 5 are that it will be a bigger device as well), and they provide a distinct product from the iPhone. But the reason why Apple has succeeded is that they’ve been able to compete on price with their competitors. The tablet market doesn’t have an obvious comparison, and the iPad already has such a huge advantage. An iPad mini could be disastrous for the Android tablet market.