The device is 7.2mm thick, or the thickness of a pencil. Its screen dimensions are the same as the larger iPad, so all apps will work the same on the new, smaller tablet.
“It’s not just a shrunken-down iPad,” Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller told the audience at a media event here.
Prices range from $329 to $659, depending on storage capacity. Customers can begin pre-ordering the device Friday.
As with other recent Apple events, today’s main announcement wasn’t much of a secret. Leaks ahead of the event sketched out most of the relevant details, from dimensions of the smaller iPad to what sizes it would come in.
The Apple event started off with upgrades to the Mac lineup, and a joke about expectations for the day.
“You knew there would be something called ‘mini’ in this presentation, didn’t you?” said Apple senior vice-president Phil Schiller, while presenting an update of the company’s smallest MacBook, the Mac mini.
Followers were awaiting what the tech press has labeled the “iPad Mini,” expected to be a smaller version of Apple’s genre-defining tablet.
Schiller opened by unveiling the new version of Apple’s top-selling MacBook, the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The new version has a high-definition “retina display” screen for the first time and is 3/4 of an inch thick — 20 percent thinner than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro. It weighs 3.5 pounds, making it the lightest MacBook Pro ever, Schiller said. Price starts at $1,699.
The aforementioned Mac Mini starts at $599 for 4 GB of RAM. Both begin shipping today.
Schiller also showed off a sleeker, more powerful and otherwise enhanced version of Apple’s iconic desktop, the iMac. It starts at $1,299. They start shipping in November.
But people also were expecting a smaller iPad to be announced.
Apple’s full-sized iPad has been a huge success and still dominates the overall tablet market, so why go small now?
The biggest demand for non-Apple tablets has been for less expensive 7-inch devices such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Google’s Nexus 7 and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. A smaller iPad would challenge these competitors head on, combining their popular size with Apple’s killer features: the iOS operating system, Apple’s app and media ecosystem, and quality design.
The Kindle Fire is great for buying books, movies and shows from Amazon, and the Nexus 7 has Google’s well-stocked Play store for media and apps. However, tablets have proven they can do more than just entertain, and customers might be drawn to the quality and quantity of Apple’s App Store selection. Developers have been creating top-notch apps for the iPad for more than two years. The smaller iPad’s screen is expected to have the same aspect ratio, so those apps would work the same on the new device.
When the iPad came out, it was intended to be a consumption device. Ads for the tablet showed people reclining in various environments, clutching the iPad like a book. The spacious 10-inch screen was ideal for watching movies and TV shows, playing games, surfing the Web and otherwise consuming content.
That’s how most tablet owners use their devices. Tablets are homebodies, used most often in the living room (30% of the time according to Nielsen) followed by the bedroom (21% of the time).
“Fully half the time they’re using tablets, they don’t leave the couch or the bed,” said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. “If you can do everything on the smaller iPad you can on the larger iPad — that plus the added convenience of being able to take it with you more places could take the wind out of the sales of Amazon.”
A smaller, lighter device is more portable, and people might not be as afraid of taking a cheaper tablet out into the big bad world where it would be less protected. That would also be a boost for Apple in the education market, which it has been courting heavily.