Apple this morning unveiled a new, smaller iPad, confirming months of speculation that the tech giant was readying a more compact tablet to combat Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD.
The company also took the wraps off a new full-sized "fourth-generation" iPad, just seven months after the launch of its third-generation model this March.
The smaller of the two new iPads, fittingly dubbed the iPad mini, touts a 7.9-inch display, down-sized from the 9.5-inch design native to Apple's new fourth- and all prior-generation tablets. As expected, the iPad mini also has a lower screen resolution compared to its four larger counterparts, with a 1024-by-768 pixel count.
The iPad mini will be available in three separate models, with Wi-Fi + 4G in 16-GB for $509, a 32-GB version for $619 and a 64-GB version for $729. The Wi-Fi version alone will retail for $389 for the 16GB model, $479 for the 32GB model and $589 for 64GB. It will come in black and slate, or white and silver.
According to Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, the iPad mini was designed to be smaller, without sacrificing much of the functionality users have come to expect from Apple's full-sized tablets.
"Now this just isn’t a shrunken down iPad," Schiller told audience members during the launch event introducing the new device Tuesday. "It's an entirely new design."
The new 7.9-inch tablet comes in what Apple has dubbed "a beautiful new aluminum and glass design" that weighs in at just 0.68 pounds and measures 0.28 inches thick. According to Schiller, the iPad mini delivers nearly 35-percent more screen real estate than competing 7-inch tablets, which he said have "failed miserably" by compromising performance and functionality in their design of these smaller devices.
Schiller also argued that competing 7-inch tablets simply use smartphone apps that are force-fit for a larger display, while the new iPad mini maintains compatibility with the full suite of tablet apps available for the company's full-size iPads.
On the inside, the new iPad mini runs a dual-core Apple A5 chip and gets 10 hours of battery life. Schiller said a front-facing FaceTime HD camera and a 5-megapixel iSight rear-facing camera are also included in the new device.
As Apple's debut device in the 7-inch tablet market, the new iPad mini will be tasked with playing catch-up with market leaders Amazon and Google, something U.K.-based analysts Ovum noted is rare for the tech giant, which currently accounts for a whopping 70 percent of the full-sized tablet market.
"[The iPad mini] marks a significant shift in Apple’s strategy. For the first time in its recent history it is responding to market pressures from its competitors, namely Google and Amazon in bringing a smaller tablet to market," Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, wrote in a research note Tuesday.
"Apple in the past has defined new products with new form factors and waited for the market to follow, in this instance Apple is following the market trend towards smaller cheaper tablet form-factors."
A look at Apple's fourth generation iPad
While Apple tries its hand at the 7-inch tablet market, it's aiming to maintain its dominance in the full-sized tablet space with its new fourth-generation iPad.
"We were already so far ahead of the competition," Apple's Schiller told the crowd, showing off the new fourth-generation iPad. "[Now] I can't even see them in the rear view mirror."
Essentially an updated version of the same third-generation tablet Apple debuted in March, the fourth-generation iPad has the same industry-leading retina display and comes in the same 9.7-inch design.
That said, the new tablet nearly doubles the performance of its predecessor with a next-generation A6X processor that delivers what Apple claims is twice the CPU and graphics performance seen with the A5X model. It also includes twice the Wi-Fi performance of prior-generation iPads, as well as support for 4G LTE networks, a feature that was widely expected but not delivered with Apple's third-generation tablet introduced earlier this year.
Both the new iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad come include the new Lightning dock connector that Apple debuted with the iPhone 5, and will support local 4G networks.
The fourth-generation iPad with Wi-Fi and 4G support will also be available on Nov. 2, starting at $679 for the 16-GB version, $789 for the 32-GB version and $899 for the 64-GB version. With Wi-Fi alone, it will retail from $539 for 16GB, $649 for 32GB and $759 for 64GB.
Both the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini can be pre-ordered from this Friday on Apple's website in Australia, and will start shipping on November 2.
In addition to the two new iPads, Apple introduced a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with retina display starting at $1999, along with a new thinner and lighter iMac all-in-one desktop starting at $1429 for the 21.5in, Core i5 model.