Apple has unveiled a mini version of its iPad as part of its move to muscle in on the market in smaller, cheaper tablets – one dominated for now by Amazon and Google.
The new iPad mini, which can be held in one hand, has a 7.9 inch (20cm) display, weighs in at 0.68 pounds (0.3kg) and is 7.2mm (0.3 inches) thin, a quarter thinner than the new fourth generation iPad which was launched at the same event.
Prices in the US for the iPad mini start at $329 (£206.40) for the 16GB version, a figure likely to disappoint many who had hoped it would come in at slightly less, with the cost rising to $459 (£287.97) for the 4G version .
“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad and they have failed miserably,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing, who introduced the iPad mini in San Jose, USA.
The tablet, which has the same resolution as the iPad 2, runs on an Apple A5 chip and has features including a Facetime HD camera, a five megapixel camera capable of taking pictures and video. Its battery life is 10 hours.
Schiller said: “The technology inside is equal to, if not better to, the iPad 2 in every way.”
The iPad mini is the first to be added to Apple’s portfolio of compact devices under Tim Cook, who took over as chief executive from co-founder Steve Jobs just before his death in October 2011.
The move is a crucial part of Apple’s plan to beat back the charge on to its home turf of consumer electronics hardware by Amazon and Google, both of which have already launched popular smaller tablet devices.
Wall Street analysts have said for months that Apple was planning a less expensive version of the iPad to take on cheaper competing devices, a move they say might hurt its margins but prevent its rivals from dominating an increasingly important segment.
The chief rival is Amazon, which proved that a 7-inch tablet costing about $200 has consumer appeal. The Kindle Fire, released last year, was one of the hottest-selling festive gadgets. It pressured Amazon’s margins but gave it potentially millions of new high-spending customers.
A research group is forecasting that sales of smaller tablets will double this year. IHS iSuppli expects about 34m smaller tablets – with screens of about 7 inches diagonally– will be sold worldwide in 2012, up from 17m last year.
Cook said on Tuesday that Apple had sold its 100 millionth iPad two weeks ago. “This is unprecedented for a new product in a new category,” he said.
“We sold more iPads in the June quarter than any PC manufacturer sold in its entire PC line. It seems like every day there’s another tablet shipping but when you look at the ones being used it tells a different story.”