Yesterday evening (here in the UK), Apple finally made their worst kept secret official by launching the iPad mini. The Apple presentation was memorable not just for the mini, refreshed Macbook Pro 13, iMac and iPad (already) but also for a very, very specific face off between the new iPad mini and the Nexus 7. So what's the mini like and how do their claims stand up?
First of all I have to say that while i'm an Android fan (of course), i'm not anti-apple. I'm writing this on an iMac, I own a Macbook Air as my main laptop and i've owned an iPad in the past. There's also 2 iPods in the house, so I think I can be pretty objective. :D
I'm going to examine the points that Phil Schiller raised in the iPad mini presentation itself, to talk about whether they are valid (quotes courtesy of the Verge liveblog).
"Let's look at the bezels around the display." "Theirs is made of plastic, it's thicker and heavier."
The iPad mini does have an impressively thin bezel. It remains to be seen how that works in practice (they have thumb rejection technology for holding it on the screen, so probably pretty well) but yes, the bezel is much smaller. The Nexus 7 is made of plastic and heavier than the iPad mini, but (and i'll say this a lot), the Nexus 7 is engineered to a price. In its defence, I think although the back IS clearly plastic, it actually feels pretty great. I like the feel of my Nexus 7.
"Let's look at those displays. Theirs is 7 inches, our is 7.9." "The iPad mini has a third larger display area."
There's no debating the iPad mini display is larger. It's effectively an 8" tablet rather than a 7" tablet. What Phil neglected to mention is that the iPad mini, with it's iPad 2 resolution of 1024x768, gives up pixels to the Nexus 7's 1280x800 display. I consider a 1024x600 display on 7" Android tablets to be notably inferior nowadays and on the iPad mini's 8" screen, that could be more apparent.
That said, resolution aside, a bigger display without enlarging the device is something most wouldn't say not to... right? :)
"The iPad mini is about 50% larger display area in the browser." (49% portrait, 67% landscape)
It's a bigger screen so this goes without saying right? :D Where the Nexus 7 DOES fall down in my opinion is when it's used in landscape. The fact that the button bar is always on the bottom means valuable vertical real estate is lost in landscape mode, the tab bar is quite substantial and there's no full screen mode in Chrome. Google could definitely do better here. Again however, 'viewing a webpage' is also about resolution... there's arguably no point it being bigger if the definition is lower.
On third party apps: "Customers love the ones written for the iPad." "What does the other one have? Phone applications scaled up."
This isn't really true (it's not 'phone applications scaled up' on the Nexus 7) but with a display resolution that matches the iPad 2 and instant compatability, the iPad mini clearly has the edge here. Google really needs to step up their game, both assisting and encouraging key developers to make great tablet apps and also leading by example - lots of Google apps still have a sub-par tablet experience. No question iOS leads on tablet optimised apps and that needs to change.
A5, LTE versions, FaceTime HD camera, 5MP iSight camera around back.
The Nexus 7 will be adding the cellular enabled version soon (albeit not LTE) but the other specs are purely a cost based decision imho.
The iPad mini UK pricing (RRP) is as follows:
- WiFi 16GB - £269, 32GB - £349, 64GB - £429
- LTE 16GB - £369, 32GB - £449, 64GB - £529
The CURRENT Nexus 7 UK pricing (RRP) is as follows:
- WiFi 8GB - £159, 16GB - £199
My projected future UK pricing (from next week) (RRP) is something like:
[*]WiFi 16GB - £169, 32GB - £199
[*]3G 32GB - £249 - £299
So are the Nexus 7 and iPad mini really comparable devices?
When you look at the prices above you've got to say that the new iPad mini really is operating in a different price bracket to the Nexus 7 which frankly explains virtually all the 'issues' that Apple highlighted, with the notable exception of the lack of tablet optimised apps. Bear in mind that with the Nexus range in wide retail we've already seen pretty considerable discounts on RRP to be had if you look around which is very rarely the case with Apple products.
The thing to really take away from yesterday's event is that Apple really validated the Nexus 7 as a rival product in a market that Steve Jobs famously declared was DOA. Apple knows that Nexus 7 is selling like hot-cakes and wants a piece of that pie.
The iPad mini looks like a great little device and i'm sure it'll sell fantastically well but for me it misses the most important strengths of the Nexus 7 - low price and great value. I don't love the Nexus 7 because it's the best tablet in the world (even though it's brilliant), I love it because it's so accessible. I see and hear from so many people picking one up because it's a far easier to justify purchase than tablets of the past... I think the iPad mini just doesn't have that appeal.