For those who might be on the fence about which tablet might be better for you, here are four things to consider before making a purchase.
1. Lightning port. The iPad Mini is expected to drop the 30-pin connector in favor of Apple's new Lightning port, just like the iPhone 5. If you've invested heavily in accessories for your older iPads, those accessories won't work with the iPad Mini unless you fork over an addition $29 or $39 for an adapter.
2. Retina Display. The iPad Mini is not expected to have a Retina Display. Apple's Retina Displays pack a huge number of pixels onto a small area, giving an extremely sharp look. The Retina Display is one reason Apple has sold tens of millions of iPhones and iPads. These screens are amazing--and won't be available on the iPad Mini. If the screen resolution is really important to you, the full-size iPad's 2048-by-1536-pixel screen can't be beat.
[ What features do you wish for in the iPad Mini? See iPad Mini: 8 Things We Want. ]
3. Size and weight. The current-generation iPad weighs in at 1.46 pounds. It's hardly heavy, but holding it for long periods of time can become uncomfortable. It measures 9.50 X 7.31 inches and is about 0.37 inches thick. It's one of the slimmest tablets available, but the iPad Mini will be lighter, smaller, and slimmer. If you've shied away from the iPad because you think it is simply too big or awkward to use, the iPad Mini is your excuse to finally buy a tablet. The tradeoff, of course, is that the larger iPad offers a bigger screen on which to work and play.
4. Price. We don't know all the pricing details of the iPad Mini yet, just rough estimates, but there's no doubt it will cost less than the full-size iPad. The catch could be getting it loaded with all the extras you want. Adding additional storage and 3G/4G connectivity will make the price jump higher than the large iPad's $499 starting price really fast. Apple typically charges $100 for each increase in storage and $130 for adding cellular modems. Add both of those to a $299 iPad Mini, and you suddenly have a $529 tablet on your hands.
Anyway you look at it, there's no way Apple can avoid cannibalizing sales of its larger iPad with the smaller one. It will count on people adding in extras to boost the margins and make up for the lower starting cost.
Beyond these aesthetic differences, the iPad Mini will run iOS 6, will have the same base selection of apps installed out of the box, and will run the same apps from the App Store. Some of the biggest unknowns are what processors will be available, which 3G/4G networks it will work with, what types of cameras will be on board, and so on. These all will play a role in deciding between the iPad we know and the miniature version on the way.
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