While Apple’s full-size iPad tablet offers a host of connectivity options, including wireless as well as 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) capability, a report by the British newspaper The Guardian quoted unnamed industry sources as saying that a widely anticipated smaller version of the tablet, a 7.85-inch device unofficially dubbed the iPad Mini, would only offer WiFi.
The same sources also indicated the device would use Apple’s Lightning connecting port, which recently made its debut on the iPhone 5 smartphone. The same sources also told the paper that Apple was prepping new versions of the iPad, which would also adopt the Lightning connector and offer 4G LTE connectivity for U.K. customers on two of the country’s wireless networks, Everything Everywhere, a partnership between Orange and T-Mobile and Three.
Apple will compete with companies like Amazon, which offers its 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet with a starting price of $159, while Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, which also only offers WiFi connectivity, starts at $199. Apple is rumored to be sending press invites out to the media for an iPad Mini unveiling event as early as Oct. 12, with some analysts expecting a launch date toward the end of the month, in time to reap the full benefits of the holiday shopping season.
The company currently dominates the worldwide tablet market with a 68 percent market share, according to recent figures by IT research firm IDC, although low-cost competitors running Google’s Android operating system and Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets have slowly been eroding Apple’s market share. Apple shipped 17 million iPads during the second quarter of 2012, up from 11.8 million units in the prior quarter.
A report in The Wall Street Journal, published last week and also citing unnamed sources, said Apple component suppliers, including LG Display of South Korea and Taiwan’s AU Optronics have begun production on the device’s LCD panel. It was also reported that the screen would offer a lower-resolution display than the 9.7-inch high-definition Retina display found on the full-size iPad, as Apple looks to cut costs by eliminating components that would squeeze profit margins.
A survey earlier this year from Pricegrabber found 52 percent of respondents would consider purchasing an iPad Mini for approximately $250 to $300, but 3G wireless network connectivity was among the most-anticipated features.
If the rumors prove true, and an iPad Mini is on the way, other reports suggest Apple is betting the tablet will be a big hit with consumers: The Journal reported earlier that the company has ordered 10 million of the smaller iPads to be produced.
While media attention and consumer interest are always high when it comes to Apple’s shiny, innovative products, the increasingly competitive tablet market is getting more crowded by the day. IDC predicted the launch of tablets from Apple competitors and the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system would result in a competitive, robust market for tablets in the second half of the year.
Lenovo is betting that tablets running the Windows 8 OS will be in high demand. The PC giant announced four convertible Windows 8 devices with touch-screens. The IdeaPad Yoga 13 and the ThinkPad Twist will arrive Oct. 26. Following in December will be an IdeaPad Yoga 11 and the IdeaTab Lynx, a tablet that clicks into not just a keyboard but a full-blown laptop base.