For several months leading up to October, reports were swirling that Apple was working on a tablet that would deliver a smaller screen size than that of the 9.7-inch iPad. After that long wait, Apple finally showed off the device, called the iPad Mini, and shipped it in select countries Nov. 2. Apple has not said how many iPad Mini units have been sold, but the company did announce recently that a total of 3 million iPads, including both the full-size fourth-generation model and the iPad Mini, were sold during their first weekend of availability.
Such success is nothing new for Apple. However, the company’s iPad Mini is a bit of an oddball in Apple’s product mix. This is the first time that Apple has tried to succeed with an underpowered and smaller tablet. It’s also the first time that Apple is effectively undercutting its popular, larger iPad on price. Needless to say, the iPad Mini is a major change agent within Cupertino.
The iPad Mini is also having an impact on the broader tablet market. In one way or another, the iPad Mini is affecting Apple, its customers and its competitors. And as the device makes it through the holiday shopping season, its impact might be felt even more than any of those stakeholders expect.
Here are the ways that the iPad Mini changes the tablet market for both good and bad.
1. It legitimizes smaller screen sizes
For two years, Apple said that it didn’t see any reason to ever launch a tablet with a smaller screen size than the 9.7-inch display found in its larger iPad. And yet, it now has a tablet with a 7.9-inch display. By launching the iPad Mini, the company has finally legitimized tablets with small screen sizes, including those from competitors.
2. Will the next trend be 8-inch screens?
That said, Apple is winning on screen size in the lower-end market. As noted, the iPad Mini comes with a 7.9-inch screen. Most other smaller tablets have 7-inch displays. Given the game of catch-up that so many tablet vendors have been playing over the last couple of years, it might not be long before they trade in their 7-inch slates for 8-inch models.
3. Apple’s footprint expands
One of the nice things about launching another iPad is that Apple’s tablet market share should only expand in the coming quarters. After all, if research firm IDC’s figures are correct and Apple owns 50 percent of the tablet market now, with another slate on store shelves, that figure should only go up.
4. The iPad is now being cannibalized
Exactly how much Apple’s tablet market share will go up in the coming quarters is unknown at this point. While the company’s additional tablet options will help matters, numerous analysts suggest that the iPad Mini will cannibalize sales of its larger iPad. One report suggests that for every 4 million iPads sold, 1 million will be iPad Mini sales that would have been sales of the larger slate if not for Apple’s new product. Keep that in mind as tablet sales figures keep leaking out.
iPad Mini Is Changing the Tablet Market in 10 Basic Ways
5. LTE is a must-have
Apple has set a new standard with the iPad Mini by bundling 4G LTE service in a version of the device. Prior to that, all the vendors in the low end of the tablet space were offering WiFi-only devices. Looking ahead, expect 3G, Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+), and Long Term Evolution (LTE) to make an appearance in their products.
6. The storage battle is on
The issue with smaller tablets has always been that they come with little storage. The Nexus 7, for example, only has 8GB and 16GB options. Apple’s iPad Mini, however, comes with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. Once again, competitors will have to catch up, initiating what could be a real storage battle between Apple and other vendors.
7. Searching for the pricing sweet spot
The iPad Mini could have a profound impact on pricing in the tablet space. Exactly how it will impact the market, however, remains to be seen. On one hand, because it starts at $329, it could prompt other vendors currently selling tablets at $149 or $199 to raise prices. On the other hand, those vendors might maintain their pricing, forcing Apple to rethink its own models. In either case, expect pricing to be a going concern in the low-end tablet market.
8. Design is all about mobility
Apple’s new iPad Mini comes with a design that focuses solely on mobility. The device is extremely thin, lightweight and aesthetically pleasing. Not all tablets competing against the iPad Mini can say the same. But if the smartphone market is anyone’s guide—where companies quickly discovered that Apple was winning because of its fine balance between innovative and mobility—expect better tablet designs to enter the marketplace next year.
9. The leaders aren’t leaders anymore
There was a time when Amazon and Google were dominating the low-end tablet market. But nearly all analysts and research firms agree that all of that will change when iPad Mini sales are tallied over the next couple of quarters. Then Apple will be in charge in the low end of the market and will outpace competitor’s shipments for the foreseeable future. That’s bad news for Google and Amazon.
10. Apple’s competition is expanded
By entering the low-end tablet market, Apple has decided to take on a whole new slate of competitors. Prior to the iPad Mini’s launch, Apple wasn’t competing against Amazon, Google or Barnes & Noble. Now, it is. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up for debate and largely depends on which company you support. But with more competition comes more business risk. Even Apple is affected by it.