The iPad mini for $329 – Is it Worth it?

When Apple announced its iPad mini earlier this week during its San Jose, Calif. event, many people were surprised with the high price tag. The iPad mini was expected to be priced to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Google’s Nexus 7, both of which come with a sub-$200 price tag.

Instead, the iPad mini debuted with a $329 price tag, a $130 premium over its competition, and just $70 less than Apple’s other low cost tablet, the iPad 2. At such a high cost, is the iPad mini worth purchasing?

The answer depends on what you’re using it for. If you’ve never had an iPad before or you’re looking for a smaller tablet and you’re trying to decide between the mini and its competitors, the mini wins hands down and I’ll tell you why.

When compared to the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7, based on straight hardware, it’s not a clear cut decision as to which tablet is better. Both of the competing tablets have a better screen resolution, and the Nexus 7 has a faster processor.

Neither can compete when it comes to design, though. The iPad mini is thinner, lighter, and made from aluminum, which gives it a sleeker look. It also comes equipped with LTE and a 5-megapixel rear camera, in addition to its 720p front-facing camera. The Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 have none of those features.

The mini is able to offer more visible screen real estate, thanks to its narrow bezel. That makes it more suitable for both reading and web browsing, two tasks that Apple believes you will use your mini for. The mini also wins in the battery life department, sporting 10 hours of usage.

Those features may not be enough to convince you to shell out an extra $130, but let me tell you what you’re really paying for: Apple’s ecosystem.

There’s a good reason why Apple has managed to sell more than 100 million iPads over the course of the last two years – its operating system. iOS is intuitive, simple to use, and bug free. Apple is also able to offer upwards of a million apps, and a quarter of those are designed specifically for the iPad.

Amazon boasts a larger eBook library, but Apple is not far behind with 1.5 million titles, whereas Amazon lags behind when it comes to apps. The Amazon app store can only offer consumers approximately 50,000 apps, and while the Android app store has an impressive number of apps, many of those are not always properly scaled for tablet use.

Apple delivers a streamlined app experience on all of its devices. Sure, you can get a cheaper tablet, but that low cost hunk of plastic is not going to give you the same experience you get with an iPad. Apple’s competition doesn’t measure up when it comes to content.

Google’s Nexus 7

Personally, I’ve used a Nexus 7. It’s fast, it’s slick, and it’s impressive, but I’d still pick the iPad mini over Google’s tablet, even with the $130 premium. The Nexus 7 just can’t compare to the ease of use of my iPad and it can’t compete with what I’m able to do using Apple’s tablet. It doesn’t matter that the Nexus 7 is faster or that it has a slightly better screen resolution – it can’t offer what the iPad mini can offer.

When the iPad goes on sale Thursday night, preorders are going to go quick. Apple doesn’t need to sacrifice its profit margins like Amazon does, selling devices at a loss. It offers a total content package that people are more than willing to shell out the cash to access.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the price Apple is asking is a fair one. Apple wants us to spend $329 for a year old processor and no Retina screen, just because it knows that people will still snap up its products at any price.

If you need a smaller tablet, the iPad mini is the device that you should purchase when compared to competing tablets, but if you already have an iPad 2 or an iPad 3, or have the cash for a larger iPad, is the mini still a worthwhile purchase?

The answer, sadly, is no. With no Retina screen and the inferior A5 processor that is in the iPad 2, existing iPad owners would be spending cash on a product that’s just not up to snuff when compared to Apple’s other offerings.

For $30 less, you could purchase the newer iPod touch, which comes equipped with the same processor but twice the memory, and for $170 more, you can get Apple’s powerhouse fourth generation iPad. The iPad mini’s price tag just doesn’t fit in well with what Apple’s is offering. Keep in mind, also, that we may be seeing a new mini in just six months, and the next generation could potentially have a Retina display.

In summary, when compared to the competition, you’re better off paying the $329 for the iPad mini, but when compared to Apple’s other offerings, the full sized iPad or the iPod touch are both better deals. The mini is worth the price over the Kindle Fire HD or the Nexus 7, but it may not be worth it over the fourth generation iPad or another apple device.

Do you agree? Is the iPad mini worth its $329 price tag? Will you be ordering one?

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About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • Bill McLaughlin

    Wow. Mark my words. 10 years from now this announcement and that of the iPhone 5 will be seen as the start of Apple’s decline. They no longer innovate, they react.

    • jameskatt

      Since everyone else is copying Apple, that means everyone else will be in decline.

  • Jompa

    Who wants to pay extra for an iPad 2 now? IPad mini is an iPad 2 only smaler, with way better cameras, the new lightning port, new sexy dessign, higher ppi, AND its cheaper! (?) Why is the iPad 2 still there? Who would buy that one now?

    • jameskatt

      The iPad 2 is for those who can’t afford the iPad 4.
      The iPad Mini is in a difference class. You can buy both.
      And you can buy the iPod Touch on top of that to complete your collection.

  • Sean

    I was so going to pre-order the iPad mini this week. Then I saw the pricing, and then the deal-breaker, the specs. An A5 processor? Really? For that price? Apple can’t be getting more greedy can it? Many complain about no retina display, but personally I don’t care much for the retina display because I’d rather have app compatibility right away, and it’s a smaller display anyhow. But I would expect at least an A6 processor, and at least 1GB of RAM.

    I have an iPad 1st gen, and wanted something smaller, more portable, and more powerful than my iPhone. I was looking forward to the iPad mini, but now I’m basically sold on getting an Android small tablet instead (Nexus, Galaxy Note 2…).

    Paying a 65% premium for a logo is overrated. Apple seems to be messing up more and more these days…

    • jameskatt

      If you can’t afford Apple, then get a better job or two.
      Obviously, people that checklist features just don’t have taste.

  • jameskatt

    Ask any little girl or boy whether or not they want an iPad Mini. I bet all of them will want one. Ask your girlfriend – if you have one – if she would like an iPad Mini. I bet she wants one or has already ordered one for herself.