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Apple iPad Mini goes on sale to muted response

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Apple's iPad Mini has today gone on sale in key international markets, although the small screen slate was greeted with muted excitement compared to previous Apple product launches.

After months of rumour and speculation, the technology firm announced the iPad Mini on October 23. The new product has a display measuring 7.9 inches on the diagonal, compared with the 9.7-inch screen in the main iPad, and is powered by the Apple-designed A5 chip. it is being offered with WiFi and cellular connectivity.

A security guard stands next to an area expected for customers to queue up at the Apple store in Hong Kong

© PA Images / Vincent Yu/AP



Reuters reports that queues for the iPad Mini were well down on previous launches at Apple stores in Australia and Asia. Only around 50 people waited at the Apple Store in Sydney for the new product, when lines had stretched back several blocks for debuts of new iPhone models.

More than 100 people greeted the iPad Mini at Apple Stores in Tokyo and Seoul, but Reuters notes that when sales started at Apple's flagship Hong Kong store "staff appeared to outnumber those waiting in line".

Whilst the original iPad arguably kickstarted the tablet market in 2010, Apple's new slate arrives with plenty of competition. The iPad Mini will compete with Google's Asus-made Nexus 7, along with Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and other rival tablets from Samsung and Barnes & Noble.

Customers Kazuki Miura, left, Mio Kawai, bottom, Hisanori Kogure, center, and Kota Suzuki show off Apple's iPad Mini after they bought at a store in Tokyo

© PA Images / Koji Sasahara/AP



Customers in the UK can now buy the WiFi-only model of the iPad Mini in Apple Stores and approved retailers nationwide.

Available in either black & slate or white & silver, the entry-level iPad Mini featuring 16GB of internal storage costs £269 ($329), while the 32GB model is priced at £349 ($429) and the 64GB model £429 ($529).

Built with an aluminium and glass body, the iPad Mini is just 7.2mm thick and weighs only 308 grams, making it lighter than its rivals. The product boasts an estimated 10 hours of battery life and has FaceTime HD and iSight cameras.

Apple intends to sell the WiFi-only iPad Mini models first, and then launch versions that can support WiFi and 3G/4G connectivity later in November. These will cost £369 ($459), £449 ($559) and £529 ($659) respectively for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models.

A security guard stands next to an area expected for customers to queue up at the Apple store in Hong Kong

© PA Images / Vincent Yu/AP



Alongside the iPad Mini, Apple has today started sales of the fourth-generation iPad, which was the surprise announcement at the launch last month.

The new model features a slight refresh on the design introduced in March, including the A6X chip that delivers up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the previous A5X chip.

Other features include the Lightning dock connector, FaceTime HD camera and support for Long Term Evolution (4G) connectivity on more mobile networks, including EE 4G in the UK.

A salesclerk poses with new iPad Minis for the media at an Apple store in Seoul, South Korea

© PA Images / Ahn Young-joon/AP



The fourth-gen iPad is priced at £399 ($499), £479 ($599), and £559 ($699) for WiFi-only models with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage respectively, or £499 ($629), £579 ($729) and £659 ($829) for the respective storage models with 3G/4G connectivity.

> Apple's marketing chief phil Schiller defends iPad Mini pricing
> iPad owners unhappy with iPad 4 timing
> Apple iPad Mini launch event - live blog

Introducing the iPad mini:


We have created a comparison guide on the runners and riders in the small screen tablet market, including the iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble NOOK HD, so you can see which - if any - is worth your cash.

iPad Mini
Apple iPad Mini

What is it?: Apple's debut model in the small-screen tablet market blends its iPad and iPod Touch devices into a brand new multimedia slate.
Display: 7.9-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1024x768. Pixel density of 163 pixels per inch (PPI).
Body: Aluminium and glass chassis weighs 308g for WiFi-only model (making it lightest of all the tablets). Dimensions of 199mm x 133mm x 7.2 mm thick.
Processor: A5 1GHz Processor with 512MB of RAM.
Connectivity: WiFi and also cellular, including both 3G and 4G.
Camera: Rear iSight 5-megapixel camera with a wide open f/2.4 aperture. Front-facing camera for FaceTime calls.
Storage: Comes on-board with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.
Software: Runs Apple's iOS 6 operating system, which unfortunately includes the much maligned Apple Maps system.
Apps/content: Full access to iTunes and the App Store, including a market-leading 275,000 apps produced specifically for the tablet.
Battery: The iPad Mini's battery is claimed to give 10 hours of use on a full charge.
Brand factor: The lure of Apple's brand is as strong as ever and it remains the most desired tech choice for many consumers.
Price: £269 ($329) for the 16GB, £349 ($429) for the 32GB and £429 ($529) for the 64GB WiFi-only models. £369 ($459), £449 ($559) and £529 ($659) for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models that can support WiFi and 3G/4G connectivity.
Release date: Out now in WiFi-only, cellular versions will launch later in the month.
Verdict: Whilst Apple may not have surprised anyone with its iPad Mini, it is still king of the tablet computer market. The firm may have arguably priced the small screen model of the iPad a little too high against such strong competition, but the build quality is excellent and the slate will certainly sell like hot cakes.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet
Google Nexus 7

What is it?: Google's debut tablet computer made by Taiwanese firm Asus.
Display: 7-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1280x800. Pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (PPI), better than the iPad Mini.
Dimensions: Plastic chassis that weighs 340 grams (heavier than the iPad Mini). 198.5mm x 120mm x 10.56 mm thick.
Processor: Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core chip. 1GB of RAM,
Connectivity: WiFi and also 3G.
Camera: 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.
Storage: Comes on-board with 16GB and now 32GB of internal storage.
Software: Runs the latest version of Android, 4.2 JellyBean.
Apps/content: Full access to the Google Play Store, offering a range of books, videos, music and other content. There are also 700,000 applications, although as Apple points out, it is unclear how many of these have been specifically designed for the tablet experience.
Battery: 4,325 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery that typically lasts 9.5 hours on a full charge.
Brand factor: Google is not associated with hardware but its brand is strong enough to get into the mind of consumers. Also, the Nexus line is pretty well established now, as is Android, the world's largest mobile operating system.
Price: The 16GB version costs £159 ($199) and the 32GB edition £199 ($249). The top end 32GB model with WiFi/3G compatibility costs £239 ($299).
Release date: Out now.
Verdict: The Nexus 7 offers an excellent user experience, solid performance and rich collection of content for an affordable price. Now with WiFi and 3G, Google's slate is a big competitor to the iPad Mini.

The New Kindle Fire HD 7 tablet
Amazon Kindle Fire HD

What is it?: Amazon launched its Kindle Fire tablet internationally this autumn, including a Kindle Fire HD model in the UK.
Display: 7-inch LED Backlit Multi-touch screen. Resolution of 1280x800. Pixel density of 216 pixels per inch (PPI).
Dimensions: Weighs 395g grams (heaviest of the tablets). 193mm x 137mm x 10.3 mm thick.
Processor: Texas Instruments Dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP4 4460. 1GB of RAM.
Connectivity: Just WiFi, but dual-band for faster downloads and HD streaming.
Sound: Worth noting that the Kindle Fire HD has Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers.
Camera: Front-facing HD camera.
Storage: Comes on-board with 16GB or 32GB.
Operating system: Heavily modified version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0), featuring customised Amazon features.
Apps/content: Amazon's own Appstore gives access to over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, books, and magazines, along with a range of popular apps - but not as many as Apple's iPad. Users get one month free trial of Amazon's LoveFilm.
Battery: 4,325 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery that typically lasts 9.5 hours on a full charge.
Brand factor: Retailer Amazon is a well known brand in people's minds, and the Kindle is well established via the range of market-leading e-Readers.
Price: £159 ($159) for 8GB storage model, and £189 ($199) for 16GB version.
Release date: Out now.
Verdict: Amazon's new Kindle Fire HD slate offers impressive tech specs and a big library of content but its lack of 3G puts it at a disadvantage against the Nexus 7 and iPad Mini. Amazon also cannot offer the same breadth of tablet apps as Apple, but the pricing certainly makes this attractive.

Nook 7" HD Tablet
Barnes & Noble NOOK HD

What is it?: Barnes & Noble's small screen tablet makes its debut in the UK this month.
Display: 7-inch LED Backlit screen Multi-touch screen. Screen resolution of 1440x900, with 243 pixels per inch (PPI) - the best of all the tablets.
Dimensions: Weighs 315 grams. 194.4mm x 127.1mm x 11.0mm tick.
Processor: OMAP 4470 dual-core processor that clocks at 1.3GHz. 1GB of RAM.
Connectivity: WiFi.
Camera: None.
Storage: Comes on-board with 8GB or 16GB, but internal memory can be expanded up to 32GB via a MicroSD card.
Software: Version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich overlaid with Barnes & Noble's own 'paper' user interface. Has various features including separate accounts for different users and the Your Nook homepages.
Apps: Instead of the Google Play store, NOOK HD gets the NOOK Store, offering more than 2.5 million eBooks, a large selection of magazines, and a range of movies and TV shows via the new NOOK Video service. There are only around 100,000 apps.
Battery: NOOK HD's battery is claimed to offer up to 10.5 hours of continuous reading and up to 9.5 hours of video watching.
Brand factor: Here is where the NOOK HD will suffer. Both Barnes & Noble and NOOK are pretty much unknown in the UK, meaning it will take time to get the product into the mind of consumers. A big marketing campaign could help in this regard, as has already happened with the NOOK e-Readers which launched this week.
Price: £159 ($199) for 8GB storage model, and £189 ($229) for 16GB version.
Release date: Out November.
Verdict: The NOOK HD is an impressive machine, with as good or better technical specs than its rivals. But the tablet could get lost against such mighty competition. Might take a while to find its audience.

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