SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Inc. gave fans the mini-moment they had been waiting for Tuesday by introducing a smaller iPad to the world, but the company surprised the technology community by also updating the standard iPad with a fourth-generation iteration just seven months after its last update.
The smaller device will officially be called the iPad Mini and cost $329 and up, pricey when compared with popular 7-inch tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, which start at $199. The iPad Mini will have a screen slightly smaller than 8 inches – the original iPad has a screen just under 10 inches – while having the same resolution of the larger version.
The updated larger iPad was a surprise because Apple usually waits at least a year to introduce new iterations of popular consumer devices, and the third-generation iPad was launched in March. The new full-sized iPad will double the speed of its Wi-Fi connection and receive the new Lightning connector, the smaller connection introduced on the iPhone 5 last month, Apple marketing guru Phil Schiller announced slightly less than an hour into Tuesday’s event. Apple will continue to offer the iPad 2 and the iPad introduced Tuesday, effectively killing the third-generation iPad introduced just last spring.
After introducing the fourth-generation iPad to the audience, Schiller turned his attention to the iPad Mini, using Google’s Nexus 7 tablet as a comparison. Schiller pointed out that the 7-inch tablet produced by the Mountain View, Calif., search giant is heavier and thicker than the iPad Mini, but still has a smaller display.
Schiller also said that all 275,000 iPad applications will work on the new, smaller iPad, while the Nexus 7 tablet that runs on Google’s Android operating system offers “phone applications (that have been) stretched out.”
The iPad Mini’s starting price of $329 is only $30 more than the iPod Touch, a similar product the size of an iPhone, and $70 less than the starting price of the iPad 2, which Apple continues to sell. The $329 model is Wi-Fi-only and offers 16 gigabytes of space, with models at 32 GB costing $429 and 64 GB for $529; the device is available for purchase online immediately, with a launch date of Nov. 2. Models with cellular connectivity start at $459 and will launch two weeks later.
Apple CEO Tim Cook began the event by lauding the recent updates to Apple’s ecosystem and the adoption by its fervent fans.
The first actual update Cook announced regarded iBooks, Apple’s marketplace for electronic books, which Cook noted has 1.5 million books available and has sold 400 million to customers worldwide. IBooks 3.0 will be a free download and include continual scrolling – negating swipes to turn pages – and new sharing options for Facebook and Twitter. Cook also later announced new iBooks authoring software, iBooks Author, available Tuesday.
Cook then ceded the stage for the first time to Schiller, who introduced a smaller version of a popular Apple product – but it wasn’t the iPad. Apple will offer a 13-inch MacBook Pro with retina display, after previously only offering a 15-inch model with the high-resolution screen technology. The 13-inch model will be 20 percent thinner and a pound lighter than the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro, with a screen resolution four times greater, but no optical drive. The new MacBook Pro costs $1,699 and up and begins shipping immediately.
Schiller then introduced a new Mac mini, with a joke: “You knew there’d be something named mini in this presentation.” The small desktop computer base will receive stronger Intel processors while keeping the same price.
Apple’s vice president of marketing then moved to a new iMac, Apple’s all-in-one desktop model, which will be 80 percent thinner than its predecessor while also losing the optical drive, but does not have a retina display.
Apple will also introduce a “Fusion Drive” for use with its Mac mini and iMac desktop models, which will combine 128 gigabytes of flash storage and a hard drive with 1 to 3 terabytes of capacity. The new iMac will start at $1,299 for the 21.5-inch model and $1,799 for the 27-inch model.
Cook then returned to the stage for the most-anticipated introduction of the day, the iPad Mini. A lower-priced and smaller-screened tablet from Apple gives the Cupertino tech giant a way to protect its flank from rivals Google and Amazon, which are nipping at its heels with their $199 devices.