In less than 24 hours, the world will finally know how Apple plans to confront the 7-inch tablet market currently occupied by names like the Kindle Fire, the Nook and the Nexus 7. The heavily-rumored iPad Mini, said to feature a 7.85-inch screen and all the best aspects of the iPad, the world’s most popular tablet computer, will reportedly be unveiled tomorrow morning at Apple’s scheduled media event in San Jose, Calif.
The event, scheduled to occur at the California Theatre at 10 a.m. PST, is expected to introduce several new iOS and Mac products, including a newly-updated iPad “3,” a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, a completely redesigned iMac, a newly-updated Mac Mini, and of course, that iPad Mini everyone’s wondering about.
Most expect the iPad Mini will be able to do everything the iPad can do -- Web surfing, book reading, game playing, movie watching, all of that – but how much will it cost? The iPad is a terrific gadget, but the expensive $499 entry-level price is certainly a turn-off for cash-strapped consumers. That being said, many want to know to what extent, if any, Apple will appeal to these different tax brackets with the release of the iPad Mini.
On Oct. 20, Mark Gurman of trusted Apple news site 9 to 5 Mac pegged the entry price for the iPad Mini at $329.
“Two higher capacities of the smaller iPad will be available in the WiFi-only configuration,” Gurman wrote. “These will likely be priced at $100 premiums over each other at a minimum of $429 and $529. It is possible that this base price for the smaller iPad could be higher, but our best guess is $329.”
While a $329 iPad would certainly sell, there are too many reasons Apple needs to start selling its iPad at $249, whether or not the device includes LTE.
How To Price The iPad Mini
Since Amazon and Barnes & Noble began the 7-inch tablet war in 2011 with the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, respectively, many have speculated that if Apple released a smaller iPad at its competitors’ price points -- $199 for the Kindle Fire, and $249 for the original Nook Tablet – an “iPad Mini” would simply blow its rivals out of the water.
This logic makes sense: The iPad is a proven product. It's thin, light, powerful, intuitive and beautiful, much more so than any other tablet available. The iPad’s only major issue has been its high price of entry.
While Apple is a luxury computer company, the iPad’s high economic threshold has forced many users to turn to competitively-priced tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Now that Google’s finally gotten into the game with the Nexus 7, Apple needs to give customers a reason to prefer the iPad over its rivals. If the only advantage these tablets have over the iPad is price, Apple needs to correctly price the iPad Mini if it wants to effectively suppress them in the tablet market for the 12 months.
If the iPad Mini costs any more than $249, Apple will have failed. The point of the iPad is to make computers accessible, and if the Mini fails to get into consumers' hands -- as unlikely as that is -- Apple risks cannibalizing its own iPad sales and letting newcomers into the space unchecked. Apple needs to hit that sweet $249 price tag, which tells customers that while it’s a luxury product, it’s clearly worth the extra $50 over its similar rivals.
Why LTE Matters To The Price
Apple would have an easier time setting a low entry price for the iPad Mini if the company has more configurations to sell.
On Oct. 16, Apple Insider reported on Apple’s possible plans to sell 12 variations of the iPad Mini, which were based on inventory listings. Apple could sell a Wi-Fi-only iPad Mini with three storage sizes and in two colors (black and white), but that still leaves six variations; if Apple sells the iPad Mini with LTE, the math adds up.
If Apple sold LTE models of the iPad Mini, it would simply create a better diversity of prices and configurations for consumers – same as the new iPad. Compared to the Wi-Fi-only new iPad models that cost $499, $599 and $699, the 4G LTE versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. If Apple starts selling the iPad Mini at $199 or $249 – the likely range – the 4G LTE iPad Mini models, if priced the same, could range from $329 to as high as $579.
The iPad Mini could definitely succeed if priced low. Many customers may opt for the Wi-Fi only models if LTE is too expensive, but many Apple customers will purchase the highest-end models because they believe it provides the best overall experience. Apple likes to sell “the best products at every price point,” as CEO Tim Cook often says, but the company is essentially a luxury brand, and selling the finest possible product is more important than ensuring the highest iPad Mini price fits below the lowest iPad price.
If competition and consumer satisfaction weren’t sufficient reasons, Apple should sell the iPad Mini at $249 because it can. The company is currently the most valuable in the world, and with oodles of money in the bank, Apple could easily afford to sell the iPad Mini at a low enough price point that’s attractive to both consumers and Apple’s investors alike.
If Apple’s history is any indicator of its future, we believe Apple will release its 7.85-inch iPad Mini to the public on Friday, Nov. 2.