Digital Crave

iPad mini is almost here: What you need to know

Digital Crave

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Photo credit: 9to5Mac

If you're experiencing a bit of déjà vu from the hype over a new Apple product, it's completely understandable.

After all, we just got through another iPhone launch, with an incredible amount of online buzz, industry speculation, insider info and leaked photos leading up to it.

So here we go again.

The rabid tech community has now turned its sights to what seems to be an imminent announcement by Apple for a smaller version of its best-selling iPad tablet.

Dubbed by many as the iPad Mini, iPad Air or iPad mini (if Apple takes a page from its iPod touch, nano and shuffle line), this compact and less expensive ebook-reader-on-steroids would go up against the likes of Amazon's Kindle Fire HD, Google's Nexus 7, B&N Nook HD+ and the Kobo Vox.

While Apple hasn't commented on any of this, the following is a collection of the rumors swirling about the iPad's little brother, said to debut within a few weeks. And hey, if it's true, Samsung will need to quickly shoot a new TV commercial that pokes fun at all the hype.

What's the date?

According to a "major Apple investor" who was told the goods from multiple sources, the iPad mini (what we'll call it for now) will be unveiled on Wednesday, Oct. 17, with a launch day of Friday Nov. 2 — nearly two months ahead of the all-important holiday gift-giving season, says Fortune.

Journalists and analysts can expect email invitations on Oct. 10.

It should be noted back in August, All Things Digital predicted we'd be seeing a special press event in October to debut a smaller version of the iPad.

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Photo credit: MacRumors

iPad mini specs

Rumors of a 7.85-inch LCD display have surfaced for some time now, including a recent report from Wall Street Journal that says Apple Inc.'s Asian component suppliers have already begun "mass production" of the tablet. Smaller than the 9.7-inch iPad (measured diagonally), the new iPad mini would have a liquid-crystal display with a 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution.

To keep costs down, the screen would not boast the same "Retina" display as seen with the new (third-generation) iPad; the word refers to the fact the human eye can't distinguish the millions of individual dots (pixels) that make up the text and images.

In its coverage of the Apple and Samsung court trial in early August, ClNet.com published info about an internal email in which high-level Apple executives discussed interest in a smaller version of the iPad (back in January 2011). An accompanying article talked further of a smaller iPad that would likely be around 7 or more inches.

Leaked photos

Courtesy of UkrainianiPhone, photos of the iPad mini debuted in early October, shown in production in a Chinese factory, says the site. From what we can see in the four photos, the tablet will have Wi-Fi and a nano SIM tray for cellular connectivity (perhaps for a pricier model); an 8-pin "Lightning" connector found in the new iPhone 5 opposed to the older 30-pin connector; and a microphone jack in the same upperleft corner as current iPads. Interesting, the narrow bezel looks similar to other "leaked photos" of the iPad mini over the past couple of months, including images published by French site NWE (Nowhere Else).

Images of the white and black iPad mini also show an aluminum back like the iPhone 5, volume buttons on the right side of the tablet, a switch (to mute the volume or lock orientation, presumably), rear-facing camera (and perhaps a front-facing one, too, though it's hard to tell) and two speaker grilles at the bottom, also like iPhone 5.

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Photo credit: UkrainianiPhone

Where is it being produced?

Leaked info and photos from Taiwan over the past two months, including ones that made the homepage of Chinese website BoLoPad, strongly hint at production at both Foxconn and Pegatron. According to an Engadget story, Taiwan's Economic Daily News says Pegatron is getting most of the business — up to 60 percent of the production orders.

But we're also hearing about production in South America, too.

Specifically, Japanese Apple blog Macotakara says the production of a smaller iPad is already underway in a "Brazilian factory," citing an anonymous source. It appears the factory is also part of China's Foxconn.

Some suggest the move to Brazil is Apple's way of addressing questionable working conditions in Taiwan that have sparked a spate of suicides over the years and a riot that left more than 40 injured. Due to worldwide pressure, Foxconn has increased wages, reduced the number of working hours and has made other concessions to improve its image.

Back on August 21, DigiTimes -- a publication that focuses on the supply side of the electronics, semiconductor, computer and communications industries -- reported Apple was about to ramp up production of a miniature iPad, as many as 4 million units per month, ahead of an early November launch.

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Photo credit: NWE

Cost

Apple sees a smaller iPad ideal for those who don't want to tote around a near 10-inch tablet, but it's also to provide a less expensive alternative to a $499 new iPad or $399 iPad 2 — and with less horsepower under the hood.

The iPad mini is expected to retail for around $249, which is a little more than the $200-odd Android-based tabs, such as the Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7, but Apple at least brings iTunes and iCloud integration to the table.

IHS iSuppli analyst Rhoda Alexander tells C|Net.com how low Apple's price goes depends on how motivated the company is to "crush the competition." Alexander says a $249 entry-level iPad -- presumably with 8GB or 16GB of memory, and Wi-Fi only — should be enough to stave off competition, but a 4G LTE model for $299 or $349 might be too out of reach.

Yahoo! readers, would you buy an iPad mini? Or are you perfectly happy with your existing iPad or other tablet? Or have you passed on the entire tablet or ebook phenomenon altogether?

Check out more tech trends and news at Digital Crave


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