Apple gets official with iPad mini; upgrades iPad again

What might have been one of Apple's worst kept secrets is finally here.

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After months of speculation, Apple officially introduced the iPad mini during a media event in San Jose on Tuesday morning.

See also: CNET's Apple event live blog

But Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller started off with a surprise when he announced the fourth-generation iPad -- which was a bit of a shock considering the last one was only introduced earlier this year.

Here are some of the upgrades:

  • New LTE chipset that works on more networks worldwide
  • Front camera now supports FaceTime with 720p HD video capture
  • 2x faster Wi-Fi connectivity
  • New cables for SD and USB connectivity
  • 10 hours of battery life
  • Same configuration/pricing starting points (i.e. starts at 16GB Wi-Fi only for $499, etc.)
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But Schiller didn't disappoint anyone expecting a smaller tablet, quickly introducing the "thin as a pencil" iPad mini. Here's the rundown on the sized-down iOS tablet thus far:

  • 7.9-inch display
  • Dual-core A5 processor
  • 53 percent lighter than full-sized iPad at 0.68 lbs
  • 7.2mm thin and 0.68 pounds light
  • 23 percent thinner than 4th-gen iPad
  • Same resolution as 1st- and 2nd-gen iPads: 1,024 by 768 pixels
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi @ 5.2Ghz
  • FaceTime HD front camera
  • 5-megapixel iSight rear camera
  • Lightning connector
  • 10-hour battery life
  • New Smart Covers available for iPad mini
  • Comes in white and "slate black" -- no aluminum hinge; all one matte material
  • LTE options

Schiller took some time to describe how the iPad mini stacks up against the competition, calling out the direct competitors in the 7-inch tablet market.

Specifically remarking that the iPad mini has 35 percent more display real estate than Google's Nexus 7, Schiller continued that the 7.9-inch mini is 49 percent larger in portrait mode and 67 percent larger in landscape when it comes to browser use.

But in the end, the real competition in this segment of the tablet market is going to come down to pricing.

While the Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire have lowered the pricing bar below $300, the iPad Mini starts at $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version.

Apple is opening up pre-orders this Friday, and the Wi-Fi only editions will start shipping a week later on November 2 countries. The roll out for the 4G versions will follow at a later date.

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Images via CNET

More coverage about Apple's latest announcements on ZDNet:

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