The iPad mini announcement

Just in time for the holidays, the iPad is now available in stocking-stuffer size.

After 15 or so minutes of undisguised self-congratulations at their press announcement, Apple released a slew of new products yesterday, including the highly-anticipated 7.9″ iPad mini. In a move that surprised many industry insiders, Apple also released a 4th generation of 9.7″ iPads. Last year, the tablet market had a huge impact on Black Friday sales. For Black Friday 2011, we saw the highest overall sales of any product we featured on this iPad 2 deal. Additionally, Android tablets were huge sellers over the entire Black Friday weekend. As we enter into a more mature tablet marketplace, how is this latest release going to impact Black Friday 2012 shopping?

Timing

The iPad mini will be available for preorders on October 26 and in-store on November 2. Apple has never released a new model of the iPad this close to the holidays, and the iPad mini is the biggest shakeup to the iPad lineup ever. The iPad is also arguably one of the most giftable Apple products, so this late October announcement is no coincidence.  The fact that the lower price point will make the iPad mini a gifting possibility for more people is also no coincidence. The full-size, generation 4 iPad starts at $500, while the iPad mini starts at $329.

Supply

Apple aficionados have come to anticipate supply problems when Apple unleashes its latest gadgets to the world. The iPhone 5, released September 21, sold out in many stores within 3 days of launching. And now, a month later, the Apple Store is still showing an expected delivery time of 3-4 weeks on the iPhone 5. Apple assures customers that there is a steady flow of new stock reaching retail stores and online buyers. However, questions about supply problems have been dogging the mini since the first product leaks started popping up. As Black Friday approaches, what will Apple do in the event of supply problems? Will they offer in-store rainchecks? Guaranteed holiday delivery? There’s also the possibility they may hold onto stock especially for Black Friday.

Competition

With the release of the original iPad, Apple entered the market on top. There were plenty of doubts and questions (remember all the jokes about the name?), but the iPad defined the tablet marketplace. But a few short years later, and times have changed. Apple is still the king of the 9-10″ tablet, but they are entering into a developed world of 7″ Android tablets. Manufacturers have already had a chance to work out the kinks and find out what consumers want in a 7″ tablet. The mini’s biggest competition will most certainly be the Google Nexus 7 (released July 13, 2012) and the Kindle Fire HD (released September 14, 2012). Specs-wise, there is no clear champ. The iPad mini is somewhat pricer than the other two, but offers a slightly larger display, a slightly thinner bezel and front and rear cameras (as opposed to only front). It is also lighter weight. The Google Nexus 7 starts at $199, but that is for the 8GB model. The comparable 16GB model is $249. It beats the iPad mini’s display resolution and weight just 32 grams more. The 16GB Kindle Fire HD is the lowest priced at $199, but it is also the heaviest, weighing 92 grams more than the mini. The processor isn’t really on the same level as the Nexus or the mini. It also has less battery time than the other two.

What the Google Nexus and the Kindle Fire HD have over the iPad mini is a target customer. The Nexus is geared toward gaming and multimedia users, while the Fire HD appeals to Amazon users who are looking for a low cost tablet with a great screen and don’t mind the limitations of the Kindle Android interface. The big question with the mini is who the primary customer is going to be. Will the mini cannibalize existing iPad customers, or will it appeal tablet hold-outs and customers who have owned Android tablets?

Discounts

Apple is pretty reliable on certain things, and one of those things is their Black Friday sale. One day only, in-store and online, customers can expect a rare discount on all new Apple products. Last year, we saw new iPads discounted by about 8%. However, with the late release, obviously timed for the holidays, can we expect the same. The answer is…probably. There is some possibility that Apple will exclude the iPad mini and the 4th generation iPad from the sale. After all, it isn’t likely to dampen enthusiasm much. The other alternative would be if Apple opted to bundle an App Store gift card with the new models, in lieu of a discount. A $50 gift card would provide an extra incentive to buy on Black Friday without discounting the new models within their first month on the shelves.

Is an iPad mini already on the top of your wishlist? Or are you planning to buy one as a gift for someone else. Share your shopping plans in the comments below. If you want to find out about the best deals on Apple products and other popular items, as well as all the top Black Friday news, sign up for our Black Friday Alerts!

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About Casey at BradsDeals

Casey is part of the deal-finding team at BradsDeals. A bargain hunter to the core, she's sometimes haunted by nightmares about deals that expire before she can write them. She's also pretty sure she got her job by telling Brad about the time she got a free golf club.