The iPad Mini – The Worm in Apple’s Core

The iPad mini was recently unveiled to the shock of few, but certainly the delight of many of the Apple faithful who, with outstretched arms and open wallets, welcomed the new 7.9 inch tablet into the world. It is beautiful, it is fast, and it is currently so hot that the surface of the sun is considering releasing a sex tape to stay relevant.

It also represents one of the biggest Apple missteps in years.

Now, let me make this clear. I love the iPhone 5 (though I prefer the Galaxy S3 in many respects), I would trade limbs for the any of the upcoming MacBook line, and I think that the iPad 3 and it’s mind blowing retina display is without competition the best all-around gadget on the market, and possibly the company’s greatest release on a purely technical level. I certainly do not hate Apple, and instead love them for how they force everyone to step up their game.

And that’s why I am tremendously disappointed with the iPad Mini. Since the original Kindle Fire received a great deal of mockery initially for being viewed as a “can’t afford the iPad, might as well settle” device, the small tablet market has become its own niche, no longer defined by the functions of the iPad. This is particularly evident by the quality of the Google Nexus 7, a tablet that’s versatility far outshines any limitations it is supposed to have. It’s also an idea that’s being carried on by the news of the upcoming Kindle Fire HD, which at its full price model is as statistically impressive of a 7 inch model as we’ve seen.

It would have once been impossible to imagine that a small tablet released by Apple wouldn’t storm a market set up to defy it like a bully on a fresh playground. Instead the visual we are left with after its initial unveiling is a timid child approaching with a drooping baseball cap feebly mumbling, “Hey guys…can I play?”

You can view the statistics and figures of the iPad Mini compared to its main competitors, and you’ll find that it is pretty much even, slightly better, or slightly worse in all fields. I like the super slim size and light weight of it to be sure, and of course appreciate its typical Apple beauty, but there is no one spec that jumps out at you as truly jaw dropping, or even noteworthy. Well, besides the price, which runs from $329 for the base model 16 GB with WiFi up to a 64 GB model with LTE capabilities for $659. This is compared to the Fire HD which is $199 for the 16 GB model, and the Nexus 7 which goes for $199 for and 8 GB and $249 for the 16 GB.

Now, you could justify the price of the iPad mini if it was indeed the top of the line, “Rolls-Royce” of  7-inch tablets. However, you just don’t get that vibe from the early word about the mini. The positives so far talk about what a great e-reader it is, its ultra slim design, and of course the benefit of the Apple app market which is far and away deeper than the Android market, and has apps designed more for a tablet in mind which Android is lagging on. That last point has been a the major defense of Apple since the announcement of the mini, as they have been feverishly supporting their price point to many different sources, with the main idea being that what you’re really buying here is the Apple brand and everything that comes with it, more than a product that can be easily defined by numbers.

But the question for consumers must be is that really still worth it? Can you justify using the word investment on what is still essentially a first gen product, that will no doubt be outstripped by a new model next year for the benefits of the tablet specific apps, and the Apple brand? Apple is touting that the mini is not a reduced and instead a condensed form of  the regular iPad, but ironically  in a market once created as a smaller alternative to the iPad comes an actual smaller iPad that finds itself in a field where that is no longer enough. The Google Nexus 7 was a game changer for 7 inch tablets as it proved that you don’t have to compromise for a smaller size, and that a cheaper tablet can perform on a high level for a reasonable price, with features and qualities unique to its model. It’s hard to say the same for the iPad mini which still looks and feels like a smaller iPad, but not a 7 inch iPad of its own.

In times gone by Apple would not have put up with competition in its domain and would have unequivocally released the 7 inch tablets to end all 7 inch tablets. While the iPad mini looks like a more than competent device that will no doubt perform at a high level, for the first time in a long time consumers have viable options to choose from when facing the prospect of going against an Apple device.

The only question is, will they test these new waters in mass, or blindly take the worm like the good little fishes Apple seems to think they are?

Amazon Looking to Rekindle the Tablet Wars with the Kindle Fire 2

It’s looking more and more like the launch of the Google Nexus 7 tablet is just the start of a firestorm about to hit the affordable tablet market. Appropriately then, Amazon is looking to jump back into the fray by fighting that fire with one of their own.

According to rumors first started by a report in the China Times, Amazon is looking to start production early on the Kindle Fire 2, possibly aiming for a release as soon as this summer. While details are sparse on the upgraded Fire, the word is that Amazon’s Taiwan partner Quanta has received the go ahead to start production on what could possibly be a few different models of the Fire. While all of the models are currently being predicted to retain the original Fire’s 7-inch screen (with the base model retaining the $199 price point), most likely the different units will feature increasingly larger storage capacities and work off an increasing pricing structure similar to the  Nexus 7. There’s even word going around that the most expensive unit of the three will include a built-in camera and 4G capabilities. It’s also hard to imagine that even the base model of the new Fire won’t include a faster processor, better screen resolution, and a longer battery life if it looks to keep up with the standard Nexus 7.

I know a few people that own the original Kindle Fire, and the general consensus that you get from them is that “it does what I need it to do,” That’s a far cry from the original mission statement of the Fire when it was still marketing itself as a rival to the iPad at a much cheaper price. Since then, the smaller, cheaper tablet has established a market of its own with the Kindle Fire being seen as the fore bearer, and even the front-runner, of the new line. Considering, though, that Apple, the company whose iPad helped kick off this new war, is allegedly looking to release their own smaller tablet, the big question is if Amazon would do better holding off and seeing what the industry’s giant is going to bring to the table first before jumping the gun with this 2nd generation Fire. Otherwise, the novelty and name power they launched the Fire with in the first place may not hold up if a rushed product that is only meant to compete with the newest kid on the block eventually turns them into another face in the crowd.

Apple Owners Rejoice! Free Apps Are on the Way

Since spearheading the Android App Market and launching the Kindle Fire, Amazon has seemingly been on a mission to promote themselves as the kinder, gentler Apple alternative. While stopping shy of ever viciously calling out their rival, the message is clear that they believe themselves to be more of a service “of the people” than their counterpart. One of the ways they have done this is by offering a Free App of the Day service that allows its users to snag a free download of an app selected by Amazon. Ranging from games to useful services, it’s a must have feature that, until now, has provided Android owners with another feature to rub in the face of the iMasses.

I say “until now” because it looks like the empire has caught on to the rebel plans.

Yes, its happy days again Apple owners. Apple is now offering its own free app service, only this one will be a free app of the week and not of the day. The good news is that the first app of this service is the brilliant and addictive “Cut The Rope: Experiments“ game, which went from “should be essential” to “no conceivable reason not to download” courtesy of the new promotion. Not content to just borrow from one rival, though, Apple has also introduced an “Editor’s Choice” feature (seemingly a replacement for their staff picks and game of the week features) that highlights the newest and best apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The initial showcases are Facebook Camera, “Extreme Skater,” “Air Mail” and Sketchbook Ink.

Of course, all jokes about theft are actually jokes. Developers have been running their own free app promotions since the start of the market, and independent sites have been offering the same, as well as highlighting the best new apps for the same period of time. In truth it is refreshing to see Apple offer these services on their own, and considering that the Apple app market is richer and fuller than that of its rivals, even an app a week instead of one a day is an astoundingly good deal that should produce something of must have quality each outing.

Although it should be noted that the “App of the Week” feature hasn’t officially been confirmed as a permanent addition. However since they’ve launched a new Twitter tag for it, not to mention those large banners for the service on their site, things look good. It’s going to be interesting to see if Apple looks at the success of this initial offering to judge if it will continue in the future. It’ll be interesting because we can’t know if Apple will look at giving away lots of free merchandise as a positive marketing ploy, or the root of all known evil.

Again, joking.