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iPad Mini, iPad 4, and new Mac models released at Apple event

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Do you need Apple’s new iPad Mini, a shrunken version of the iPad? No you don’t need it. What you need is love, fulfillment, security and good health. So the question should be, will you want the iPad’s smaller sibling? Slate Magazine’s Farhad Manjoo was at yesterday’s unveiling, and was one of the first to put his fingerprints on one of these minis. So what’s it like?

“If your hand is big enough it may be able to fit around the device,” says Manjoo. “But it feels appreciably lighter, which I think is going to make the biggest difference. I often read books on my iPad, and over time, it will feel sort of heavy if you’re reading it for a while. This will feel lighter.”

Apple stresses that the smaller screen is still the same shape as the bigger iPad — a little more on the square-side than rival Android tablets. This means apps for the regular iPad will fit fine. Plus Apple claims web pages fit better on its screens than they do on rival tablets which look a little squeezed by comparison. What the mini iPad does squeeze is your wallet. They want $329 for the base model. That price tag is at the tippy-top of predictions.

“The price is very surprising,” says Molly Wood, an executive editor at CNET. “And it sort of makes you wonder are they feeling the competition but not really understanding how fierce the competition really is? When I look at the iPad Mini from a technology perspective, I actually think that the value is not as good as something like the Nexus 7. The screen isn’t as good, the memory is fine but not great.” 

The running joke yesterday was that the iPad Mini is basically the iPad 2 but smaller. Yet the biggest surprise from Apple wasn’t the Mini’s price. It was word of a fourth generation regular-sized iPad just about six months after the 3rd generation came out. Marketplace’s Tech Correspondent Queena Kim is feeling a little punked. 

“I have to say I’m a little angry right now,” Kim told us. “It’s faster, it’s thinner, it’s got that new cable. I just bought mine six months ago. Isn’t it supposed to last for at least a full year before I start coveting the new thing?”

Are there others out there who will covet the iPad 4 or the iPad Mini enough to actually drop the cash and buy it? We asked Jeffrey Jaffe, a New York attorney who we buttonholed in Grand Central Terminal in New York. Is he ready to buy a mini?

“I’m an early adopter and a gadget freak,” says Jaffe. “So those two things might motivate me to buy a smaller tablet. Now that you mention it, my son cracked my screen Friday night. If the price to repair the screen is higher than the price of the smaller iPad, I would definitely consider that.”

Faith Hope Consolo at Prudential Douglas Elliman keeps a very close watch on America’s retail industry. She’s counting on lots of hunger for smaller tablet computers like the Ipad Mini to drive people into stores in the coming weeks. 

“We’re going to have a better holiday than anyone expected because we’re going to be so tired of talking about the election and all the uncertainty,” says Consolo. “This will push it over the top. Sales from the seven-inch tablet are supposed to double this year over last year based on this new addition to the market.” 

Why? Because when it comes down to it, Consolo says the iPad Mini works with her handbag. 

“The larger iPad is a little bulky, alright? It doesn’t fit in a purse. I just think it makes sense.” 

And that’s about as good an argument for the wee little iPad as I’ve heard. 

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