Reading the Twitter and App.net reactions to the mostly positive reviews of the iPad mini today, I’m left with the impression that many people wanted
- $199 price point
- Retina display
- 10-hours of battery
- aluminum case, and all the fit and finish you expect from Apple
And anyone who doesn’t criticize Apple for not having all of these is a shill.
But design is about compromise, remember?
There’s no physical way Apple could have kept its “legendary” battery life (Tim Cook’s word, not mine) with the mini without sacrificing the Retina screen. And there’s no way it would have that beautiful aluminum fit and finish for $200. So choices were made. And if you follow Apple at all, you know why they made the choices they did.
Now, you can say that you would have preferred the Retina display in a cheap plastic case, or that you could live with five hours of battery instead of ten. But you have to make choices yourself in your imaginary preferred device. No one can currently make a device with all four of those things.
That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t deserve to get dinged in a review a little for having a screen that’s sub par compared to its competition. But from what I’ve read, the mini has been getting that ding. Most reviewers, even those who tend to be Apple positive, are wishing the mini had Retina.
(I’ll agree that rationalizing, i.e. “most people don’t care about Retina” is silly. Of course they care. And they will notice. But I’m betting the mini will still win most of them over.)
Apple operates on the “all or nothing” principle when it comes to resolution. It’s quadruple the pixels, or it’s not. There’s no in-between resolutions, where none of your apps work right or everything is fuzzy. Obviously I’d rather have a Retina screen on my mini, as I think that would be my ideal iPad. And by next year, when that’s physically possible, thanks to more advancements in battery technology and power management in iOS, I’ll have that. But in the meantime, I absolutely think Apple made the right choice to go with non-Retina before sacrificing battery life or making it even more expensive. And I certainly wouldn’t want a screen with 1200 x 900, or some other in-between resolution that made my apps look like crap.
As far as price goes, I’m also hearing a lot of talk about how Apple could “crush” its competition if it just made the mini $200. Sure. It could crush it even faster if it made the mini $100. Or heck, why not give it away?
Take a look at Amazon’s latest earnings report if you want to know how the cheap tablet market is doing. I don’t think Apple needs to crush anything. Those cheap tablets are money pits. Wall Street may give Amazon a pass for losing money on everything they sell, but when Apple warns profit margins will be lower than their usual 35%, the stock takes a nose dive. I think Apple is right to wait it out until it can make a profitable tablet at that price.
Are people still seriously thinking Apple needs to get into the razor-thin margins game? Because that’s how Apple got to be the world’s largest company, right, by competing on price?
Didn’t we learn anything from Netbooks?
I was as surprised as everyone else when I saw that $329 starting price. But mostly because it’s such a goofy, Marketing un-friendly number. Once I thought about it for a minute, I figured, “Well, that must be the compromise that went along with the manufacturing process.” This is what Apple does. Rounded corners, when squared corners are cheaper. Aluminum, when plastic is cheaper. Glass, when a plastic screen is cheaper. They build a great product, then price it as cheap as they can, not the other way around.
Anyone who takes a look at an iPad mini and a Kindle Fire will immediately know why the mini is more expensive. And they’ll choose according to what suits them best. Apple is happy to let them make that choice. They don’t cater to cheapskates.
But what about the iPod? I can hear some arguing. What about it? It was several years before Apple made an iPod that was cheap enough to not leave the “price umbrella” under it, and that iPod didn’t have a screen.
I have no doubt the umbrella will be gone in a few years. But that will take time, technological advancement, and a lot more creative thinking. Remember, this is the iPad mini, not the iPad shuffle. That’ll come later. In the meantime, let the competitors lose money for a while. Market share is not remotely important compared to making profits and keeping your reputation for best-in-class products.
You can’t beat Amazon in a pricing war. Why would you pick that fight, knowing you’re going to lose?