Let’s Talk About the iPad Mini and Ultra-Mobile Computing

by Ben Bajarin   |   November 5th, 2012

[dc]A[/dc]pple announced today that they sold 3 million iPad Mini (Wi-Fi version) and fourth generation iPads in three days. Through some smart discussions with some folks who track supply chain shipments, I estimate that around 1.7 to 2 million of those were iPad Mini’s. Call it an educated guess. Any sane person who saw the product in person and understands the value of tablets to the end consumer, would not be surprised with the Mini’s success. I have a hunch the iPad mini will be one of the hottest sellers this holiday season.

I have had the iPad Mini since Friday and I have observed some interesting things.

An iPad For Everyone

I am drawn to big screens. As impractical as it absolutely would be, I would own the biggest possible HDTV imaginable. However, there are many who are much more practical in these matters than myself – like my wife. This is why the diversification of the tablet form factor, and in this case the iPad, is an important move. The market favors options, and this includes the portfolio from single brands.

We have already heard quite a bit about the iPad Mini in education, particularly k-12, and I do believe it has a great deal of upside in that market but there are a few other segments that I think are particularly interesting for the iPad Mini. Specifically women and China (Asia).

My wife and kids already prefer the iPad Mini over its larger brother. I still use the iPad heavily but I have integrated it into my life in ways most have not and depend on it for a large percentage of my computing tasks. What makes the mini such a delight to use is how easy it is to hold. This, in my mind, has always been the attractive feature of the smaller form factor tablets. This may be the practical feature that many, particularly women, may appreciate about the iPad Mini.

Asia is a market that loves miniaturization. Through the decade plus I have been and industry analyst and have studied the global consumer market, I have been shocked at the ultra-small gadgets and PCs that are particularly popular with Asian consumers. This is why, in my opinion, the iPad Mini is so strategic for Apple in China. Its unique form factor, rich ecosystem of apps, and specific software innovations for the Asian market, give it one of the strongest tablet strategies for Asia. Of course the lower price helps as well.

The iPad Mini represents an option as a part of a portfolio of computing devices from Apple. For many it will be the perfect iPad.

Let’s Go Outside

One of my working hypothesis with tablets, is that their more mobile form factor, allows us to take computing to locations where notebooks can’t or are not suited for. As we have studied tablet usage from a variety of different vantage points we continually come across use cases where tablets are being used in much more mobile context than notebooks. Particularly because one can stand up, walk around, be truly mobile and still use the device.

This is the usage model that I thought would lead the iPad out into the world more often. I have seen people using their iPads at the beach, park, walking in the city, etc., but now having used the Mini, I think this product has a shot at being the iPad we see being used out in public regularly.

The case for this ultra-mobile iPad may be made even stronger with the WAN connected Minis and could spur entirely new usage models for pervasively connected mobile computers.

Going back to the appeal of the Mini for women for a moment. Women are uniquely positioned to embrace this ultra-mobile personal computer because most of them regularly carry a bag or purse in which to store it. The Mini fits into few of my pants back pockets but realistically I would never carry it in my pockets.

To be entirely honest, it was this big screen, connected mobile experience that I genuinely liked about the Galaxy Note 5.3 inch phone. That device was just too clunky as a phone to fit the bill in my opinion. The Mini could lead us into some interesting areas if it not only leaves the house, but gets used in places currently only smartphones get used.

Let’s Play Some Games

Another area that stood out to me with the iPad Mini was gaming. And not just casual gaming, full on immersive, hard core gaming experiences.

I grew up in the Nintendo and beyond era. Even as I got older and had a family, I still enjoy a long gaming session from time to time. I was surprised over the past few years to see so many non-casual and more hardcore immersive games (particularly first person shooters) showing up on the iPad. I tried many of these games and just couldn’t take to them. At first I thought it was the virtual D-pad but now I think it was simply the size of the iPad. Although not impossible, it is awkward, to hold the iPad two handed and still easily use a virtual D-pad and soft buttons on the screen. All that goes out the window with the Mini.

I was pleasantly surprised how great of an experience gaming is on the iPad Mini. I have any number of dedicated mobile gaming consoles and I have to say the Mini is on par with all of them.

We all know games are particularly compelling on tablets, and although there are a number of hardcore and immersive games for the iPad, I am not sure how well they are doing. All of that may change if developers catch wind of the iPad Mini as a gaming platform. The iPad Mini could very well be the device that brings Apple into an entirely new level as a gaming platform.

I am excited to see where Apple, developers, and the market take the iPad Mini. This is a fresh new form factor, and one that absolutely has a different appeal and experience than the iPad. I expect some evolving will happen with both platforms as the consumers try and evaluate both to see which ones meet their needs exactly. This is why it is important to have choice. Not all consumers prefer the same solution, and for Apple’s key growth products–which the iPad is in–making sure there are options for all types of consumers and market needs is essential.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research. He is a husband, father, gadget enthusiast, trend spotter, early adopter and hobby farmer. Full Bio
  • Defendor

    I had no doubt this would be a success. Something you can hold in one hand and still use all 275000 iPad apps is going to be a big draw, then there is the fact that it significantly lowers the entry price for an iPad.

    I saw an exit poll from Apple stores and they had 48% of buyers were new to tablets, so this is clearly opening new markets.

    Also White was most popular at 16GB, black was most popular at 64GB. Guys buying 16GB white for the Wife/Kids while picking up 64GB black for themselves?

    Once there is a Retina Mini, the full size iPad may be hard to sell at all. I hope Apple has some plans on the larger model to make it more attractive. Perhaps even grow the screen a bit…

    • Grwisher

      Defendor – In an earlier article, I think it was you who predicted higher price points for the mini while I was just as certain that lower ones would prevail. Congratulations on your better judgement.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

        I hoped for a lower price point as well, it was primarily selfish. I would just like to have one and not pay very much for it.

      • Defendor

        Yes, I was rather insistent that it would be over $300. You just have to learn to ignore your desires and examine how the company works.

    • FalKirk

      “I hope Apple has some plans on the larger model…” – Defendor

      I think the larger screened models will do quite well. They are particularly useful in instances where the screen needs to be shared (presentations) and in use with screen intensive apps. The Mini may become the standard, but there will be plenty of buyers attracted to the larger screened model as well.

      • Defendor

        I agree there will still be some uses better suited for the bigger model, but for most uses there doesn’t seem enough delta to bother with the size/weight increase. Maybe if they made the full size ipad screen a little bigger. Now that there is a smaller number they could go a little bigger on the full size model.

        I can’t wait for the Retina Minii.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

      “Once there is a Retina Mini, the full size iPad may be hard to sell at all.” – Defendor

      But, the iPad market is large, so there is room for both sizes, much like there is room for a 13″ and 15″ Macbook Pro. The larger one pushes the performance envelope a bit more. But it will come down largely to personal preference.

  • FalKirk

    When Apple introduced the Mini, I expected them to make a big push into books or education or some such thing. I expected Apple to have a pitch, an angle, a spin to help it sell.

    Instead, all they said was that you could hold it in your hand. And that’s all they had to say. The iPad Mini is a full blown iPad – but you can hold it comfortably in one hand. And for many, many, uses that will make all the difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1573495479 Rene Stein

    You speak about the Mini stretching the use case of the iPad into more mobile situations because it is smaller. But really, this was just phone territory before. It doesn’t really create new usage scenarios. There is one major usage situation left for these devices to cover, usage while moving. The Mini doesn’t address this type of usage. The only device out there that focuses on this is Google Glass. And it really isn’t out there.

    • David

      Please don’t say “use case.”