Re-Thinking The iPod Touch And The iPad Mini

Last week, my colleague Steve Wildstrom asked: “Is There Room in Apple’s Lineup for an iPad Mini?” I had the very same question and I was one of the very first to say so in the article’s comment section. However, after reading more on the matter and upon further reflection, I’m re-thinking my position.

With the rumored iPad mini on the horizon, I would have said that Apple was going to de-emphasize – if not discontinue – the iPod Touch. Instead, Apple did a major upgrade. How major? In addition to significant spec bumps, they added:

— 4″ Retina display
— A5 Chip (same as in the iPhone 4S)
— iOS 6
— Siri
— Airplay Mirroring
— Shared photo streams
— Dramatically improved, 5 megapixel iSight camera with autofocus, flash, Facetime HD and Panorama.

But it was the pricing that was the most perplexing. The new Touch, which will ship some time in October, will be priced at $299 for a 32 gigabyte model and $399 for 64 GB. With the new iPad starting at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only 16 GB model and the iPad 2 priced at $399, where does the rumored iPad Mini fit in?

I’m now speculating that the Ipad Mini will be priced the same, or nearly the same, as the iPad Touch. Counter-intuitive? Yes. Un-Apple like? Maybe not.

Apple has never been afraid of cannibalizing their own products. But one thing they have always feared and avoided was category confusion. Except during times of transition, Apple is fanatical about keeping their product lines distinct.

Marketing students and fans of the book: “The Paradox of Choice”, will understand Apple’s resolve in this matter. Confusion is the enemy of sales. Apple keeps its product lines far apart so that you know, almost intuitively, which device is the one and only one that will fit your needs.

So how would that work with the new iPad Touch and the rumored iPad Mini? If they have the same price, wouldn’t that cause massive consumer confusion? Not really. Here’s why.

Apple is clearly aiming the new iPod Touch at kids. In addition to all of the features described above, the new iPod Touch comes in kid-friendly colors and with a kid-friendly carrying Loop. Further, at the event where they announced the new iPod Touch, Apple heavily emphasisezed the iPod Touch’s ability to watch movies on its wide-screen display, the 1750,00 available games and the 150 million players made available via Game Center.

Apple is positioning the iPod Touch as a device for kids.

And the iPad Mini? It’s hard to know how Apple will position it since it doesn’t yet exist. But here are a couple of things that I think will differentiate it from the iPod Touch:

— It won’t fit in your pocket
— It won’t have a Retina Display
— It will run iPad – not just iPhone – Apps
— It will be 3G, and possibly LTE, capable

I believe that Apple is going to position the iPod Touch as the device for kids and the iPad Mini (or whatever it might be called) as a personal iPad – useful for everything an iPad can do except for screen intensive Applications.

I’ve always thought of the iPod Touch as Apple’s stealth iOS weapon. Virtually without competition, it gently ushers a younger generation into the world of iOS. And once they are there, what could be more natural than for those iPod Touch children to transition into iPhone and iPad carrying teens and adults?

Apparently, Apple feels the same way. They’ve sent a strong signal that the iPod touch is here to stay. And the rumored iPad Mini? Well, we won’t be able to say for sure until it actually exists. But I no longer think that the iPod Touch and the iPad Mini have much overlap with one another. Even at the same prices, they serve two very different purposes and two very different markets.