New iPad Mini details emerge

A smaller Apple tablet is reportedly in production, but it's still bigger than competing Google and Amazon products.

By Jason Notte Oct 3, 2012 3:41PM

Already bored with the iPhone 5, and all screamed out after Tim Cook's Apple Maps apology, Apple (AAPL) acolytes now have something else to obsess about: The iPad Mini.

But can Apple call it Mini if it's not even the smallest tablet on the market? The Wall Street Journal dug up the details from unnamed sources Wednesday and found that the downsized tablet will likely have a 7.85-inch liquid crystal display. That's smaller than the current iPad's 9.7 inches (pictured) but still larger than the 7-inch Google (GOOG) Nexus 7 tablet and the similarly sized Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire HD.

This puts somewhat of a crimp in expectations that were heightened Monday when Japanese blog Macotakara reported that iPad Mini production was under way at a Foxconn factory in Brazil. Rumors about the Mini first surfaced in the Journal back in February and heated up in July, but Monday's gossip hinted at an Oct. 17 iPad announcement and a fall launch just before the holiday rush. It also noted that the tablet may lack the rear-facing microphone recently added to the iPhone 5, which would be a bummer for a buyer base known to sweat this kind of minutiae. The Apple Inc. logo is displayed on the back of the new MacBook Pro David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Journal's Wednesday story gave credit to LG and AU Optronics (AUO) for producing the new iPad's display, but screen's measurements themselves are all-important in a tablet market increasingly obsessed with size and price. Back in July, Apple arch-nemesis Google launched the Android-driven Nexus 7 tablet with a tiny $199 price tag to match its shrunken screen. Amazon countered last month with a new Kindle Fire that not only undercut Google with its $159 price tag, but became the first sub-$200 tablet to earn a coveted recommendation from Consumer Reports.

By comparison, the smallest, most stripped-down version of the latest iPad goes for $499. That price was just fine when the iPad was dispatching feeble foes like Research In Motion's (RIMM) Blackberry PlayBook, Motorola's Xoom and Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) ill-fated WebOS TouchPad. The iPad's price looks a bit steeper now that the competition is stepping up its game while lowering its price.

The iPad held 60% of the global tablet market last year, according to market research firm his iSuppli, but smaller, cheaper competitors could bite into Apple's lead if the Mini isn't competitive. With iSuppli predicting that tablet sales worldwide will jump 125% this year, there's a lot at stake for this little device.

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