Are we heading for an all-out tablet war?

Tue, 30 Oct 2012, 11:32am

iPad Mini

iPad Mini from £269 (16GB)

If anyone ever doubted that Apple had kicked off a revolution with the launch of the original iPad, this week has proved that the tablet market is coming of age.

In the run-up to the critical pre-Christmas sales period, the major players have gone into overdrive. Apple no longer has the market all to itself: this week alone we've seen the launch of the Google Nexus 10 made by Samsung, price cuts on the Award-winning Google Nexus 7 and the arrival of the Microsoft Surface, backed by a major TV advertising campaign.

Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 from £199 (32GB)

Oh, and let's not forget the Kindle Fire HD from Amazon.

All that in response to the new iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Or was it the other way round? Did Apple suddenly feel compelled to up the ante, despite Steve Jobs having previously said that he didn't see the point of a smaller-than-iPad device.

As each company's marketing and PR machine pulls out all the stops, there is one group of people who are going to benefit: shoppers. If you fancy a new tablet for Christmas, you're going to have a bigger choice than ever before.

Google Nexus

The complete Nexus family: 10, 7 and 4

Judging by posts on the whathifi.com Forums, a tablet is going to be top of many people's Christmas wishlist. Now if the debate raging on our own website is anything to go by, there's clearly a 'sweet spot' as far as pricing of the smaller tablets is concerned. Here are a couple of comments from our readers:

"The Nexus 7 32GB for £200 sounds hard to beat though at that price point - very quick and very slick." 

grdunn123

"One of the reasons I wouldn't buy an iPad Mini at the moment is the ratio of price to speed of change in the sector. I'm guessing that iPad Mini 2 will be a big improvement, especially the screen resolution. I wouldn't want to spend £350 and be massively out of date in 6-12 months, whereas £200 is a bit less to commit."

BenLaw

It seems most of you consider £200 a fair price to pay, with the new iPad Mini at £269 (16GB) a little out of reach. And I can't get my head around the fact that the new iPod Touch at £250, albeit for the 32GB version, is priced perilously close to the iPad Mini.

Apple is clearly going for the premium end of the market, as is its wont, but Google's decision to slash the price of the Nexus 7 to £200 – £150 less than the equivalent iPad Mini – is a bold move.

Of course, it's well known that Amazon and Google are both selling their products at or below cost to grab market share and sell more software. But that can only benefit us, as consumers.

As for tech specs, the iPad Mini is in effect a shrunken iPad 2, although it has a larger screen (7.85in) than most of its immediate rivals and weighs less than any of them. Will that, along with Apple's legendary iOS operating system and a huge choice of apps, be enough to convince shoppers to pay the Apple premium? I suspect it will.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire HD from £159 (16GB)

And let's not forget that the iPad Mini goes on sale from November 2nd in 34 countries, while the Kindle Fire will only be available in six and the Nexus 7 is sold in eight. Clearly Apple still intends to maintain its world domination.

So which tablet would you buy? We can help you with that: the December issue of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, in the shops from November 16th, includes a Supertest of every tablet we can get our hands on, from 7in upwards. It promises to be a fascinating battle.

See all our smartphone and tablet reviews

 

Comments

You refer to Apple's "legendary" iOS as a reason people may buy iPad mini. That infers people still think it is superior to Android. Really? That is either consumer ignorance, or poor marketing by the Android crowd. Ah well, it is the old saying...more money than sense.

More choice is obviously a very good thing and lower priced products makes tablets more accessable to a wider audience, particularly those that couldn't afford one beforehand.

One observation though; a large John Lewis store - tech department - an island with lots of Android tablets from the usual suspects, including the Nexus 7 - hardly any interest from passing shoppers. Next to it, the Apple section of the tech department, with various iPads on display- always a small crowd waiting to have a look and play with them.

This same scene has been observed at a nearby large Curry's store on more than a few occasions.

The local Apple store is quite busy, even during the morning mid-week. Crowded later in the day and rammed full most weekends. Clearly all those people like what they see.

Last weekend, friends told me they were thinking of buying an iPad and asked me about the Kindle Fire. They wondered if it was just a cheap and limited alternative. Having described the various options now open to them, their conclusion was they'd rather not take the risk and would prefer to pay a bit extra to get a well known, trusted and reliable product, with the knowledge that they could take it to the Apple store if they ever needed help or support.

The new competion has quite a job on its hands if it's to gain that level of acceptance from the buying public.