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iPad mini no big deal to Chinese consumers

(Shanghai Daily)

08:10, October 25, 2012

APPLE'S iPad mini, with its smaller screen and thinner design, is expected to fill a niche of Apple products but doesn't seem to excite Chinese consumers due to a lack of innovation and a higher price than its rivals.

Half the weight of the third-generation iPad, the new product is mostly in line with what was expected, with a 7.9-inch, or 20-centimeter, screen and slower processor as an entry-level product.

The official prices, ranging from US$329 for the bottom-of-the-line 16G Wi-Fi model to US$659 for a 64G product with both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, are higher than expected. They are also more expensive than rival products such as Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7.

The iPad mini will be launched in Hong Kong on November 2, while no debut date has been set for the Chinese mainland. But sellers on Taobao, the online marketplace, are already taking pre-orders by asking for a down payment between 1,800 yuan (US$295) and 5,000 yuan. Most of the products will be shipped from Hong Kong.

"Based on previous experience with Apple products, prices for the first batch of new models available on the mainland will be quite high," one of the sellers said.

Li Yanyan, a researcher with Analysys International, said she expected the gadget to lift Apple sales by appealing to lower-end users, after the market share of iPads dipped to 71.42 percent in the third quarter from 72.66 in the second. "Apple is still dominating the current high-end tablet market," said Li. "But Kindle and Android tablets are grasping a large share on the sizable lower-end market. The launch of mini may open up new profit sources for Apple."

But consumers do not seem to buy it. "Apple now seems to be more defensive rather than really splash out something new," said Jenny Mao, a tech-savvy white-collar worker in Shanghai. "While previous Apple products are innovative in functions, recent ones are mere changes in sizes and display. I'm not interested."

Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs had denounced a small-sized tablet, saying they will be "dead-on-arrival" as they lack the flexibility of phones and visual effect of large tablets.

Apple yesterday also surprised the market by introducing a fourth-generation iPad, equipped with a faster processor and smaller connector than the third generation, to replace the older iPad and make it the "most short-lived Apple product" as dubbed by Internet users.

The previous "new iPad" is no longer available on official Apple websites in markets such as the US and Hong Kong, and will be wiped off these markets once the latest model debut on November 2.

Local Apple stores yesterday cut retail prices for the third-generation 16G Wi-Fi iPad by 300 yuan, but there is no date set for the latest iPad's debut on the mainland.

Reports said that some US Apple stores are offering replacement services for consumers who bought a third-generation iPad in the past 30 days.

A customer service official of Apple in Shanghai said yesterday that owners of the older iPad may consult their place of purchase for possibilities of replacement, but whether mainland stores have similar policies will only be decided after the local debut of the new device.
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