Apple fans lined up in several Asian cities to get their hands on the iPad Mini yesterday, but the device, priced above rival gadgets from Google Inc and Amazon.com, attracted smaller crowds than at the company’s previous global rollouts.
Apple Inc’s global gadget rollouts are typically high-energy affairs drawing droves of buyers who stand in line for hours, but a proliferation of comparable rival devices may have sapped some interest.
About 50 people waited for the Apple store in Sydney, Australia, to open, where in the past the line had stretched for several blocks when the company debuted new iPhones.
At the head of yesterday’s line was Patrick Li, who had been waiting since 4:30am and was keen to get his hands on the 7.9-inch slate.
“It’s light, easy to handle and I’ll use it to read books. It’s better than the original iPad,” Li said.
There were queues of 100 or more outside Apple stores in Tokyo and Seoul when the device went on sale, but when the company’s flagship Hong Kong store opened staff appeared to outnumber those waiting in line.
The iPad Mini marks Apple’s first foray into the smaller-tablet segment and the latest salvo in a global mobile-device war that has engulfed combatants from Internet search leader Google to Web retailer Amazon and software giant Microsoft Corp.
Microsoft’s 10-inch Surface tablet, powered by the just-launched Windows 8 software, went on sale last month, while Google and Amazon now dominate sales of smaller, 7-inch multimedia tablets.
Unveiled last week, the iPad Mini has won mostly positive reviews, with criticism centering on a screen considered inferior to rivals’ and a lofty price tag. The new tablet essentially replicates most of the features of its full-sized sibling, but in a smaller package.
“Well, first of all it’s so thin and light, and very cute — so cute,” iPad Mini customer Ten Ebihara said at the Apple store in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district.
At US$329 for a Wi-Fi only model, the iPad Mini is a little costlier than predicted, but some analysts see that as Apple’s attempt to retain premium positioning.
Some investors fear the gadget will lure buyers away from Apple’s US$499 flagship 9.7-inch iPad, while proving ineffective in combating the threat of Amazon’s US$199 Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7, both of which are sold at or near cost.
Also yesterday, Apple rolled out its fourth-generation iPad, with the same 9.7-inch display as the previous version, but with a faster A6X processor and better Wi-Fi. Both devices were going on sale in more than 30 countries.
Apple will sell between 1 million and 1.5 million iPad Minis in the first weekend, far short of the 3 million third-generation iPads sold in March on their first weekend, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
“The reason we expect fewer iPad Minis compared to the 3rd Gen is because of the lack of the wireless option and newness of the smaller form factor for consumers,” Munster said in a note to clients. “We believe that over time that will change.”