Who Does Apple Fire for the iPad Mini Fiasco?

The iPad mini reviews are arriving, and they're not very flattering when it comes to the graphics of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) new device.

  • "It's disappointing to go non-retina after using the retina iPad for the last seven months," Daring Fireball's John Gruber writes. "All of the accolades and advantages of retina displays work in reverse."
  • "I don't think the lower resolution is a deal-breaker in this product, but it is a compromise you have to be aware of," writes The Verge. "It simply doesn't look as clear as other products on the market."
  • "But oh, that screen," concludes CNET. "It's not bad, not at all, but it's not Retina Display. It's not even as high-res as other 7-inch tablets."

You know what makes things worse? The other tablets that The Verge and CNET are referring to -- Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Nexus 7 and Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Kindle Fire HD -- sell for nearly 40% less.

Is Apple going to sell a ton of these things? Absolutely. Folks trying to buy them online now are being told to either try their luck at a local store or wait two to three weeks for shipping. Unlike the other new tablet maker using a similar tactic -- Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) with its Surface now at a three-week delay for all of its models -- Apple probably is the one that can't really keep up with the initial demand.

iQuandary
Apple knew that it couldn't pack all of the features of the fourth -- or even the third -- generation of its iPad into the $329 iPad mini. Too many consumers would simply trade down to the cheaper iOS tablet. the launch would be a cannibalization disaster.

Somewhere along the way, it was decided that the iPad mini would go with two features -- the slower A5 chip and the 1024-by-768 resolution -- of the $399 iPad 2. If the iPad mini would eat into sales, it would be preferable if it was the iPad 2 that's $70 more than the new iPad that's $170 more.

The chip isn't much of a problem. Most consumers can't tell the difference between the dual-core A5 and the dual-core A6X that raises the stakes with quad-core graphics. The same can't be said for the display. Seeing truly is believing, and anyone walking into an Apple Store to see the two devices side by side will see the problem.

Apple has spent the last two iPad incarnations pitching consumers on the merits of Retina Display where individual pixels can't be discerned. Now it doesn't want the same consumers that it educated to notice the difference? It's like taking someone on a fine wine tasting, only to wash it down with cooking wine. It's like explaining the finer points of music on the way to a Justin Bieber concert.

They're mocking you, Cupertino
The competition is starting to sense Apple as vulnerable.

You saw it last month when Samsung mocked the iPhone 5 early adopters. Ads made fun of those standing in line for Apple's shiny new smartphone, just as Apple would ridicule PC users a few years earlier.

Over the weekend, it was Amazon going on the offensive on its magnetic website's home page, pitting the iPad mini's inferior specs against its much cheaper Kindle Fire HD.

Is Apple going to admit that it made a mistake, here? If Scott Forstall was let go as a result of Apple Maps, who will take the fall for Apple craps?

It's not just me seeing this, right? The iPad mini's refusal to go high-def is a call that undermines everything Apple has done to get to where it is today.

Junk in the trunk
Steve Jobs mocked the 7-inch gadgetry as tweeners. He also mocked the manufacturers that would sacrifice features for the sake of nailing a low price point.

"We just can't ship junk," he famously said five years ago. "There are thresholds that we can't cross because of who we are."

Well?

Apple won't win with this strategy in the long run. It's in the company's best interest for it to fail here.

Why? Well, if consumers do accept the iPad mini with a display that is inferior to even the $199 tablets on the market, it will only encourage Apple to settle in the future. If shoppers are such lemmings that they'll buy anything with a bitten Apple logo on it, the quality of the company's products will decline in a hurry. In time, they'll smarten up and stop trusting Apple.

The iPad mini needs to fail for Apple to succeed.

Wrap your head around that until it sinks in. You'll probably agree.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 6:47 PM, TMFGemHunter wrote:

    I have to say I really don't understand the uproar (which is relatively muted in any case). People haven't been calling for the iPad 2 to be destocked, and the iPad mini has the same resolution (which means an even higher pixel density). If the iPad 2 was a great tablet for $499 a year ago, I don't see why the iPad mini is necessarily horrible at $329 because it doesn't have a retina screen.

    Apple spends more on premium construction and demands a solid margin on goods, unlike Amazon and Google. So it's no surprise that the mini is pricier than its competitors. It's also no surprise that Apple is trying to differentiate the mini from the classic iPad. Apple would prefer that people buy the 9.7" iPad if they're only going to get one tablet. If you want the smaller form factor, the mini is a great choice. But it's designed to slot into the lineup in the same way as the iPhone 4 or iPad 2; a lower-featured entry level product that still gives a great experience. If you want exceptional performance, you should pay up for the iPad 4th generation.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 6:48 PM, FreeRange1 wrote:

    A worthless "article" written by the totally clueless. What an embarrassment.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 6:55 PM, Paleblackness wrote:

    I'm sorry, but you are being ridiculous.

    First of all, the reviews have been glowing, apart from the one caveat about the screen you mentioned.

    Second, the battery life would have been terrible in a device that size with a retina display.

    Third, the device is $175 cheaper than the device with the retina display, and $75 cheaper than the non-retina iPad 2. The mini has much better DPI than the iPad 2.

    Fourth, the competition has slightly better DPI, but smaller screens, no rear camera, and cheap plastic builds.

    What you are saying is that a new Lexus won't be successful because you can get an Accord for half the price, and it has a couple of minor bells and whistles the Lexus doesn't have.

    Not compromising (or selling for a loss) is not a sign of weakness. Calling the mini a "fiasco" is blatant click-bait.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 6:55 PM, FreeRange1 wrote:

    Totally ridiculous "article". The mini is actually higher resolution than the iPad 2, and even better than "normal" resolution. It is much better constructed, offers a far superior ecosystem, has a significantly larger screen than the competitors you mention along with a superior processor and performance. But to top it all off, the "competitors" are selling their offerings at a loss so of course Applee's is slightly more expensive looking at dollars, not some stupid percentage, at this price point.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 6:56 PM, Melaschasm wrote:

    The Ipad mini is not a problem for Apple, unless it indicates a shift towards competing on cost, rather than a focus on premium products.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 7:34 PM, Ostrowsr wrote:

    Ridiculous logic. The purpose of the iPad mini is to take some of the sting out of the e-readers market share. Not to dominate this secondary market. Besides the fact that all the other apps etc. from Apple dominate the competition is the real strength of all the apple products. Let's see. They're sold out in record time, can add retina at any time in the future, have just increased their superiority with the other 3 or 4 updates of the other products. Opened stores in China that are just beginning to pop. Oh yah. And that Apple Magic Christmas Season is just beginning which will have the effect of all the Disney movies combined. Does someone get paid to write this just to minimize the stock price for the eventual upswing?

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 7:48 PM, ConstableOdo wrote:

    I'm willing to bet the missing Retina display on the iPad Mini is due to poor yields. Apple is already running into inventory problems. A Retina display on another model would only make supply shortages worse. I truly believe that in six months or so, Apple might be able to switch to Retina display on the iPad Mini if those display yields improve or they can get another company to help produce them.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 7:56 PM, SRNoyes wrote:

    This article is a quote mind and worthless write up. I am amazed it passed any type of fact checking or editorial review.

    The Fool has sunk to new lows.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 8:09 PM, Ohnoperiod wrote:

    You will get retina display in the iPad mini 2 duh....stop making excuses for apple you fanboissss. Why give you retina display now? When you fanboissss gonna buy the iPad mini 2 with retina next year too.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 8:19 PM, Foolorama wrote:

    In the Innovator's Dilemma, it is suggested that a company must take disruptive technologies seriously by reexamining it's existing pricing structures and not being beheld to them. After all, most companies have lost their edge by being priced out of existence by their current successful structures. As such, it seems to me that the iPad Mini is an attempt to expand Apple's market to a lower cost segment. That's not wrong, but is key to moving Apple from a strictly high margin business to a mass market model. Tradeoffs are essential to doing just that.

    The holy grail that Apple has pursued with success is the primacy of the customer experience - from service and product design to integration between services, hardware and software. All driven from the ease of use perspective.

    Provided that the iPad Mini sustains this bigger picture perspective, I am unconcerned with screen comparisons to more expensive products. You get what you pay for.

    I think that we are seeing the beginnings of something extraordinary, and am confident that the product's application to education and enterprise will drive the iPad iOS platform to new heights.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 8:27 PM, SpeechRec wrote:

    The author Rick Aristotle Munarriz grasps at straws, attempting to create drama (and a headline) where there is none.

    As for "in the long run", the iPad Mini will bring many more very satisfied customers into Apple's ecosystem. If Retina display is the most important feature to someone on a tablet, they won't buy iPad mini or it's low cost 7-inch competitors.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 9:02 PM, ChristopherHamel wrote:

    I appreciate the Motley Rick!

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 9:22 PM, ChristopherHamel wrote:

    This is another article of Ricks that is great at challenging me to develop my own take and not just follow the masses. It would deffinately be dissapointing to see apple sacrifice quality in one of thier products.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 9:42 PM, millsbob wrote:

    Rick, really, do you have to take statements out of context? btw, that's polite for "lie".

    i READ the Gruber review. he winds up saying he'll even take the iPad Mini over his iPad 3, despite the display, because he likes it so much.

    got that? he's Going to Switch from his iPad Retina display to the Mini. which you conveniently ignored.

    and his review was the one of the most pessimistic.

    i was worried about the display before reading the reviews today. i'm not worried any more.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 10:20 PM, rjonesthree wrote:

    This article is ridiculously off base. For the record, here are some reviews as cited by Forbes:

    Joshua Topolsky, The Verge: there isn’t a single product in the 7-inch tablet market that comes close to the look, feel, or build quality of the new iPad. It is absolutely gorgeous to see, and in your hand has the reassuring solidness of a product that’s built to last… If the iPhone 5 is reminiscent of jewelry, the iPad mini is like a solidly made watch.

    Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: I’ve been testing the iPad Mini for several days and found it does exactly what it promises: It brings the iPad experience to a smaller device. Every app that ran on my larger iPad ran perfectly on the Mini. I was able to use it one-handed and hold it for long periods of time without tiring. My only complaints were that it’s a tad too wide to fit in most of my pockets, and the screen resolution is a big step backwards from the Retina display on the current large iPad.

    David Pogue, New York Times: But the iPad Mini is a far classier, more attractive, thinner machine. It has two cameras instead of one. Its fit and finish are far more refined. And above all, it offers that colossal app catalog, which Android tablet owners can only dream about…Over all, the Mini gives you all the iPad goodness in a more manageable size, and it’s awesome. You could argue that the iPad Mini is what the iPad always wanted to be.

    Tim Stevens, Endgadget: This isn’t just an Apple tablet made to a budget. This isn’t just a shrunken-down iPad. This is, in many ways, Apple’s best tablet yet, an incredibly thin, remarkably light, obviously well-constructed device that offers phenomenal battery life. No, the performance doesn’t match Apple’s latest and yes, that display is a little lacking in resolution, but nothing else here will leave you wanting. At $329, this has a lot to offer over even Apple’s more expensive tablets.

    Fiasco? Hardly.

    Kindly quit misleading readers with this kind of biased BS.

  • Report this Comment On October 31, 2012, at 11:55 PM, AdamChew wrote:

    @Rick Aristotle Munarriz

    Another day another Apple bashing write, so you need to fill your sad life by bashing Apple, kind of sad and pathetic.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2012, at 5:17 AM, bbrriilliiaanntt wrote:

    Love the negativity! Lots of folks on the sell side, which provides a great opportunity to buy on the other. Was hoping for 15% correction, and it happened. Joy, joy, happy, happy. Thank you, keep up the hyperbole, cheers! I'll sell back at $1000.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2012, at 6:36 AM, Archaeologist77 wrote:

    Good job Rick. He wrote a realistic review to anticipate problem areas and that's what we want when we read The Mötley Fool.

    But I do agree with those who understand the new product introduction cycle. You introduce a new "luxury" computing product you want two things: room to upgrade and room to lower pricing for future "econo-class" models. iPad Mini without the

    Retina display could become the entry level tablet priced at $149.

    Remember when the iPod came out in 2001? I do. I was in law school in Silicon Valley and had hopes on interning at Apple (didn't happen, no hard feelings though). I received the first 5GB iPod as a gift. It cost $399.

    In 2012, you can buy a 16 GB iPod Nano that has a multi-touch color screen and view videos for $149.

    The same will happen with the iPad Mini.

    Then we will see 8.5"x11" screen iPads, 8.5"x17" iPads for legal format reading, been larger iPads, and iPads with handles for use in a fieldwork setting.

    Even archaeologists working within limited budgets have started using iPads in the field and a handle at one end to hold it with a gloved hand will be even better. The possibilities are endless. Of corse, we will need some wireless form of file/data transfer, which is still best achieved through NFC technology.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2012, at 6:46 AM, Archaeologist77 wrote:

    Maybe the person they should fire at Apple is the guy who manages the iPad word replacement function when typing....as above somehow "of" became "on" and "even larger iPads" ended up as "been larger iPads" (of corse was, of course, a typo though).

    Posted from my iPad

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