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:GOOGL) 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.
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."
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.