A $399 iPad Mini? Wrong way, Apple

A price hike on the Mini? And it doesn't even have a fingerprint sensor? Say hello to one crushed cheapskate.

The new iPad Mini has a maxi-size starting price of $399. Seriously, Apple?
The new iPad Mini has a maxi-size starting price of $399. Seriously, Apple? Apple

Apple, you've got yourself some cojones.

I mean, when the iPad Mini first debuted a year ago (almost to the day), most observers were surprised by the rather steep $329 starting price -- especially considering the much cheaper small-tablet alternatives from the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google.

But, hey, people seemed to like the form factor. The only thing missing was a Retina Display, which everyone expected in the iPad Mini 2. And, sure enough, the new iPad Mini with Retina Display has ... well, it's right there in the name. Starting price: $399.

Wait, what? When Apple added Retina to the full-size, third-generation iPad, prices didn't go up. Indeed, since the dawn of iPad time, each new model has debuted at the same price as its predecessor, literally offering more bang for the same buck. It happened again today with the iPad Air, a fifth-generation iPad with a first-generation starting price of $499. But the new Mini costs a whopping $70 more than the old Mini. (In fact, it's now $100 more given the slight price-cut on the latter, which now sells for $299 .)

I'll admit I've wanted an iPad Mini since the beginning. I've long been a fan of smaller tablets, which I use extensively for reading. Books, yes, but also magazines, especially those available through Zinio. But without Retina on that smaller screen, I wouldn't get the razor-sharp reading experience I wanted. So I waited.

Apple

My expectation: the new Mini would come in at $329, and then I'd wait a little longer until I could get a refurb for $299 or less. After all, Amazon and Google have some pretty amazing 7-inch tablets priced at $229. Maybe Apple would even surprise us all with a lower starting price on the new Mini.

But $399? Are they serious? Look, iPads are nice and all, but for the past week I've been using Amazon's $229 Kindle Fire HDX, and it's every bit as good. In fact, it shows a lot more innovation than anything Apple unveiled today, including the very slick FreeTime, Mayday, and X-Ray features. You know, usability stuff, not just extra floating-point registers that offer little value to most users.

In fact, speaking of innovation, where is the much-ballyhooed fingerprint sensor on the new iPads? You'd think Apple would want to carry across its entire lineup the one feature that got people talking last month. Personally, I think it's over-hyped, but I expected to see it all the same.

Oh, and the biggest slap in the face of all? The low-end iPad continues to be the nearly 3-year-old iPad 2, which doesn't even have Retina. Not the iPad 4 or even the iPad 3 -- the 2. And it's still priced at $399 . If you watched the live event today, you no doubt heard the same disbelieving groans I did.

None of this will stop people from buying the new iPads in droves, and if they've got the cash, more power to them. This cheapskate, who would love to have a smaller iPad, will not pay $399 for one, nor $329. Not when there are equivalent -- even superior -- alternatives for so much less.

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