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It’s sometimes hard not to view Apple launch events as little more than lengthy exercises in back-slapping. Indeed, at their worst they’re puffed-up PR exercises that can grate on even the most loyal fan of Cupertino’s products.

But this time around when Phil Schiller, talking up the new iPad 4, said, “I can’t even see the competition in the rear view mirror,” he wasn’t wrong.

iPad mini white official

Apple has stepped up its tablet game just as it was looking as though rival manufacturers were beginning to make a dent in their huge market share. While Schiller was focusing on the iPad 4, he could just as easily have been talking about the iPad Mini.

The new, pared-down slate arrived after months of endless hype and offered few surprises.

Its screen matches the iPad 2, as do most of its internal specs.

Yet it’s the new design that really turns heads: essentially a bulked-up take on the iPhone 5 and its black and white colour schemes.

Put it next to a Google Nexus 7 or Amazon Kindle Fire and it’s easy to see that the iPad Mini is a cut above those budget tablets.

That’s reflected in the price, which is unquestionably high by comparison. £269 for an entry-level 16GB model is way beyond the £199 you’d pay for an equivalent Nexus 7.

That goes up to £529 for a full-throated, 4G-packing 64GB model and actually comes in more expensive than a 16GB 4G iPad 4, which goes for £499.

But to focus on price kind of misses the point. The Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are both fine devices, but they don’t feature ecosystems which immediately cry out to millions of potential users.

Nexus 7 Google official

iOS has pervaded everything so deeply that the opportunity to get a cheaper iPad and access myriad apps, tunes, books and movies in a familiar way will surely be too much to resist for many.

Amazon and Google can rightly point to their devices offering more affordable alternatives. That’s to be lauded.

But anyone thinking Apple would play at that low end of the price spectrum was surely deluded.

As pointed out earlier this week, it was never going to undercut its new four-inch iPod touch, which costs £249 for a 16GB model.

Plus, Apple has never, and will never, charge bargain bucket prices. It’s not in its nature and it’s the key reason why it has so much money sloshing around in the bank. Whether that’s right or not is an argument for another day.

The iPad Mini, high price point and all, is set to be a winner, giving added impetus to the tablet space and ensuring 2013 will come bringing excellent rivals from desperate-to-catch-up competitors.

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