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How Apple made the iPad mini 23% thinner and 53% lighter

What makes the iPad mini

Apple is promoting the new iPad mini as simply being a smaller iPad, calling it "the full iPad experience." It's outfitted with the same camera specs, WiFi and LTE connectivity options, similar performance and it's capable of running the same apps, just in a package 23 percent thinner (7.2 mm) and 53 percent lighter (0.68 lbs, 308 g).

At the same time, the company says the new iPad mini "isn’t just a scaled-down iPad. We designed it to be a concentration, rather than a reduction, of the original." Apple notes it uses a refined unibody enclosure that "consolidates more parts into one" and uses smaller components, including a thinner battery and camera.

While the company doesn't note it, the iPad mini's size reductions (while retaining the same battery life) are also due in part to its more efficient LTE chips shared with the new iPhone 5 (and refreshed new iPad 4), which also allows it to work on a wider range of 4G LTE networks than "the new iPad" (iPad 3) released this spring.

The iPad mini's lack of a Retina Display also allows it to be a couple millimeters thinner than the (9.4 mm) iPad 3 and iPad 4, and require less battery. That's because the 2048x1536 Retina Display panel is not only more expensive in dollars, but also carries costs in weight, thickness, current draw and GPU power to animate it.

iPad mini not aimed at 7 inch tablets

Apple's strategy with iPad mini ignores the broader market's trend toward $199-250, 7 inch 16:9 tablets the same way iPhone 5 ignored the trend among smartphone makers to introduce larger, wider screens on jumbo-phones and phablets.

Instead, Apple is trending upscale in its new product introductions, allowing its previous model year devices to compete on price with its rival's latest offerings.

Apple did make uncharacteristic mention (without naming the product) of an existing 7 inch tablet in its presentation, and even cites (albeit generically) "7 inch tablets" on its website, noting that "iPad mini is small enough to hold in one hand, yet it has a 35 percent larger screen area than a 7-inch tablet."

The company details that the new iPad mini's screen provides 29.6 square inches, rather than 21.9 square inches of a 7-inch tablet. What it doesn't note is any comparison with the full size iPad (45 square inches). Apple also avoids any other comparison with other tablets in terms of performance, camera specs, or other favorable factors, and obviously doesn't mention their lower prices.

The company did, however, make unflattering comparisons of the state of Android "tablet" apps compared to iPad-optimized titles, pointing out that the apps available for devices like the Kindle Fire, Galaxy and Nexus tablets are mostly stretched smartphone apps.