Survey cites brand loyalty in iPad mini buyers; 75% keeping their existing iPad, too

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iPad mini buyers surveyed by Piper Jaffray indicate more than half already have an iPad, and three quarters of them plan to keep their full size model alongside their new smaller model.

The small survey of 72 buyers, conducted by Piper Jaffray, seeks to profile who is buying Apple's devices and where those sales may be trending. The firm forecasts Apple will sell 1.5 million iPad minis in its 3 day launch weekend, compared to the nearly one million small tablets per month that Google is now selling.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster reported in a note to clients that 72 percent of his small survey of iPad mini buyers cited its compact size as their primary reason for buying the device. He concluded that this "reinforces our thesis that iPad Mini may start slower than some other product launches, but gain momentum as consumers recognize the portability benefits of the smaller size."

In contrast, analyst Walter Piecyk of BTIG stated, "we believe Apple’s first weekend sales of the iPad Mini needs, at a minimum, to top the 3 million first weekend sales of the iPad 3 in order to demonstrate that the management team can execute on ramping supply of new products and to provide some evidence that there is adequate demand for a smaller iPad at these price points."

Piecyk's sales threshold would mean that Apple's iPad mini would need to sell over 30 times faster than Google's mini tablet in order to prove that a market exists for small tablets.

Apple is currently only selling the WiFi-only version of iPad mini; the mobile data version, which supports 3G/4G LTE cellular data and includes GPS features, won't be available until later this month.

That fact led Brian J. White of Topeka Capital Markets to note, ”we are projecting Apple to sell 800,000 to 1 million 7.9-inch Wi-Fi iPad minis over the first three days," adding that "demand will prove to be much greater than the sales that Apple will be able to recognize during this period," citing supply constraints. White estimates Apple will sell 7 million iPad minis by the end of the year.

Who's buying the iPad mini?

Munster's small survey notes that initial buyers of the iPad mini represent many repeat customers. While 54 percent of iPad 3 buyers were new to iPad, only 42 percent of iPad mini were, with 11 percent reporting owning the original iPad, 23 percent claiming an iPad 2, and 25 percent saying they just bought iPad 3.

Of current owners, 75 percent said they plan to keep their existing iPad in addition to their new iPad mini. "We believe this suggests that customers purchasing iPad Minis may intend to do less video consumption and more Internet browsing/reading/app usage, which require less storage," Munster wrote.

Munster expects Apple to sell five million iPad minis in the winter quarter. "Ultimately," he added, "we believe it is possible that the iPad Mini could make up the majority of iPad units, although it will likely be beyond the first iteration of the device (currently modeling 28% of iPads in CY13 to be iPad Minis)."