Let’s get this out of the way up front: Apple directly compares themselves to competitors all the time. In fact, I can’t actually recall an announcement in which they didn’t contrast their products or numbers with the competition’s. Not only does it make sense for them to do so, but most of the time it would be silly not to. Today, even, their web traffic comparison between iOS and Android was brutally effective. When they draw comparisons from a position of strength, the result is compelling.
With the iPad Mini, it seems clear that they’re attacking the market from a position of weakness. Their offering suffers from a couple of disadvantages (I use that word very lightly):
- Lower resolution than the smaller Nexus 7
- An $80 price gap between the Mini and Nexus
Neither of these things, in my opinion, necessarily makes the Mini a don’t-buy. The price point, while a bit higher than I think everyone hoped for, is still $170 less than the entry level 10-inch iPad. And while Retina displays are fantastic, the fact is that the user experience doesn’t suffer without it (made obvious by the millions of non-Retina devices out in the world). Not to mention that the Mini has access to the greatest advantage of all - Apple’s App Store. If you’ve already bought into the ecosystem, switching is pretty difficult. And if you’re a first-time buyer, Apple is still fielding the most compelling app ecosystem out there.
But they didn’t bring any of that up today when announcing the Mini. Instead, Phil Schiller focused on the Nexus being heavier (all 0.07 lbs.) and thicker (fair) with a smaller (but wait, higher resolution) screen. He also then took Android applications to task for simply doubling their resolutions instead of writing natively for the hardware. The crummy part of that is that, for most Android developers (many of whom also write apps for iOS, I’d imagine), reflowing instead of rewriting is simply the nature of the platform. It’s one thing to say “developers are forced to reflow their apps instead of write them natively because the hardware is so inconsistent” and certainly another to dump on app developers/designers for choices thrust upon them. It’s a bit like taking iOS devs to task for using Apple’s less-than-perfect Maps API. Sure, they could do it differently, but really it’s Apple’s weakness, not theirs.
It’s disappointing to see that, instead of taking the natural strengths of the Mini and highlighting them, Apple decided to try covering up their product’s weaknesses by saying (at times dishonestly) “but we’re not as bad as these guys over here.” Confidence is highlighting your own strengths, rather than putting the spotlight squarely on your opponent. And while there’s little doubt that the new iPad Mini is a solid product, you wouldn’t have known it by the way it was sold to us today.