The iPad mini arrives November 2

At last, there’s an iPad for ebook readers looking for a device you can hold in one hand – but it lacks the retina display of current iPad and iPhone models.

The world had its first look at the 7.9-inch mini during an event streamed via Apple TV and live tweeted/blogged from 4am this morning.

Booku’s take on the device? It looks more like an enlarged iPhone 4, but with rounded edges, than an iPad. It’s thin, but larger than I was expecting. I might still prefer to read on the iPhone when on the go, but we’ll see. I’ll be ordering a mini as soon as Apple will let me to find out.

The mini will be available for pre-order in Australia via the Apple website from this Friday, October 26, with the WiFi version shipping November 2. The cellular models will ship a couple of weeks later (that makes my decision – WiFi it is).

The middle-sized iOS gadget sports the same number of pixels as the iPad 2, so no retina display, but also no need for dedicated apps. This means all 275,000 iPad apps will work on it from day one.

It’s more expensive than most of its direct competitors, including the 7-inch Google Nexus and the Kindle Fire (which is not available in Australia but has been hugely successful in the US), but that is unlikely to prevent it from overtaking their sales.

The pricing for Australians is: Wi-Fi: 16GB, $369; 32GB, $479; 64GB, $589; Wi-Fi + Cellular: 16GB; $509; 32GB, $619; 64GB, $729.

Coinciding with the long-awaited mini’s launch are new versions of the iBooks ereading app for iOS devices, incorporating Twitter and Facebook sharing of highlights, continuous scrolling and better iCloud integration; and a new version of Apple’s iBooks Author enhanced ebook production software with embedded fonts, easy insertion of mathematical expressions, easily updateable titles and multi-touch widgets.

The mini features a dual-core A5 chip, FaceTime HD front camera, 5 megapixel iSight rear camera and faster WiFi.

With 29.6 square inches of total display, Apple says its screen is 35% larger all up than that of a 7-inch Android tablet (such as the Google Nexus).

The mini is 23% thinner than the iPad 3 and 53% lighter. It comes in black (with a slate back) and white (silver back). A new, purpose-built and aluminium joint-free smart cover is also available in six colours: pink, green, blue, dark grey, light grey and red for $45. The mini uses the new Lightning connector, matching the iPhone 4 rather than earlier iOS device connectors. It comes with Siri voice recognition.

The device is 200 mm (7.87 inches) high and 134.7 mm (5.3 inches) deep. The WiFi version weighs 308g while the cellular model weighs 312g.

The event included a couple of other hardware announcements. There is an updated full-sized iPad, the iPad 4, which features double the performance for CPU tasks, double the graphics performance, and WiFi that is potentially twice as fast. It’ll sell at the same pricepoints as the existing iPad 3.

Apple also announced a new version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro including retina display (to match the existing lone retina notebook, the 15-inch Pro), and updated Mac Mini and (wafer thin) iMacs.

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Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at before joining A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).