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Is This Apple's Next iPad?

iPad Mini leaks are popping up all over the place now that the iPhone 5 has been unveiled. Are they the real deal, or a mere prediction of what bloggers expect from Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) next iPad?

The latest images, which come from BoLoPad.com, reveal a 7.8-inch iPad with curved edges, a rear camera, dual speakers, and a Lightning dock connector. (Continue reading for more images.)

"Apple last week released the iPhone 5, people began to turn its attention to the Mini not yet released iPad," BoLoPad wrote, according to a Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) instant translation. "Today BoLoPad on exclusive everyone at Apple's new 7.8-inch tablet real machine spy - Yes, really mini, everyone can feel at ease."

While some readers may feel at ease knowing that an iPad Mini is still in development (according to BoLoPad, at least), one question remains. How can Apple produce a 7.8-inch tablet when the standard iPad retails for $500, the iPad 2 sells for $400, and the new iPod Touch starts at $300?

Apple has literally left no room in its current pricing structure to bring an iPad Mini to market. While there has been some speculation that the Mac maker will raise the price of the next full-size iPad to increase its margins and make a high-priced iPad Mini appear more attractive, it seems unlikely that the company would take this route. Apple has always been (and probably always will be) a manufacturer of premium products. But when it unveiled the latest version of the 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple did not raise the price -- it knocked $100 off the MSRP.

Some have speculated that Apple will reduce the price of the iPod Touch, the iPad 2, and the third-generation iPad to make the iPad Mini's price, whatever it may be, seem more reasonable. Even that would be out of Apple's character, and would not be the most effective strategy for the company to take. The new iPod Touch was unveiled less than one week ago -- why plan to reduce the price before its first sales figures have been reported?

Current estimates suggest that the iPad Mini will be released in March 2013, meaning that Apple would have six months to sell its existing products at full price before marking them down. This is reasonable for the third-generation iPad, which was released in March 2012, and the iPad 2, which came out in 2011. The new iPod Touch, however, will only be six months old by next March. Would Apple really want to reduce the price so quickly?

ipad_mini_spy_shot_9-18-12.jpg

ipad_mini_2.jpg

ipad_mini_3.jpgImage Source: BoLoPad.com

Others have speculated that Apple will defy all logic and price the iPad Mini in the $200 to $300 range. To accomplish this goal, the company would either have to accept lower margins (which is very unlikely) or use older and cheaper technology (which is even less likely).

Apple could get around this by offering a subsidized iPad Mini that requires a two-year contract with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) or AT&T (NYSE: T). That, however, would not help those who wish to purchase the Wi-Fi version.

No matter what happens, Apple has put itself in a very difficult position when trying to launch a smaller tablet. The company has a number of options, but none of them will solve all of its problems. This could simply mean that the rumors are false and that the leaked images are fakes.

There is one other possibility. Apple might be planning to charge a high price for the iPad Mini -- say, $350 to $400 -- because it will come equipped with an exclusive feature that is not currently found in the third-generation iPad.

Follow me @LouisBedigianBZ

Posted-In: Apple AT&T iPad iPad Mini VerizonNews Rumors Tech Best of Benzinga

 

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