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On Apple's weird iPad mini with Retina Display rollout

Let's be honest: Apple's rollout of the new iPad mini with Retina Display has been just plain weird. It caught many of us by surprise, but Apple isn't being coy for the reason for the soft launch - it's pretty clear they don't have the supply to meet demand.

The iPad mini with Retina Display was announced in October at a special event in San Francisco, where Apple unveiled the iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, new iLife and iWork applications, and formally unveiled the yet to be shipped Mac Pro. The iPad Air went on sale starting Friday, November 1st, with the iPad mini with Retina Display to be released later in November.

The question was when.

When Apple has introduced a hotly anticipated item in the past, it's typically announced when it will ship ahead of time, and that's certainly worked to its advantage: many Apple retail stores will garner long lines of consumers waiting hours before they open to be some of the first people to get the new item. Look at the rollout of the iPhone 5s, for example.

And this new iPad mini has been hotly anticipated since its introduction. The first-generation iPad mini won a lot of fans for its small size and it remains part of Apple's product line. But its lower-resolution screen and slower chip means that you have to make some compromises in performance and image quality.

The iPad mini with Retina Display, meanwhile, shows no compromises. It uses the blazing-fast A7 processor, the same one that powers the iPhone 5s and iPad Air - the first 64-bit processor designed for mobile hardware. And while it occupies a much smaller footprint than the iPad Air, its screen resolution is the same.

The first inclination we got that the iPad mini with Retina Display would be shipping today came late Monday, when news sites got word that Apple's Global Service Exchange (GSX) system - which Apple uses to communicate with retail stores and authorized technicians - had been updated with information that the sought-after new iPad mini would begin shipping today. Even then, it seemed inconceivable that Apple would soft launch such a hot commodity. Last night, even we at iMore were scratching our heads.

But soft launch it has.

Apple customers around the world noticed their local online Apple Stores going offline and then coming back online with the ability to order the iPad mini with Retina Display, hours before Apple officially announced it in a press release.

Without saying outright, Apple has explained the reason for the relatively low-key launch of the iPad mini with Retina Display. The press release announcing the launch quotes Apple senior VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller:

"We think customers will love both of these thin, light, powerful new iPads, and we're working hard to get as many as we can in the hands of our customers."

"We're working hard to get as many as we can" tells you everything you need to know. As was predicted in the run-up to the new device's release, availability for the new iPad mini seems quite constrained.

So constrained, in fact, that Apple is limiting its availability to its online store and through "Personal Pickup," its system that enables you to buy products through the Apple Store app or through the web site and arrange to pick it up at your local Apple retail store. Some product has also been diverted to the major US wireless carriers as well, so your local Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile stores may get a small inventory.

Obviously Apple will do whatever it takes to ramp up production as quick as it can, but if the iPhone 5s is any indication, the iPad mini with Retina Display may be a hot commodity for the weeks to come. So my best advice is to get your order in as soon as you can, especially if you're hoping to see one in time for Christmas.

Are you excited about the new iPad mini's launch? Is this the new iPad mini you've been waiting for? Or are there features you wish it had that you're disappointed aren't there? Sound off in the comments.

  • "Apple's rollout of the new iPad mini with Retina Display has been just plain weird.". Really?
    and then ...
    "But its lower-resolution screen and slower chip means that you have to make some compromises in performance and image quality.". Come on ... compromises in performance and image quality is nonsense. The success of the Mini would suggest otherwise. I hardly feel compromised using the Mini in terms of performance and image quality. Sure, the Retina display will improve the product and an upgraded CPU will as well, but I fail to see how the current Mini rises to the level of compromise. At the time, compromise in relation to what? Products in the year 2087? I know it must be a slow news day, because I will be honest with you ... the information you provided here has zero importance. It's apparent ... no, evident ... that many of you tech bloggers have to add drama to your articles for no reason other than ... adding drama. They said late November ... if it's because of quality issues or lack of supply, then okay ... guess that's why it was a soft launch. The sun will still rise in the morning.
  • "I hardly feel compromised using the Mini in terms of performance and image quality." On this we agree: the vast majority of (first-gen) iPad mini owners are delighted with their purchase. But any objective comparison of the original iPad mini against the fourth-generation iPad shows that it's considerably slower, and the screen is unquestionably lower resolution. That iPad mini is essentially an iPad 2, just smaller (and with the requisite Lightning connector). The iPad mini with Retina Display, meanwhile, is boxing in the same class as its bigger counterpart. This is the iPad mini I've been waiting for. Same power, smaller package.
  • Agreed. I didn't get a gen 1 iPad mini for this exact reason. Can't wait to receive it now.
  • I love Apple getting everyone's panties in a bunch with the way they released the mini. They eliminated at least 10-13 days of click-bait for bloggers spreading ridiculous rumors about the release date. Absolutely fantastic by Apple. They deserve a standing ovation! Who says they aren't innovating?
  • Yep nothing better than when the 9to5Mac's of the world get caught by surprise and can't gloat about being the first to report something. In fact last night Mark Gurman was listing out all the reasons why the mini wouldn't launch today. I love it when the rumor sites are taken by surprise.
  • So do I, but not because I feel it's an "in your face" to them, but because if they're surprised, we're surprised, which has been a hard thing for Apple to accomplish the last few years with all the leaks. It looks like it's worked out too. Shipping times are still pretty much the same at this point.
  • I agree! 9to5 is pretty smug (as smug as one can be in a tech blog) about the reporting they do. It was awesome to wake up at 4am to see the mini on sale. I think if Apple did this more often, it would create all kinds of hype.
  • If they don't have enough supply to meet the demand then why release it today? They gave no date so they could have easily waited at least another week. It makes me think that they do this with their phones as well knowing all the time that they won't have enough product to fill demand. They've been at this too long to not know about how much they will sell.
  • They're Apple - they can get away with this stuff because their products are so desirable. Their customers will still buy their products no matter how ridiculous the release is. They are making tons of cash, so it seems to be working.
  • "If they don't have enough supply to meet the demand then why release it today?" Because they're unlikely to stockpile enough inventory to meet demand, period, at least until they can get production up to speed.
  • Exactly. This thing is going to be hard to find until after the holidays.
  • Have to agree with the poster above. While the original mini is a great device, there were compromises. Compared to iPad 3/4 and iPhone it was subpar. It was slow, lacked enough ram and the resolution was bad. However, I compromised because it was so damn portable and convenient. I am looking forward to picking up my mini 2 from the apple store after work. Sent from the iMore App
  • WOO HOO!! Sent from the iMore App
  • TouchID and an LED flash, would be nice. I'll wait and see what next year brings.
  • I agree, I'm waiting for the touch ID. Also with the bluetooth options to day and with the beautiful Retina display, I would like to see an iPad mini phone. That would be the iPad mini I'm looking for. Sent from the iMore App
  • I ordered one this morning and if these things are as hot of a commodity as it seems, I am more than willing to sell it for a profit with the holiday season right around the corner. To that I say, bring on the shortage! Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm still using my beloved iPad 3 and not planning to buy another one anytime soon. I think I'll pass :)
  • I didn't want to be caught not being able to get one. Ordered a cellular version on as soon as it was available. Looks like I'll receive it by Chanukah/Thanksgiving unless they can beat those 11/29-12/4 estimates.
  • I find it interesting though that the worst shipping time at this time is 5-10 days with the best at 1-3 days. You would have thought that given the "Constraint" it would be worse.
  • It was amusing to listen to Mac Break Weekly this week and hear Leo just itching to drive down to do an in-store pickup.
  • Switched from iPad 1 to 4 around june... What now? :) Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree, the soft launch points to a very low supply. It was a good decision for Apple given the situation. I'm looking forward to getting an iPad mini for myself. Sent from the iMore App