iPad mini tablet said to be Wi-Fi only

This would allow Apple to produce it comparatively cheaply and to limit the top price of the product

The widely expected smaller version of the Apple iPad tablet will have Wi-Fi but not cellular connectivity, according to unnamed sources in a news story about the so-called iPad mini. But it's not clear why that would be the case.

The new Apple device is said to have a 7.8-inch screen instead of the 9.7-inch screen in the current tablet model and will be marketed as a smaller, less expensive iPad, competing with Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 among others.

PHOTOS/VIDEO: 6 Apple iPad mini concepts (& 1 peek at the real deal?) 

The claim about having only Wi-Fi connectivity was made in a story posted at the U.K.-based The Guardian, by Charles Author.

"Industry sources indicated to the Guardian that they do not expect to see 3G-capable versions of the iPad mini," according to Author. "That would allow Apple to produce it comparatively cheaply and to limit the top price of the product, while retaining mobile broadband connectivity for its pricier iPad line."

Yet it's not clear why Apple would refuse to offer buyers a cellular option for a smaller tablet, if they want it. Apple's pricing for the current iPads is very simple and clear: you get a choice of three Wi-Fi models, based on storage capacity, and you have the option of adding $130 to the price tag if you opt for cellular connectivity.

For example, the new iPad, with the standard 9.7-inch screen, starts at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version; adding a LTE cellular modem increases the price by $130 to $629. The newest and just released iPod touch, which mimics many of the features found in the new iPhone 5, has a 4-inch screen and is only available with Wi-Fi, priced at $299 for the starting 32GB model.

With a 7.8-inch screen, the iPad mini would be nearly 3 inches larger than the iPod touch and 2 inches smaller than the full-sized iPad. Many pundits and analyst say Apple will have to price the mini at about $250 to compete with rivals like Amazon. Even assuming that they're right, having a $130 cellular option wouldn't prevent consumers from buying a less expensive Wi-Fi iPad mini.

Even Amazon offers cellular options on its tablets, complicating a somewhat confusing array of screen sizes, storage, and connectivity features. Currently there are three Kindle Fire models, two with 7-inch screens. One of those, the Kindle Fire, has only single-band Wi-Fi, and is priced at $159; the second, Kindle Fire HD, has a higher resolution and supports dual-band Wi-Fi (5GHz in addition to 2.4GHz) as does the iPhone 5, iPod touch and presumably the iPad mini. This model is priced at $199.

But the newest Kindle Fire model has a larger screen at 8.9 inches, high resolution displays, and dual-band Wi-Fi for $299; adding a LTE cellular modem boosts the price to $499. And the 6-inch Kindle Paperwhite e-reader tablet can be bought with a 3G modem for $179.

The Guardian's sources are at odds with at least one other rumor, from a Russian language Ukranian website, noted by 9to5Mac's Seth Weintraub earlier in October. 

"Ukrainianiphone.com reports to have obtained parts for the upcoming iPad mini," Weintraub wrote. "The parts, labeled in the gallery above, according to the Russian-language website, were from a source who visited the factory in Asia. Notables include the plastic spacer bars, which Apple has traditionally used for 3G and 4G radio equipment...."

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John Cox

Network World

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