Talking tech since 2003

Last Tuesday, Apple sent out email invitations for a special event in San Jose on October 23. Those invitations, which simply read, “We’ve got a little more to show you,” added more fuel to the fire of the iPad mini rumors that have become more and more believable since John Gruber mentioned a potential new screen size back in April. Since then, stories from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and other publications have lent credence to the device’s existence, and leaked photos of the alleged tablet let people see what an iPad mini might actually look like.

And now, the event. In many minds, the invitation’s text — the “little” in “a little more” — all but confirms that the iPad mini is real, and will be unveiled tomorrow at Apple’s event. And, while the iPad mini would certainly be a big deal in terms of new product releases, we can’t help but feel that’s not all that Apple has up its sleeve. The rumor mills have produced whispers of other product updates and refreshes, and we’re going to cover those here, too.

Apple is already preparing The California Theatre for tomorrow’s special event. Today, let’s take a look at what that event might have in store.

iPad mini

Apple’s miniature iPad will undoubtedly be the darling of the show. Just a few rumored specs for the iPad mini have been widely accepted as probable by the tech press. Most are on board with the iPad mini’s screen coming in at 7.85 inches. Most signs — and a Wall Street Journal article — point to the smaller iPad’s display as not falling into the “Retina” category of its big brother, the third-generation iPad, but that’s still not set in stone. If the mini doesn’t have a Retina display, chances are high that it will retain the same 1024 x 768 resolution that the original iPad and the iPad 2 featured.

In terms of storage, the mini has been rumored to start at 8 GB, and 16 GB, depending on what you read or what analyst you ask. Launching the lowest-tier iPad mini with 8 GB would not leave a lot of room for apps, music, and movies, but it would be one way for Apple to cut costs in order to keep the mini’s price down. Some (including myself) believe that providing only 8 GB of space would hamper the user experience on the device, and that Apple would rather charge a bit more to offer that extra space than cut it out completely.

The much-hyped (and vilified) Apple Lightning Connector should also make its way to this brand new iPad. This proprietary port, which replaced Apple’s decade-old 30-pin connector, allows users to connect a Lightning-compatible cord or peripheral to their Apple device without having to worry about which way the accessory is plugged in. It’s small potatoes when it comes to other purported features of the iPad mini, but it’s worth noting.

Internal radios are another area that have been the subject of debate, but recent leaked pricing matrices suggest that the iPad mini may come with cellular connectivity, after all. Whether that is 3G or 4G LTE is anyone’s guess, but it’s good to know that the iPad mini may come in more than just WiFi-capable flavors. WiFi isn’t as prevalent in the U.S. as it is in some other countries, which makes cellular data a bit more of a necessity for those who want to use their tablet on the go.

Speaking of pricing, the iPad mini will likely be lighter, thinner, and less expensive than the larger iPad, but not cheap enough to compete head-on with tablets like the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD. The launch of an iPad mini will be an acknowledgement by Apple that a market exists for smaller tablets, but Apple won’t compete with these other tablets on every front. The company sees its products as premium, after all, and the prices will likely speak to that. Leaked pricing has the entry-level iPad mini coming in at $329, with two other versions at $429 and $529. Leaks also show three other iPad mini versions at $459, $559, and $659 — potential candidates for cellular-enabled iPad minis.

iPad Refresh

Apple has an interest in getting its Lightning Connector onto as many devices as it can — especially before the holiday season hits. That’s one reason why rumors of a refresh to the third-generation iPad have taken hold in the past few weeks. The updated iPad would replace the old 30-pin connector with Apple’s new Lightning standard, ensuring that iPads purchased as gifts are compatible with the new chargers and third-party accessories being sold. The refreshed iPad could also feature a nominal spec bump — perhaps in processing speed or graphics. We don’t anticipate any price drops or discounts, since Apple is likely five-to-six months away from announcing its fourth-generation iPad.

13-inch MacBook Pro Retina

After introducing the 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina in June, the Apple faithful wondered out loud when the Retina display would come to the smaller MacBook Pro, or even the MacBook Air line. One of those questions might be answered tomorrow. Rumor has it that Apple plans on launching a brand-new MacBook Pro Retina with a 13-inch screen. 9 to 5 Mac reports that the entry-level model will cost approximately $1,699, and will feature a 2,560 x 1600 display.

iMac & Mac mini Updates

These rumors are relatively fresh, and they may not come to fruition at the Apple event, at all. Several reports point to the possibility that the iMac and Mac mini lines will receive updates, though the extent of those updates aren’t nailed down. If they’re mere spec bumps, it’s entirely possible that Apple won’t make any mention of the updates at its event tomorrow, but will instead start selling the updated machines (without much fanfare) on its website in the near future. Some have suggested that the iMac will receive a significant update, with a thinner side profile and much-improved specs. If this is the case, the changes could be announced at tomorrow’s event, with the updated Mac mini getting a very brief mention.

iTunes 11

Back at Apple’s iPhone 5 event in September, we got our first look at iTunes 11. This version of iTunes offers pretty significant changes to Apple’s media manager, including a redesigned interface and built-in iCloud support. Apple told us back in September that we’d see iTunes 11 sometime in October, which makes tomorrow’s event a likely date for the app’s release.

We’ll be covering the Apple event here, so check back tomorrow at 10am PT for more.

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