Sure enough, at today's iPad Mini launch, the Apple powers-that-be spent plenty of time trash-talking the Nexus 7 tablet and explaining how the new iPad Mini puts Google's 7-inch effort to shame. And sure enough, outside of Apple's magical force field, most of the grandiose claims don't hold much weight.
What we're actually talking about here are two very different types of devices. Apple, for example, devoted ample energy to pointing out how its new iPad Mini has a larger screen than Google's Nexus 7 -- and yep, it sure does. The "7.9-inch" figure listed for the iPad Mini's screen can tell you that. You know what else has a larger screen than the Nexus 7? Every other tablet with a screen size greater than 7 inches. A larger screen on a smaller tablet is not inherently better; the whole point of the smaller tablet is that, you know, it's smaller. By design.
What Apple failed to mention is the fact that the Nexus 7's screen has a higher resolution than the iPad Mini's -- 1280 x 800, 216 ppi, vs. the iPad Mini's 1024 x 768, 163 ppi -- and that the Nexus 7 packs a cutting-edge quad-core processor while the iPad Mini is using last year's dual-core A5 model (essentially what was in the iPad 2).
The Nexus 7 also has a standard micro-USB port while the iPad Mini supports only Apple's new proprietary "Lightning" connector. Does that matter? It certainly can: A standard micro-USB port means you can plug the tablet into any charger or any PC without needing an expensive proprietary adapter. It also means you can plug any USB device directly into the tablet and have it instantly work.
Then, importantly, there's the price: The Nexus 7 currently costs $199 for an 8GB model and $249 for a 16GB version. Next week, Google is expected to introduce a new 32GB model at the $249 price and drop the cost of the lower-storage model to somewhere around $149. The iPad Mini, meanwhile, starts at $329 for a 16GB edition and goes up to $459 for a 32GB version. That's a pretty lofty difference.
Is all that to say the Nexus 7 is the better tablet of the two? Nope; there's no need to indulge Apple and even play that game. As I said a moment ago, we're talking about two very different types of devices -- with two very different value propositions. We're also talking about two very different platforms and ecosystems, each with its own set of pros and cons.
Do some Android apps still utilize smartphone-like designs on tablet-sized devices? Absolutely. But the number of apps that are following Android 4.x design guidelines -- guidelines which, incidentally, do not require separate smartphone and tablet apps and focus instead on detecting a device's size and adjusting an interface accordingly -- is not insignificant. It's also growing greater by the day.
Ultimately, it's all relative. How are the Maps, YouTube, and Gmail experiences looking on the iPad these days? And how's that giant grid of static icons -- a stretched-out version of the smartphone, one might say -- working as a home screen compared to the customizable array of resizable, interactive widgets that Android tablet users enjoy?
I'll say it once more: two different types of devices, two different platforms. This isn't an only-one-can-survive deathmatch, folks. It also isn't a one-size-fits-all world.
So all considered, is Apple's iPad Mini going to sell well? It'd be surprising if it didn't. Let's be honest: At this point, Apple could probably put a potato in a shiny case and people would line up to buy it.
Is the iPad Mini going to "kill" the Nexus 7, though? I wouldn't count on it. It's playing in a completely different field -- and regardless of which platform you prefer, that's perfectly fine.