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Price remains a key question ahead of possible 'iPad Mini'

NEW YORK--The price tag remains a big question mark as Apple prepares Tuesday to unveil what is expected to be a smaller iPad.

Apple hasn't said anything about the device, but the veil of secrecy that the company throws over unreleased products has been a see-through affair this year. Most of the details of the iPhone 5, for instance, were known well in advance of its launch a month ago.

In the case of the “iPad Mini” (the real name is not known), tech bloggers and analysts expect a device with a screen measuring 7.85 inches on the diagonal, making it about half the size of the regular iPad. It would be slightly larger than the 7-inch tablets it's presumably designed to compete with, including Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire and Google Inc.'s Nexus 7.

The Kindle Fire starts at US$159, and the Nexus 7 at US$199. Meanwhile, Apple sells the iPad 2 for US$399 and the 4-inch iPod Touch for US$199. Company watchers are pegging the price of the smaller iPad somewhere in between.

Most of the guesses range from US$249 to US$299, but the blog 9to5Mac said Monday that the price would be US$329. That would make the iPad Mini twice the price of the cheapest Kindle Fire and leave plenty of room for other manufacturers to snap up value shoppers this holiday season. The blog did not disclose its source and has had a mixed record in predicting details on unreleased Apple products.

Analysts such as Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets believe that Apple will also sell a step-up version of the iPad Mini, one with the ability to access 4G cellular networks for an additional monthly fee. That's a feature that the cheaper, 7-inch tablets don't have.

Apple is holding Tuesday's presentation at a theater in San Jose, California, starting at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT). The company typically starts selling a new phone or iPad a week or two after announcing it. But it could treat the new iPad as a minor product update, in which case it could start sales right after the announcement.

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The marquee over the historic California Theater announces an “Apple special event” in San Jose, California, Monday, Oct. 22. Apple is set to introduce its long-rumored iPad Mini during a news conference on Tuesday.

(AFP)

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