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Apple's iPad mini makes relatively low-key debut

TOKYO -- The iPad mini got off to a low-key start Friday with little of the hype-fueled razzmatazz of earlier Apple launches, as analysts said the costly creation may have come too late to the 7-inch market.

Around 300 people lined up outside Apple's flagship store in Tokyo, some wearing fancy dress, to get their hands on a device the company insists is more than just a shrunken version of its popular tablet.

At least 20 people spent the night outside the shop in the up-market Ginza area, but the launch was missing some of the pizzazz of earlier offerings, with the queue quickly dissipating after an initial rush.

In tech-mad Singapore numbers were well down on previous launches, while in Hong Kong around 30 people queued to pick up their pre-ordered devices before the Apple store opened.

Hundreds had lined up for the iPad 2 last year and 1,500 who camped out for the iPhone 4S.

It was a similar story in Sydney where the days-long queues for a new generation iPhone 5 were not repeated.

“Looks like most ordered it online,” one person in the small line told reporters.

Nevertheless, acolytes declared themselves impressed by the physical charms of the 7.9-inch (20-centimetre) touch-screen device.

“It's completely different (from the regular iPad),” said Ayano in Tokyo, who did not give her surname.

“It is thinner and very light. Look, you can hold it in one hand.”

Around three dozen markets in Asia and Europe, as well as the United States, were due to see launches of the Wi-Fi only version on Friday.

In Seoul a 200-strong line, some of whom had camped out overnight, had their patience rewarded from 8 a.m., with one man telling AFP Apple was a better buy for his 4-year-old daughter.

“I prefer iPad to Android devices because it has more content for children like my daughter,” he said.

Die-hard fans noted there was less of a fanfare this time around.

“It's not surprising people wait for hours to be the first to get new Apple devices, but now the hype doesn't seem to be as big as before,” said Kim Tae-min.

Ahead of the launch analysts had warned the starting price of US$329 might seem steep to budget-minded shoppers who can buy Google Nexus or Amazon Kindle tablets for US$199.

“Devotion to Apple products has been compared to a religion,” said an analyst from the U.S.-based firm Gartner.

“But, I don't think Apple will be as dominant in the 7-inch tablet space because they let the Kindle Fire and the Nexus get a foothold in the market at a considerably lower price.”

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Salesclerks with a clock count down to 8 a.m. — when Apple's new iPad mini will go on sale in South Korea — at an Apple store in Seoul, Friday, Nov. 2. Apple Inc. began selling the new, smaller version of the iPad tablet on Friday. (AP)

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