First, an admission: I preordered an iPad Mini. But I wasn't happy about the price I was paying.
You see, I've been around iOS devices long enough to know that 16GB of storage space just doesn't cut it -- throw a couple of high-res games and an HD movie or two on the thing, and you're starting to hit the limit. That put me at $429 for the 32GB model. Tack on the extra dough for sales tax and suddenly I was over $450. And that doesn't include the $29 Apple wants for Lightning-to-30-pin adapter that will allow me to use my old Apple connectors with the Mini.
I felt like I was spending way too much, but I hit the buy button anyway. After all, it was something of a risk-free purchase -- I could always return it if I had second thoughts, or maybe even sell it for more than I paid because I knew units would be in short supply at launch.
This is the warped world of the Apple universe where I buy things despite feeling like a sucker. Of course, a lot of you are probably saying about now, "Carnoy, you're an idiot, one of the iSheep; get a spine. Buy a Nexus 7, a Kindle Fire HD, or a Nook HD, which has expandable memory."
I know. I know. The fact is I already have a Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, and have played around with a Nexus 7. That last product is a better deal than ever, thanks to Google offering new versions at lower prices just this week; the new 32GB model is $249. They're all impressive devices with sharper screens and more-affordable price tags than the iPad Mini's. Don't remind me.
However, my relationship with the Mini is a little complicated. I've been barking for Apple to do a smaller iPad for two years, so I'm a fan of the size and the undeniably great slim form factor. I'm also on the hook for doing accessory reviews, mostly cases, for the product, so I figured I should have one around. And trust me on this one: borrowing a colleague's personal iPad for repeated testing does not make you a popular guy at the office.
Retina Display aside, my problem with the iPad Mini -- and why I'm kvetching (bring on the "Would you like some cheese with your whine?" comments) -- is the $100 Apple charges for going from 16GB to 32GB, plus another 100 bucks to go from 32GB to 64GB. (The $130 premium you pay for the Wi-Fi + cellular models is the subject for another article).
Of course, it has every right to charge whatever it wants and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Apple makes its biggest margins on the memory bumps across its entire line of iOS products. After all, they're the same products; they just have more memory.
I can understand paying a nice premium over what you'd typically pay for flash memory, but it gets a little ridiculous when you're paying five times what you'd normally pay. Sure, you can say the memory in Apple devices is higher grade than your basic flash memory. But the breakdowns iSuppli has done of the iPad 2 and third-gen iPad show that the bump from 16GB to 32GB costs Apple about $17. It's another $34 or so to go from 32GB to 64GB. According to iSuppli, 64GB of NAND flash memory runs around $67 -- or at least it did this past March.
The other thing that bothers me is why it costs $100 to bump up 16GB -- going from 16GB to 32GB -- when you get 32GB for the same price when you go from 32GB or 64GB. Yes, 64GB flash memory configurations used to be pretty pricey, but they're significantly cheaper now. It just doesn't add up.
And what about the iPod Touch? You get to jump from 32GB to 64GB for an extra $100. Not a bargain, but better than getting only 16GB for $100.
As for Apple's competitors, Amazon charges $50 -- or half the price -- to go from 16GB to 32GB with the Kindle Fire HD. Same goes for Google and its Nexus 7. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble's expandable Nook HD starts at $199 for the 8GB model and bumps up to $229 for the 16GB model. A 32GB microSD card costs around $25, while a 64GB goes for around $60. You can do the math on that one.
Of course, it all comes down to supply and demand, and Apple knows that a lot of folks find 16GB constricting -- even with iCloud in full effect -- and will make the jump to 32GB.
As a fellow CNET editor told me, "You may regret paying $450 for a 32GB iPad Mini, but you'll end up regretting it more paying $350 for 16GB model."
Sadly, there's some truth to that.
The simple answer is to just say no and return the thing. And maybe I will. But I'll whine first. Pass the cheese.
Editors' note: CNET contacted Apple for comment on the costs of its memory components, but we did not receive a reply by our deadline. We'll update this story if and when Apple responds.