Disappointing to Some, Great to Others

The last few weeks saw a plethora of new high profile gadget announcements and launches: iPhone 5, iPad mini, Nexus 4, Nexus 10, Surface, Kindle Fire HD and the Lumia 920 are the first to come to mind, but I’m almost certainly missing something.

Among these new devices, two stood out to me, for both had specific shortcomings that were heavily discussed among pundits and tech press, as well as in countless reader comments by enthusiasts. The two devices I’m talking about are the iPad mini, notable for its lack of a high resolution retina display, and the Nexus 4, notable for its lack of high speed LTE wireless connectivity. I believe there are good reasons for these omissions, most likely based on constraints around energy consumption and pricing. Marco Arment makes a convincing case that given the size and weight of the iPad mini, a retina screen simply wasn’t feasible, even at higher prices.

I found it curious how press and commenters alike reacted to these shortcomings. Where in the past a retina screen was deemed essential for a great tablet experience among Apple enthusiasts, following the iPad mini announcement they started to grudgingly admit that yes, a retina display would be nice, but its lack wasn’t a deal breaker. Where 7-inch tablets were deemed too small before, the iPad mini with its 7.85-inch screen was suddenly declared the “real iPad” as it should always have been. Android fans meanwhile are eager to point out that the most recent Android tablets trump the iPad mini in pixel density.

On the other side of the Apple-Google chasm, where in the past Android enthusiasts were denouncing the iPhone 4S for its lack of LTE connectivity, it suddenly wasn’t such a big deal when the Nexus 4 was released without LTE support about a month after Apple introduced its iPhone 5 with LTE connectivity. Apple enthusiasts meanwhile delight in pointing out this shortcoming, now that their flagship phone of choice is finally ahead in this particular regard. Never mind the Galaxy Nexus supported LTE a year ago when the iPhone 4S didn’t.

I guess there are no grand conclusions to be drawn from this. It’s hardly revelatory that commentary surrounding the big players in consumer electronics is more firmly rooted in personal notions of sympathy and brand loyalty rather than actual facts and merits. But it’s rarely as obvious as this fall.