4GB iPod mini now $199; 6GB available for $249

On Wednesday Apple introduced an updated version of its popular iPod mini digital music player. The new version of the iPod mini features a 6GB internal hard disk drive mechanism, increasing storage capacity by 50 percent and leapfrogging over many competitors' 5GB players. It retails for US$249. What's more, Apple is continuing production of the original 4GB model and has priced it at US$199.

In a statement announcing the refreshed iPod mini lineup, Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the 4GB model's new $199 price tag "the magic price point."

"$199 is just the magical place to be in the consumer market," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of Hardware Product Marketing, reiterated to MacCentral.

$199 also puts the iPod mini on a more competitive level with other companies' digital music players. Is Apple feeling the heat from competitors?

"If you look at the market data nobody has really gained traction," said Joswiak. "We certainly take the competition seriously, but we have the perfect solution. We turned up the heat significantly this year with the [iPod] Shuffle."

Other improvements to the iPod mini include greatly improved battery life -- up to 18 hours per charge, according to Apple. "This is a huge part of what we try to do," said Joswiak. "The longest flight in the world is from New York to Singapore -- we've got you covered."

The iPod mini's Click Wheel is now color-coordinated to match the iPod mini. Apple has also introduced a new line of $29 colored armbands for iPod mini users matching the four available hues. Other than the Click Wheel, the iPod mini remains cosmetically unchanged, although Apple has trimmed the color selection to four colors -- silver, blue, pink and green (gone is the gold model).

Apple has also eschewed a FireWire cable with this release, instead favoring only the more ubiquitous USB 2.0 interface, which has at last seen universal adoption on the Macintosh platform. Previously iPod minis shipped with both cables. Users who prefer to connect their iPods using FireWire can purchase a separate $19 cable from Apple.

In addition to the USB 2.0 sync and charging cable, the iPod mini includes earbud headphones, a belt clip case and a CD containing iTunes 4.7.1 for Mac and Windows computers. System requirements call for Mac OS X v10.2.8 or Mac OS X v10.3.4 or later.

Updated 8:55 AM 02/23/05: Info about colors, FireWire, configurations and Steve Jobs comments added.

Updated 10:10 AM 02/23/05: Comments from Greg Joswiak added.

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