Rather than announce a release date and get iFans stoked, Apple sneakily updated its  online store overnight. Now available: its latest and likely most sought after mini tablet.

The starting-at-$399 iPad Mini Retina will sit alongside the iPad Air as two of this season's hot sellers, although there is even more competition than last year.

Store Goes Down, Comes Back Festive

Will Apple beat last year's opening three million device sales of the original Mini and the iPad 4? It'll be hard to judge because of the gap between the releases, but we're sure Apple is just dying to tell us.

Apple followers have been tapping their update buttons since the launch of the iPad Air, wondering when Apple would release iPad Air sales figures and when it would announce the new iPad Mini with Retina display. 

Trust Apple not to follow its own rules. The company still hasn't announced any sales figures on the iPad Air and simply updated its web store with the newest model Mini, which can be delivered within three days. With some festive trimming and seasonal imagery, the new model starts at $399 for a Wi-Fi 16GB model and goes all the way up to 128GB with LTE. 

Whatever the price, Apple has plenty of competition this year, not just from lower-cost tablets, but a range of stylish, comparable devices from the likes of Amazon, Google, Sony and soon Nokia. Will that dent Apple's sales and market share? That remains to be seen, but Apple seems ready for the fight with the new iOS version and plenty of horsepower in its tablets. 

Learning Opportunities


Inside the Mini

The new mini comes with a 7.9-inch Retina display offering a 2048-by-1536 pixel resolution with a pixel density at 326 pixels-per-inch.Powered by Apple's A7 64-bit chip, it should offer screaming performance, if you have any apps that need it. Available in gray or silver, it offers multiple-in, multiple out (MIMO) Wi-Fi for improved connection speeds.

The LTE version comes with offers for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. The overall size has been reduced slightly, although Apple says the screen of its iPad mini is 35 percent larger than screens on rival 7-inch tablets.  

Does the new mini tempt you to upgrade your old tablet or will your existing model see you through another year? Can you get away with donating the old one to the kids and upgrading in the name of progress? With the new Lumia 2520 arriving on Nov. 22, there are  plenty of choices.