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Is the iPad Mini Really A Game-Changer For Wall Street Execs?

As the iPad Mini hits stores on Friday, we look at whether Wall Street executives should upgrade their tablet.

The iPad is ubiquitous among financial executives, many of whom can no longer imagine not being able to trade, share research, presentations, reports and more on their 9.5 inch tablet.

Wall Street professionals largely view the iPad and mobile apps as a convenience factor, rather than a game-changer. After all, anything they can do on a smartphone or tablet they can also do on a desktop. But most executives use smartphone or tablet apps on a daily basis, whether it’s an app from Bloomberg, StockTwits, Financial Times or any number of other providers offering financial information.

[Read: The Top 10 Mobile Apps on Wall Street.]

Apple has now shaved a couple of inches off its popular tablet, after adding a couple of inches to its new iPhone. So is the iPad Mini really a game changer for the financial industry?

The new model has a better camera and better video recording – which generally are of little use, at least in terms of their work day, for Wall Street executives. But it also has the same A5 chip and wireless capabilities as its predecessor.

So what else will drive financial executives to order the iPad Mini?

It’s a questions of novelty. Or rather lack of real novelty since there is no software or design upgrade in the new models that will likely really make an impact.

Apple is certainly not hiding this lack of new features. On the contrary, the tech giant advertises the iPad Mini saying:

Everything you love about iPad — the beautiful screen, fast and fluid performance, FaceTime and iSight cameras, thousands of amazing apps, 10-hour battery life — is everything you’ll love about iPad mini, too. And you can hold it in one hand.

So the only real difference, in Apple’s words too, is the size of the tablet – and less noticeably, the size of the plugs. As the New York Times notes, while the rest of the electronics industry has adopted micro-USB ports, Apple has just changed the proprietary ports and plugs on all of its latest devices to an even smaller plug.

As Nick Bilton points out in the New York Times, Apple, like other consumer tech manufacturers, are very adept at convincing people that they need to buy a new, very slightly modified version of the same gadget.

From NYT:

Certainly makers add features like better cameras or tweak the software — Siri and Passbook on the iPhone are examples of that for Apple — to persuade people to upgrade. But in the last few years, consumer electronics have started to share one characteristic, no matter who makes them: they’re all rectangles. Now, companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google need to persuade consumers to buy new rectangles once a year.

In the past, electronics makers could convince consumers that the design was different, because it actually was. The first iMac, for example, was a blue bubble. Then it looked like a desk lamp, and now it’s a rectangular sheet of glass with the electronics hidden behind it. The iPod designs changed, too, over time, before they became progressively smaller sheets of glass.

To a certain extent, Apple’s strategy does work: I have found myself intently looking at other people’s iphones recently, just to see whether they pulled out of their back pocket an iPhone 5, and if so, what it really looks like. (Of course, I could just go to an Apple store to find out, but I am not quite enthusiastic enough about the new model to do that.)

But many consumers, like myself, might be curious about the iPhone 5, but not enough to actually buy one. In fact, upgrade fatigue is increasingly pervasive. PC sales have been flat as people hang onto them longer. A report by Recon Analytics found that in 2007, Americans upgraded their phones every 18.7 months on average; three years later, that number had stretched to 21.1 months, the New York Times reports.

The iPad Mini, like the iPhone 5 probably doesn’t have a sufficient number of new features to push most owners of older iPad models or iPhones to upgrade. While the iPad Mini will be even easier to carry due to its smaller size, one of the major selling points of the iPad for Wall Street professionals has been the tablet’s large ‘real estate.’ Many simply don’t want a smaller screen.

Still, some may simply have to adopt the iPad Mini, however reticent they initially may be. As the New York Times points out, the documentary, “The Light Bulb Conspiracy,” “showcased how past industries have gone to great efforts to reduce the life span of products — often products that couldn’t be designed to look different. Light bulbs were made to burn out sooner and stockings snag by early afternoon.”

Older generation iPhones such as the iPhone 3GS I own have lately become frustratingly slow to use as they struggle to cope with new generation apps and operating systems. So it looks like a smartphone upgrade might be inevitable after all.

The same might be true in a few months for Wall Street executives using an iPad too.

You might not want to upgrade and might be perfectly happy with the tablet you already use, but an upgrade all the same might just be inevitable.

Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in April 2007, Melanie lived in Paris, where she worked for the International Herald ... View Full Bio

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