The iPad mini has gone on sale today in 34 countries worldwide, with Apple fans queueing up, eager to be among the first to get their hands on the new tablet, which starts at £269.

iPad mini

Announced at a media event last month, the iPad mini has a 7.9in screen - a couple of inches smaller than the full size iPad, of which an updated version also goes on sale today - an A5 processor, and is Apple's answer to the growing range of small tablets, such as the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire.

The iPad mini went on sale at 8am local time, and although online stock has sold out and suggesting a two-week wait for orders placed today, queues at Apple's high street stores were not as long as those for the iPhone 5 in September.

Initially, the iPad mini will only be available with Wi-Fi (and in white or black), as the cellular version, which has Wi-Fi and 3G/4G, will not go on sale for another couple of weeks.

When it does go on sale, the cellular version will be available with 3G on most networks, and with 4G exclusively on EE's new network, which launched earlier this week and promises much improved mobile internet speeds.

Although the iPad mini is seen as Apple's answer to other small tablets, the £269 starting price is considerably higher than its rivals, with the equivalent 16GB Google Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD each costing £159, although at 7in their screens are smaller.

There's an HD Facetime camera on the front, and a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back, and the iPad mini also gets the same LTE 4G wireless technology and Wi-Fi connectivity as the new iPad 4.

iPad mini queue
Apple fans queue outside Apple's Regent Street store in London. Credit: Karen Haslam via Twitter

Measuring 7.2mm thick and weighing 308g, the iPad mini is less than half the weight of the third generation iPad, making it easy to hold in one hand, adding to its reading credentials.

Apple claims the iPad mini offers 35 percent more screen space than rival 7in tablets and 67 percent more space when web browsing.

The iPad mini uses the same Lightning connector seen on the iPhone 5 and new range of iPods, and thanks to sharing the same screen resolution as the iPad 2, but on a smaller display, the mini can run all of the 275,000 apps made for those tablets with developers having to make any changes at all.

As with the fourth generation iPad, the iPad mini is claimed to offer ten hours of battery life.

Despite the late Steve Jobs saying in 2010 that 7in tablets being produced by rivals at the time would be "dead on arrival", we expect the iPad mini to sell incredibly well in the run-up to Christmas and beyond, although the price range of £269 to £529 could put some shoppers off.

Apple has a new magnetic Smart Cover for the iPad mini, which will be available from launch in red, dark grey, light grey, pink, green and blue, and will work much in the same way as with the regular iPad.