iPad Mini release date: Will Apple (AAPL) release a smaller iPad just in time for the holidays?

Forget the iPhone 5. Even though 10 million people will buy one in the next few weeks, that's not exactly at the top of most Santa wish lists this holiday season.

What many more people will want to see in their Christmas stocking is Apple's upcoming iPad Mini, and several reports now say the factories are finally building them.

According to CNET , the iPad Mini will cost at least $349. Why? Because when Apple unveiled a new, fifth-generation iPod Touch with a slightly larger screen, the starting price was $299.

But analysts say sales could struggle if Google decides to lower the price of its Nexus 7 down to $99, according to ipad.blorge.com

According to the report, Google is still selling its Nexus 7 for $199. But if Google wanted to crush Apple, droping the price $100 would really bring the heat.

Pictures show working model

The tech blog Gizmodo has published pictures of someone holding a working, small iPad in their hand.

It looks very similar to the current 9.7 inch iPad, but appears to be about two-to-three inches smaller in diameter.

The tech blog Information Week says these latest photos appear to be legit. It says they show a smaller iPad with an aluminum shell and slightly thicker edges than the current third generation iPad. 

It has two cameras, front and back, and appears to have a small lightning connector, just like the new iPhone 5 (that will not fit current chargers and docks).

Information Week says the new device should measure 7.8 inches in diameter, similar to a Kindle and other Android tablets.

When will Apple unveil it?

Now the only question is when it will be publicly unveiled, and hit stores. Bloggers expect Apple will hold a major event in mid-October to show it, then will begin selling it by Nov. 1, for around $249 - $299.

That's at least $200 less than the iPad, making it an ideal holiday gift for many families.

As always, don't waste your money.

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