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2/14/2012
12:55 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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iPad Mini Under Development

Apple is preparing a smaller version of the iPad with an 8-inch display, according to component suppliers.

Officials who work for Apple's suppliers told the Wall Street Journal that Apple is testing a new iPad. This new iPad (not the iPad 3, by the way) will have a smaller screen than the iPad/iPad 2's 9.7-inch glass. Instead, it will have an 8-inch display. A smaller display will give this unnamed, unannounced iPad a drastically smaller footprint.

The Journal's unnamed sources say that Apple is vetting suppliers for the new device, which is not yet in production. It is looking at longtime partners LG Display and AU Optronics. Apple could still choose not to manufacture this smaller iPad.

This new device, or iPad Mini if you will, would boast a screen with similar resolution to the current iPad 2. The iPad 2's 9.7-inch display has 1024 x 786 pixels, giving a pixels-per-inch (ppi) rating of 132. Packing the same number of pixels in a smaller screen would boost the ppi value and give the iPad Mini a really nice display with 160 ppi. It's still no retina display, but pixels that are packed more tightly together will make for a better experience.

[ For some great iPad workgroup apps, see 11 iPad Apps For Better Collaboration. ]

(By way of comparison, the iPad 3, which is said to offer a 2048 x 1536 pixel display, will have a ppi of 264.)

Of course, a smaller iPad would probably not make Apple founder Steve Jobs happy. Just 16 months ago, Jobs bemoaned the idea of tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches.

"There are clear limits of how close you can place physical elements on a touch screen, before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them," he said. "This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps."

There's a small kernel of truth to this claim. I own a Motorola Xyboard Android tablet. It has an 8.2-inch display. I have more difficulty working with the UI and some of the apps than I do on the iPad, but Jobs was probably overstating the difficulty. I mean, we're all able to use our smartphones--with screens ranging from 3.0 - 4.7 inches--with no problems. And the problems I occasionally run into with the Xyboard can probably be blamed on poor app design rather than the smaller display. For long couch-surfing sessions, the Xyboard is more comfortable to use for several hours consecutively due to its smaller footprint.

Whether Apple actually chooses to make a smaller version of the iPad is unknown at the moment. If it does, an 8-inch iPad will cause considerable consternation over at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both of which sell 7-inch tablets/media devices. In fact, Amazon has gone to pains to advertise the Kindle Fire as a less expensive, more transportable alternative to the iPad.

It would also put on notice Samsung, which makes tablets with screens measuring 7.0, 7.7, 8.9, and 10.1 inches. Samsung's smaller-screened tablets could fall prey to an iPad with an 8-inch display.

What do you think? Is an iPad Mini even necessary?

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melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2012 | 8:07:58 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
First of all we have to understand that all this talk is just rumor. Does anyone doubt that Apple is testing devices in all conceivable sizes, if just to see how they appear, and work? Really, they have to do that. But that doesn't mean that they intend to make a product based on one of those sizes.

So they're likely testing 6", 7", 8", 9", 10", 11", 12", 13" and even more sizes. They certainly are big enough to afford to do so.

But Jobs said what he did for a reason. The comment that we have no problem using our phones is off the mark. The reason for that is clear. Phones use phone apps which have less info on the screen, and are designed specifically for smaller devices. But a 10" tablet app isn't designed for a 7" screen. If its squeezed into one, it will suffer, as text will possibly drop below the size of readability, and touch points will shrink below the size of easy selection.

Writers must think this through, which often they don't. Somehow, they seem to think that there are no real issues. Apple has likely thought this out more than anyone else.

But we have to look at the 7" tablets that have been out there. According to Google, they aren't tablets at all, but rather big phone screens, because until very recently, none have used anything other than a phone OS, with the limitation of phone apps. In other words, apps designed for lower Rez, smaller screens. So it comes at no surprise that they work ok on a larger screen (assuming they work at all, which many don't, or poorly).

I think Apple will be much more careful about this. Remember that the main reason why there are 7" tablets has nothing to do with their utility, but rather with the fact that these companies are having problems coming out with equal quality 10" tablets that aren't more expensive than an iPad. We see what happens when a manufacturer prices their 10" tablet so that they can make a decent profitGÇöit doesn't sell. 7" tablets are their way around the pricing problem.

Apple doesn't have that problem.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 7:38:01 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
I think the main point in having a smaller iPad is to have a more affordable product in the Apple line. This will help them stem the loss of market share that Kindle, et al are taking from Apple.
herman_munster
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herman_munster,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2012 | 4:44:24 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
So it seems that Apple doesn't necessarily agree with Jobs assertion that there is no market for the smaller tablet form factor. I'm glad to heard that. I think Jobs was being very foolish by making that announcement, echoing the same sort of criticism that his iPad received from many critics when it was first announced.

I don't have a lot of need for iOS devices. They're far too locked down for my liking - both in terms of software and hardware. The whole iTunes for synching requirement, for example, chases me away as a user since I refuse to install that horrible software on any of my machines.

With that said, I would sooner buy a smaller form factor iPad - something larger than the iPhone but smaller than the iPad2 - than any other Apple device. I see a tremendous amount of value in the 7 - 8 inch form factor however, I think Apple would be making a mistake my making this device only 1.7 inches smaller than the iPad. A 7 inch form factor would do better to solidify such a product as a distinct product. Additionally, the smaller form factor would make the device so much more portable - much like the initial Samsung Galaxy Tab, a tragically underrated device.

Still, I don't think there's significant value in mulling over a smaller iPad at this time. It's rather common for a company to produce prototypes of products that they'll never actually sell. It's probably rather likely that nothing will ever come from this. Still, as a thought exercise, it's probably rather engaging for most readers.
ANON1241471931665
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ANON1241471931665,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2012 | 8:58:43 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
3 sizes would be perfect. The iPod Touch and iPhone size is clearly doing well and is the very small size. The current iPad2 size is clearly the very large size. A middle size product would be perfect to round out the product line and allow consumers to make the right choice that fits their usage style, and it would help crowd out those pesky competitors who don't have very good products yet but are having some success simply due to providing that middle size that appeals to a lot of people. Some applications just don't need the large 10" size of the iPad2.
embra
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embra,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2012 | 7:52:30 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
I would consider the mini as a replacement not for my iPad, but rather my iTouch (I'm too cheap to cover the iPhone connection charges). I need something I can carry on my person, but with a screen more suitable for web browsing.
fk
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fk,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2012 | 7:45:57 PM
re: iPad Mini Under Development
There already is an iPad mini. It's called an iPhone.
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