The Case For and Against the iPad Mini

The late Steve Jobs had plenty to say about a 7-inch tablet, ranging from a larger 10-inch screen size being the minimum needed to create great tablet apps, to suggesting users sand down their fingers to make it easier to use the smaller screen. He even called 7-inch tablets “dead on arrival”.

He was right too, up until Amazon released the 7-inch Kindle Fire, which has been a roaring success in the USA, and was in part responsible for inspiring the even more popular – and internationally available – Google Nexus 7.

But it’s not the screen size that has made the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire a success, it’s the price, as they both cost less than half that of an entry-level Apple iPad.

None of this has stopped rumours gathering pace suggesting that Apple is preparing another iPad model for sale though, and that it will feature a smaller 7.85-inch touchscreen. Here’s the story of the 7-inch iPad model so far, broken down into three categories.

What we know as 100% fact

Nothing at all. Zero.

What is rumoured?

Plenty. The screen size has been estimated at 7.85-inches, or according to Bloomberg, between 7-8 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 1024×768. The size and resolution of the screen is perhaps the most consistent rumour surrounding the iPad Mini, but that doesn’t make it anymore factual.

Due to the small size and potentially low price, the tablet won’t have a rear camera, and a new leak said to show the casing of the iPad Mini backs this up.

As for the processor, nobody seems sure, therefore we’ve got talk of the A5 chip from the iPad 2 (a revised A5X from the new iPad), and even the chance it won’t use an Apple chip at all. Madness.

With regards to when it’ll eventually show up, some have said it would arrive at WWDC in June, but it didn’t, and since then it has been linked with the expected September announcement of the next iPhone. Or, if you believe other industry whispers, September will see production begin with a launch in October. Or it’ll be November with a Christmas release date. But it could also be suffering from production delays and it’ll be out during early 2013 instead. As you can see, it’s all very clear.

For and against

John Gruber of DaringFireball.net makes a very good argument for the iPad Mini. He compares it to the iPod range, and quotes an article about a “price umbrella”.The argument is that companies need to offer products at all price ranges, so as to attract a broader range of customers. If they don’t, competitors make cheaper products and sell plenty, then use the profits to make even better products, thus eroding market share.

But Apple has never been one for offering cut-price products, and certainly never one to chase after tablets that – at the moment – are only considered a threat to its tablet market share by journalists and analysts.

At the moment the tablet market is really the iPad market, as explained by ZDNet James Kendrick, who cites Samsung as having a varied range of tablets at all different prices, but with little market share to show for it – raising the question why Apple would be bothering with a smaller, cheaper and therefore no-longer all that desirable iPad model.

In some of the documentation that has come out of the Apple vs Samsung patent trial over the past weeks, one relevant email conversation between Apple’s Eddy Cue and several other Apple VPs, including Tim Cook has come to light. Cue wrote that he believed “there will be a 7-inch market and we should do one”. It’s also said that Steve Jobs was “receptive” to the idea.

The question isn’t if Apple has made a 7-inch tablet, as a prototype almost certainly exists somewhere, it’s if it plans to put it on sale. If it does, just how many buyers will choose a so-called “lesser” iPad over the full-on Retina Display “new” iPad or its inevitably even more powerful successor?

Fay Shannon writes for Envirofone, who pay cash for phones and unwanted iPads.

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