Since the first iPad was introduced in early 2010, there have been constant predictions of an “iPad mini,” an Apple tablet with a screen significantly smaller than 9.7-inches.
All have been wrong.
Even before being proven so by history, the prognostications were routinely quashed by naysayers, who – like Steve Jobs – believed that smaller 7 and 8-inch tablets lacked the utility of the larger iPad; Jobs even went so far as to say that such an iPad would not be produced by Apple. After three iPad generations’ release, we haven’t seen so much as a quarter-inch change in the screen size, mostly because Jobs’ was the only opinion that counted for much the last two and a half years.
But his influence, lasting though it may be in many respects, is no longer a deciding factor at Apple.
In the last half year or so, the tablet market has changed. Worthy iPad competitors, namely Amazon’s Kindle Fire, have emerged at far lower prices. The Fire, a 7-inch Android tablet that matches much of iPad’s feature set at a cost $300 less than the entry model Apple tablet, has sold millions of units, and Samsung’s smaller Galaxy tablets have made an impact as well. iPad is still dominant, to be sure, but the company behind it has to examine its competition and look to the future: how long can iPad dominate at a cost of $500 to $800 with new, worthwhile competition that goes for $200 to $300?
Because of Jobs’ passing and the changing market, I have believed for some months than the long-rumored iPad mini would finally become a reality, and new information seems to suggest that in 2012 this is more likely than ever.
A few days ago, iMore, an Apple blog, reported that its sources have indicated Apple is planning an October release of a smaller 7.x-inch iPad, with a price between $200 and $250. That iPad, which we’ll call the iPad mini, would look like the current iPad 3, but with a smaller screen and corresponding form factor.
And this is far from the only new information on the subject. Kotaku posted a similar story in April and countless other reports have surfaced in recent weeks regarding testing and component production that all point to a release of an iPad mini sometime in the not-too-distant future.
A 7-inch screen would require less graphics and backlighting power, so it’s conceivable that a smaller battery could produce the same 10 hour battery life, or at the very least, battery life in the neighborhood of 10 hours. And, of course, all of the same applications would run on the smaller iPad, though new apps would have to be written to best use the new screen size, unless Apple left the resolution of the iPad mini the same as the iPad 2 or iPad 3 (the former being more likely than the latter).
Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 5 in September of this year, and I’d be surprised if a new, smaller iPad didn’t make its debut around that same time.
Jobs may not have liked the idea of a 7 or 8-inch iPad. I certainly wouldn’t want one. But if I had to put money on it (which luckily I don’t), I’d bet we’ll see a competitively priced smaller iPad before the world ends on December 21st.
M. Nichols, Products Editor