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Summary:

Apple is testing smaller screens for a new mini iPad model, according to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. It’s about time a smaller iPad arrived for a number a reasons. And the idea that iOS won’t work on a 7- or 7.85-inch touchscreen is flawed.

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Apple is testing smaller screens for a new mini iPad model, according to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Suppliers to Apple are the sources for the story, which are a repeat of the similar reports back in December when DigiTimes, a site that covers Asian hardware component manufacturers, reported that a 7.85-inch iPad would debut in late 2012.

After the release of the first iPad, Steve Jobs downplayed the idea of a smaller iPad, suggesting that the icons and touch controls would be too small for the device. His words, from an Apple investor call: “It’s meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size.” Jobs was correct about many things in the mobile space, but this isn’t one of them.

I suggest that because I’ve used a 7-inch tablet on a daily basis for the past 14 months. Obviously, it’s not an iPad, but even a small Android tablet proves that a tablet of this size can be used. It works for Android and it will work for a smaller iPad too.

Why? Because an iPad of 7 or 7.75 inches with the same resolution as today’s iPad — 1024 x 768 — won’t shrink the icons or controls all that much. They’ll surely be at least as large as the icons on an iPhone or iPod touch, so if you can use iOS on those devices, it should work for a smaller iPad too. That resolution makes sense for another reason: developers won’t have to change a thing for their applications.

I recently suggested we’d see a smaller iPad for a number of reasons. Smaller devices are more portable, making them easier to carry and use in a wider range of locations. Given the growing number of Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets I’m seeing, clearly there’s a market for smaller slates. Obviously the $199 to $249 price tag of those devices adds to the appeal, but Apple could compete with a smaller iPad that starts at $299 thanks to its diverse ecosystem.

With an expected iPad 3 announcement early next month, I don’t foresee a smaller iPad debut soon. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see such a device in the fall, a time when Apple has typically refreshed its iPod lineup. I’ve even suggested the unpopular opinion that an iPad mini will actually take the place of an iPod touch at some point. Regardless of what happens to the iPod touch, it’s time for the iPad mini.

  1. “Why? Because an iPad of 7 or 7.75 inches with the same resolution as today’s iPad — 1024 x 768 — won’t shrink the icons or controls all that much.”
    I don’t get it… wouldn’t a smaller iPad with the same resolution have a higher pixel density, which means that an A by B (pixels) icon would be smaller?

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    1. Sure, the icons would be smaller, but not so much that they wouldn’t be usable. I’d have to do the math, but I wouldn’t expect icons on a 7-inch iPad to be smaller than the icons on the iPhone or iPod touch. That’s my point: if you can use the iOS touch interface on an iPhone today, you should be able to do so on an iPad that has a 7-inch screen. Thx!

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      1. I would agree w/ Kevin! After all, how is the iPhone not an iPad Super Mini? Users of that and any other touch screen phone would have to shave their fingers down to a tenth of the size by Steve’s logic.

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      2. Have to disagree here. AFAIK, the GUI elements are the same physical size on the iPhone and iPad. It’s just there’s more room on the iPad for additional controls, etc.

        So the interface elements would actually be *smaller* than on the iPhone. Don’t forget, you’ll be getting the full fat iPad interface (think iPad Mail vs iPhone mail, etc) which would be pretty small on a 7″ screen.

        The only way they can do it is by forcing developers to support another resolution. And that decision wouldnt be taken lightly i suspect.

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      3. Oh, and to add to my other comment – its not fair to do a comparison with Android 7″ vs 10″ as it handles UI scaling more flexibly and pretty much allows any resolution (within reason)

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  2. I wrote a comment on another blog which I will quote here:

    “I’m agnostic about whether or not the 7″ form factor has an audience and whether Apple will address it. The question that you have to ask yourself is – wouldn’t Apple like to sell you two tablets? How would Apple do that? Ah, a larger tablet to cozy on the couch and a smaller tablet for on the go.

    Actually, I could see Apple try other form factors. Hey, buy 3, 4, a half dozen. Your imagination is the limit. One for the car, one for the bathroom, one for the home office, one for the couch, one in the kitchen and one in your pocket. I don’t see Apple doing it too soon, but I bet there is a long term plan which may or may not be acted on.”

    If Apple can convince you to spend money, Apple will pursue it.

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  3. A comment I wrote on a different blog which I will quote here:

    “I’m agnostic about whether or not the 7″ form factor has an audience and whether Apple will address it. The question that you have to ask yourself is – wouldn’t Apple like to sell you two tablets? How would Apple do that? Ah, a larger tablet to cozy on the couch and a smaller tablet for on the go.

    Actually, I could see Apple try other form factors. Hey, buy 3, 4, a half dozen. Your imagination is the limit. One for the car, one for the bathroom, one for the home office, one for the couch, one in the kitchen and one in your pocket. I don’t see Apple doing it too soon, but I bet there is a long term plan which may or may not be acted on.”

    If Apple can convince you to spend the money, Apple will pursue it.

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  4. I don’t buy it at all, bogus made up Garbage.

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    1. Of course Kevin states it as fact because it gives him something to write about. Its rumor and there have been the same rumor since the iPad was announced. Personally I have no interest in a 7 inch tablet but maybe others do.
      Kevin you should really stop acting as if Kindles are the same as an iPad. They are far from it.
      We already know that Kindle Fire sales which is a crippled quasi Android tablet did not impact iPad sales at all.

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      1. A refurbished iPad is still miles ahead of any Kindle in usability, battery, and overall satisfaction, not to mention apps. I am an owner of both: http://tekcrunch.posterous.com/thinking-kindle-fire-consider-this-for-2-minu
        No need for Apple to build a smaller iPad. Just because there is a Kindle there isn’t a need for Apple to do so, especially when Kindle Fire sales have not even made a dent in sales figures of the iPad.

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  5. I want this to be true only to hear the reaction from the fanboys that bashed the Kindle Fire and Galaxy tabs for being “too small.” Though, I’m sure once Apple does it the blogosphere will be singing a different tune.

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    1. You lost credibility the second you said fanboy. Millions of iPads have been sold all over the world. Saying its all to “fanboys” is juvenile.
      Nobody is buying Galaxy Tabs and the Kindle Fire is not a competitor or the same thing as an iPad. Pretty obvious really.

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      1. You lost credibility the moment you failed to thoroughly read my post. First, the term “fanboy” is irrespective of sales. Virtually every smartphone and tablet has its fanboys — even those that do not sell well (the Galaxy being a good example).

        That said, my comment was directed towards those that seem to think that any tablet smaller than the current crop of iPads is inherently flawed. If that doesn’t apply to you, then cool beans.

        But it does to many others.

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  6. Apple should release an 7 or 8-inch iPad to compete with other tablets like Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (http://harryminhas.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/samsung-galaxy-tab-2/), kindle Fire, Nook tablet and BlackBerry PlayBook. Also it will be portable and will consume less battery (Long battery life). Right now Apple is too busy with Ipad 3 and then iphone 5. So I expect Q4 launch if they decide to go ahead.

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    1. Apple should compete with devices like the Playbook or Tab 2 that nobody is buying? Hilarious.
      Nook and Kindle Fire are far from full fledged tablets and are subsidized devices so not in the same playing field.

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      1. BlackBerry PlayBook wasn’t a full product before on launch. RIM messed it up big time. But after PlayBook OS 2.0 things will be different. Also PlayBook 2 with 10-inch screen later this year will be real competition to ipad.

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  7. Smaller screens on other devices are more about cost than anything else. So far nobody is buying them except for Kindles which don’t really count as tablets.

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    1. I smell troll. Care to offer a definitive reason why Kindle Fires don’t count as tablets? Or should we just take your word for it?

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  8. I would expect Apple to keep the iPad 2 around at a discounted price (like what they do with iPhones, last year’s model stays around at a lower price), before I would expect them to release a smaller tablet.

    Anyone remember Steve Job’s rant against Android and in he mentions how 7″ tablets were DOA? Or did that happen so long ago that it’s now officially out of the internet consciousness and therefore never happened?

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    1. I don’t remember a rant. I remember a reasoned well thought out argument.
      Have you forgotten or are you just unaware that nobody is buying Android tablets of any size?

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  9. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    for those who said a 7″ tablet from Apple was not possible didn’t see what the amazon Kindle fire did to Apple sales. Nothing significant, but Apple DID take notice……..

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  10. Michael W. Perry Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    If Apple markets such a device, it’ll be for the young of eye. Past about forty, tiny type begins to blur and no amount of screen sharpness can correct for that. This device wouldn’t be for them, but it’d be great for those in high school and college, particularly since it’d also be cheaper.

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  11. Let’s assume that there *is* an ~8 inch iPad “mini”. If we assume its existence, we can also assume that this isn’t news. It’s a well known fact that Apple has built a variety of prototype iPad form factors. This is even stated in the recent Steve Jobs biography.

    Just because a prototype tablet exists doesn’t mean that Apple “thinks its time for an iPad mini”. It means that Apple is testing form factors, as they’ve been doing all along. I don’t think that we’re going to see a 7″ tablet from Apple anytime soon, but that’s just my opinion. I’m not going to write an article titled “Amazon Considering Cancelling Fire Tablet Because They Think It’s Too Small”.

    The title of this article is just a poorly-veiled attempt to increase clickthrough traffic. The actual article content conveys no new information.

    Bad Kevin. Bad.

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  12. There will be no iPad mini. Just as there was no iPhone nano and no Apple NetBook. Do the writers of these articles have access to any more than 6 weeks of Apple’s history?

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  13. just call it the new ipod touch not ipad mini, dont sound right..
    when i hear ipad iam thinking larg display..and remove that home button mines mess up 2x in one year, can you make it just the power button and valum button..home button should be a icon on the screen..

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  14. This is probably an attempt to add some diversity to their products. Some people are drawn to larger screens rather than larger and vice versa. There are differences in computer screen sizes as well, so this idea is not something new. With an increase in mobile device sales, they must be looking for new ways to sell their product so that it will appeal to many different kinds of audiences.

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