Blog Post

Why the iPad Won’t Get Smaller

Recent speculation by Apple (s aapl) analysts suggests the company might be working on a 7-inch tablet to stay competitive with the incoming Android (s goog) crop of devices sporting a similar design, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Our own Om Malik agrees, and for good reason, but I think otherwise.


While it is true that a 7-inch device would keep production costs down and allow Apple to drop the price of its devices further still, Apple doesn’t have anything to worry about yet in terms of being priced out of the market it essentially created. PC World recently compared prices between the Apple iPad and the Dell (s dell) Streak, and found that the iPad came out the winner. Likewise, it will probably undercut the Galaxy Tab, though carrier subsidies on contract will make the Tab cheaper initially.


Even leaving aside the surprising fact that Apple is actually the lower-priced brand in this emerging market, there’s little reason to suspect a format change this early in the game. There’s scant evidence that a 7-inch tablet holds more appeal to the consumer. In fact, if Apple can manage to keep the price point they currently offer, but offer a Retina Display in the next iPad iteration in its current 9-inch size, I’d argue it will boast the single best display available for viewing media on a portable device.

PC World agrees, pointing to the display size as one of the primary advantages the iPad has over the Galaxy Tab. The iPad’s screen is so impressive that it made using my iPhone a chore until the introduction of the iPhone 4 and its vastly improved resolution. With video at the forefront of new web tech and TV content consumption increasingly moving to portable devices, the screen will be the site of the market’s key battles.

The Apple Way

Simply put, Apple is defining the emerging tablet space. It won’t feel the heat for a while yet, and even when (and if) it does, I doubt it’ll go the route of mimicking its competitors to stay in the game. That’s not something Apple’s done in the past, and as long as Jobs is in charge, I believe it’ll go the route of innovation before it chooses to passively fall in step with the rest of the industry.

Notebook Replacement, Not a Better PMP

Finally, a 7-inch tablet would make sense if Apple was positioning the iPad to compete with the portable media player market and/or smartphones. It isn’t. The iPad is a netbook/notebook killer, and each iOS iteration proves that point further still; IOS 4.2 brings printing and multitasking to the platform. With that and Bluetooth keyboard support, I’d easily be able to work/play with the iPad on the road. With a 7-inch screen, I’d probably be much less inclined to.

What do you think? Is a smaller iPad a likely part of Apple’s future?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Got a Cable Subscription? There’ll Be an App for That

20 Responses to “Why the iPad Won’t Get Smaller”

  1. Harleyriv

    All screen sizes are arbitrary if driven by contemporary convention. The current iPad is slightly too big and quite a lot too heavy to be a universal mobile communication device (which business people in particular are seeking) A high resolution 7inch screen, low mass case with finger grips, all the connectivity facilities and multimedia capability is the ideal. But let’s not forget that the virtual keyboard still remains the driving innovation that has enabled this important new sector to exist in the first place.

  2. I am anxiously awaiting iPad 2 as I have been uncharistically patient on waitng for the 2nd generation. I would love to have one, but the things missing in ver 1.0 are giving me pause. If ver 2.0 is available for Cristmas, I will be first ont he list. If not…I can wait.

  3. wouldn’t it make more sense for Apple to shrink the bezel around the screen? That would make it feel smaller in the hand, but keep the usable screen size (unless a small adjustment is needed for the increase to “retina” display resolutions).

  4. pk de cville

    Boy, I’d love 2 iPads; the current one and a new 7 incher.

    The small guy would weigh 1/2 pound less, have the same pixel total, a brighter more vivid screen, and 2 cameras w/ FaceTime included.

    They could sell it at the same price levels as the original.

  5. Bertil Holmberg

    Apple engineers and third party developers already have to support three different screen resolutions. Adding a fourth to the iPad anytime soon is highly unlikely.
    The iPad is such high demand that there are still many markets left to reach and even more to saturate. Introducing new models at this point will just confuse the market.

  6. Darrel,
    Great article. I feel that there will be a 7″ iPad though. The reason, and I discussed this in my recent Op-Ed on my site, is that the iPad needs to have a version which is more attainable to those that would otherwise choose a Kindle or smaller device. These are uses who don’t want an iPhone but realize that the size of the current iPad really does not lend itself well to mobility.

    I for one choose my iPhone over my iPad in a lot of situations because it is almost too big. I agree with you that it may not be Apple’s way but evidence is out there to suggest they may have something like it -just like we saw the nano.

    Here’s my take:

    • “These are uses who don’t want an iPhone but realize that the size of the current iPad really does not lend itself well to mobility.”

      I would like to understand how you define mobility. How does a 1.5lb 9.7″ device “not lend itself well to mobility” but a 7″ device does? From everything I have read, netbooks, laptops, smartphones and iPad all were being described as mobile devices.

    • Bluetooth keyboards are transmitters that encrypt all the data they send. When you pair a keyboard with your device you are setting up a pair of secret keys that the two use with each other, so that intercepted transmissions won’t be readable. An attacker would be better off looking over your shoulder…

  7. The Samsung Tab is a joke. Not a very funny one for anyone dumb enough to buy one. When Google says its too early for an Android tablet you would think people would listen instead of rushing out some half-baked attempt to ride the iPad’s coattails.

  8. I agree that a 7-incher doesn’t make sense…for now. 18-24 months down the road? Who knows? It might be desirable simply to feed another market segment. But I agree with Jason; there are plenty of optimization opportunities on the current iPad.

  9. The iPad starts to feel really clunky when you try holding it with one hand for longer periods of time. I would gladly sacrifice some battery life for a smaller form factor that is easier to hold with one hand for reading eBooks and making FaceTime calls, but still bigger than my iPhone 4 display. A Kindle-sized iPad would be a very apppealing product for me.

  10. 10″ is perfect for the ipad. It is just the right size to work on, to watch movies, to surf the net. Why would you take away 30″ of screen space? What Apple needs is to more quickly develop iOS so that the ipad is able to start replacing not just netbooks, but laptops for normal use. There are still too many functions the ipad cannot do, that is where they need to focus.