Given the sheer amount of alleged leaked parts and mock ups for an iPad Mini, you’d think we’d know everything there is to know about a product that technically doesn’t exist. But it’s all guesswork — sometimes educated guesswork — until Apple makes a product announcement. Still, I can’t understand why some would even think a small slate from Apple would have practically no bezel around the screen: My own experience with 7-inch slates tells me that you need at least some place to hold the device from the front.
Take a look at this mock-up from 9to5 Mac and you can begin to see the point: Without any real bezel next to the display to rest your thumbs, you can only hold such a device in one hand by grabbing it from behind:
If a smaller iPad had this little black space around the screen, the device would share a similar issue to that of its big brother: You couldn’t hold it easily in one hand for long. I say that because of the iPad’s size and weight; you can surely hold it in one hand, but that hand would tire faster than with a smaller and lighter tablet.
Looking at the iPhone in the mock-up, you’ll see very little bezel. But that’s OK. It works because the device isn’t very wide and therefore is easy to hold in one hand. That’s a benefit to the form factor in a small size. A 7- or 7.85-inch tablet doesn’t benefit from that design; in fact, it detracts from it in my experience.
I’m more in agreement with John Gruber’s assessment in that some bezel will be needed, although not as much as that on the iPad:
“Should not the iPad Mini fall somewhere in between? Not as close to the aspect ratio of its display as the iPad-as-we-know-it, but also not as far away from its display aspect ratio as the iPhone. You might need more thumb-rest room on the sides than you do on the iPhone, but not nearly as much as you do on the full-size iPad.”
When I look at the small slates in my house — Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7, Galaxy Tab 7.7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 — they all “fit” well in hand due to the bezel. That bezel is smaller than the one found on the iPad, but much larger than found on phones. There’s just enough space to rest a thumb while holding any of these devices in hand: No more, no less.
And regardless of leaked part images or mockups, if Apple does release a small iPad, the company is sure to do the same: surround the screen with a bezel of a half-inch or so. Company executives have used the 7-inch slates and know what works in the design.
After all, who wants to hold a slate in one hand by holding it from the back across the entire width? That makes for good unboxing pictures, but not real world use. The alternative would be to use the device with two hands all the time, and at that point, you might as well go with the larger current iPad.