Computing

The Case Against The iPad Mini

New rumours have surfaced — as they always goddamn seem to between iPad releases — about a new 7.78-inch iPad “Mini” that Apple is planning to release to the market sometime in the next 8-12 months. Here’s why all those rumours are stupid.

Ever since there has been an iPad, we’ve heard these rumours. Leaked screenshots, sources close to the matter, analysts looking for attention and the occasional industry insider have all screamed that an iPad Mini is an inevitability.

Since the release of the 7-inch Nexus 7 from Google and Asus, these rumours have started fresh. Obviously if one company does something, the other has to follow, right? Wrong.

It seems everyone who is flouting these rumours has a very short memory. Steve Jobs during his time at the head of Apple took time on a conference call to address the case for 7-inch tablets.

He spoke clearly and frankly about the Android-based competition, and said that Apple doesn’t feel that 7-inches is enough for Apple to work with, simply because it would both be a poor user experience — which to Apple is the Anti-Christ — and it would cannibalise sales of both the 10-inch iPad and the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S.

Here’s what he had to say on a conference call during his time at the head of Apple:

Almost all of [the tablets set for release in the coming months] use 7-inch screens. First, it appears to be only a handful of credible entrants and not an avalanche. Second, almost all of them use 7-inch screens as compared to the iPad’s 10-inch screen. One naturally thinks that a 7 inch screen would offer 70 per cent of the benefits of a 10 inch screen, but unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

The screen measurements are diagonal, so that a 7 inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. You heard me right, just 45% as large. If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down that screen, the screens on 7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display. This [7-inch] size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.

While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user could sand their fingers to around 1/4 of their present size.

Apple has done extensive user testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we understand this stuff. There are clear limits of hour close you can physically place elements on the touchscreen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them. This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch screen is the minimum size required to create meaningful apps for tablets.

Every tablet user is also a smartphone user. No tablet can compete with the mobility of a smartphone. Its ease of fitting into your pocket or purse, its unobtrusiveness when used in a crowd. Given that all tablet users will already have a smartphone in their pockets, giving up precious display area to put a tablet in their pocket is clearly the wrong trade-off.

The seven inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.

Obviously, Steve Jobs isn’t in charge of the company anymore, it’s Tim Cook’s show. Tim Cook has been seen to do a few things differently than would have been done at Steve Jobs’ Apple, but to fundamentally backflip on a three-year old statement from one of the founders of the company saying that this device wouldn’t work would be incredible.

It’s not completely beyond belief that it would happen given the advances in display technology in the last three years, but Apple isn’t a company that gives two shits what its opposition is doing most of the time. It never feels the need to follow in the traditional sense.

Will we see a 7-inch iPad? Not likely.


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