Fast Company

Those "iPad Mini" Rumors Make Sense

iPad Mini

Apple's iPad is selling about as fast as they can make the things, and it's not even completed its international roll-out yet. It stands to reason, then, that Apple's probably upped its efforts to develop the iPad's successor (given how long it takes for a design to go from concept to reality). This iPad 2 we would notionally have expected to be announced in January 2011, a year after the first device hit, and we still expect this to be the case. But now there's an increasingly real-sounding rumor that Apple has another 7-inch version on the way, and it may even arrive this year. Strangely enough, it's a rumor that makes perfect sense.

Seven-inch iPad rumors have popped up before, but these latest ones come directly from China's Economic Daily News newspaper, which pretty much nailed the original iPad's format and timing well before its launch and at a time when other media outlets were pondering if it was going to be Apple's netbook. Hence when the paper reports that some Taiwanese firms have won the contract to supply the new iPad, it's worth paying attention.

Chimmei Innolux has apparently been selected to supply the 7-inch IPS LCD units, though we don't know if these screens will have the iPhone 4's "retina display resolution" or the same pixel count as the existing iPad--the first case would be technologically trickier, and the second would allow for simpler programming issues. Touchscreen tech would be from Cando, and Compal Electronics (which already is the premier place to assemble laptops) will be putting the thing together. Interestingly Foxconn, which is one of Apple's biggest supplier/assemblers at the moment isn't mentioned here: Has Apple shied away from the firm, in the wake of all its bad PR?

The main thing to remember about the 7-inch iPad speculation is that competitors with screen sizes in this mid-range are beginning to appear and will arrive in greater numbers later this year. It would result in a smaller, lighter iPad, solving one of the minor gripes that some users have about the initial device: That it weighs a fraction too much to hold after a while. Peering at the guts of the first iPad, it was clear that there was a lot of empty space inside the thing, so it's easy to imagine all the battery and electronics tech being squeezed into a smaller shell. The screen is also exactly twice the diagonal size of the iPhone's, which may have design and construction implications.

In the end, a 7-inch iPad would appeal to a slightly different audience than the 9.7-inch unit for two reasons: Size and price. Some folks would find its reduced bulk more convenient (if you're a habitual hand-bag user perhaps). Other users would find the smaller screen of this mid-sized system less convenient than the bigger iPad's, but of course they'd be able to buy the larger unit. The lower price--which is an assumption, but a reasonable one--would make the iPad "mini" more competitive in the soon-to-be-crowded tablet market, and would place it in financial reach of many millions more consumers. The initial $500 price of the iPad was a surprise to many commenters to whom the fictitious "Apple Tax" was seen as a problem, and if Apple could manage an entry point for the new iPad at around $300, it would have a super-hot seller on its hands. Think of the iPad mini as the equivalent of the iPod Touch to the iPhone, and you can see what I mean.

To keep up with this news, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

Add New Comment

8 Comments

  • Mike reynolds

    ok for all you people who are trash talking the ipad mini i think its an amazing creating its cheaper, its cooler and made by apple so if want to post a comment make it a good comment

  • Barry Blalock

    I want the iPad to be able to run Snow Leopard, have a forward facing camera for FaceTime, be able to run multiple apps in different windows that can be minimized, maximized, etc. I want the iPad to print money and make gourmet cheeses. I want the iPad to support Flash because yeah, it is a big deal. I want the antenna to work on the new iPhone 4. I want to look cool in a pair of skin tight acid washed hipster jeans... no, not really. I want Apple to listen to our basic needs and get over their own hubris so they can move faster with less inhibitions. I want, I want, I want. So forth. Make it happen, Jobs.

  • Peter Sharma III

    I don't want a mini-pad, I want a MAXI-pad...I want an iSlate at 14" that runs Snow-Leopard instead of the damn iOS. Okay?!?

  • Allen Merrell

    Oh does this mean that the 7" will be able to read in the sun like the Kindle? I doubt it and the Kindle will still have a place (especially with current price cuts) for serious readers.

  • David Hancock

    It does make perfect sense. If fact, if the 7" iPad comes to fruition, beware Kindle. It would be the beginning of the end for Amazon's eReader.

  • Jocelyn Hawkes

    A good point. The real question is what will the price point be? If it's comparable to the Kindle, then the competition will be fierce. There will always be die-hard Kindle fans, because they only want to use the technology for reading, but I think that market will shrink over time.

  • Justin Roff-Marsh

    Don't see why.

    I'm a 'diehard' Kindle fan and I have both! The iPad is awesome for consuming online media but quite ordinary for reading books.

    Justin