Today, Apple PR sent out a message inviting people to an event on October 23, where all evidence indicates they will announce the long-rumored iPad Mini (exact naming may vary). A smaller sized iPad, released right before the holiday shopping season would compete directly against cheaper tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, while drawing attention away from Microsoft’s own tablet, called Surface, release.
Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a deep dislike for the crop of sub-10 inch tablets competitors were making, he famously said: “The current crop of 7-inch tablets [is] going to be DOA, dead on arrival. Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphan product…. The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.” While this didn’t exactly happen the way Jobs predicted, it has become more clear by the day that the iPad is a very different product than the smaller tablets made by competitors. And the best way to compete, is to make a direct competitor.
What do we know?
The first report with any validity came from the Wall Street Journal‘s Lorraine Luk, who said Apple was testing a smaller iPad with a screen size of about 8 inches. This story was corroborated by Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber two months later. He said Apple had been testing a 7.85-inch iPad prototype but didn’t say whether or not it was intended to become a product—Apple tests many different versions of different products. In later months, these claims were backed up by Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and All Things D.
With all their reputations on the line, we know we’re looking at a 7.85-inch screen iPad.
To help understand what a 7.85-inch screen looks like compared to other offerings, twitter user Trojan Kitten made a chart showing how the 7.85-inch screen is effectively 40 percent larger than 7-inch competitors (it has to do with surface area).This speculation accounts for a 4 by 3, 1024 x 768 screen similar to the iPad 1 and 2. This would be a 163 pixel per inch screen similar to the iPhone’s pre-retina display days. However, the screens for an iPad Mini could be cut from the slabs used on the iPhone 4S and Forth generation iPod Touch, however the performance setbacks from a retina display would likely drive the price way above $200-$250 and plague the device with batter issues.
We can assume a retina display won’t make it in this version of the device.
Hardware leaks from Ukrainian iPhone suggest a design more similar to an enlarged iPhone or iPod touch and less like a minimized iPad, giving it a more narrow bezel on the left and right sides of the device. French website Nowhere Else backs up this claim with a complete mock-up of the device, showing a flat and geometric back, Lighting port connector, front and back-facing cameras and thinner size bezels.
We can assume Lightning port connector, front and rear-facing cameras, ultra-thin geometric design.
What’s harder to peg down is an exact cost. The New York Times reported it to be “significantly less than the latest $499 iPad.” Significantly less would be about half, and at $250, it can directly compete with the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7.
We can assume between $199 and $399 (current cost of iPad 2) with it leaning closer to $250.