Why wouldn’t Apple make an iPad mini?

While I already talked about a possible “iPad mini” in early 2012, a recent post at 9to5Mac pushes the topic a little bit further. This time the story is based on a rumor of LG Display becoming Apple’s supplier of 7.35 inch displays for the said iPad mini. While I’m not absolutely convinced that the said report is true, it boggles the mind why so many people automatically just disregard even the slightest possibility of Apple releasing an “iPad mini”.

Yes, I perfectly know that Apple rumors do have a strong tendency to be complete nonsense, but industry based rumors at least have some probability of being true and usually can give us some kind of a hint about the direction, in which Apple is moving. Furthermore, the whole idea of Apple expanding the iPad lineup isn’t that crazy, if you think about it (or just make the right conclusions from the last ten years): Apple did it with the iPod and acquired total dominance in the market, Apple eventually did it with the iPhone and now it’s two phones are the two most populars smartphones in US. Yet people reject any possibility of Apple releasing an iPad mini.

Heck, at this point I think it would be more appropriate to ask why wouldn’t Apple make an iPad mini? In regard to this people usually mention stuff like fragmentation, Steve’s disregard for 7 inch tablets and 9.7 inch (i.e. the size of a regular iPad) being a good choice of size and at first these all look like valid points, but let’s examine them closer:

  • Apple doesn’t like, nor does it want to add any additional fragmentation the iOS ecosystem — it’s a solid fact, but releasing a new iPad can be accomplished without adding any additional fragmentation: the 7.35 inch (or 7.85 inch, depending on the rumors) display can have the same (1024 x 768 pixels) resolution, as a regular iPad — it will just have slightly bigger pixel density, so no apps would need to be readjusted by developers. Yes, this will make all the elements on the screen of an iPad mini a little smaller, but the difference in screen-size isn’t that big to make this a real problem.
  • As history more than once proved, Steve’s disregard of some type of product isn’t always his own true opinion, but more of an attempt to downplay the said category (if Apple isn’t yet present in it) or Apple’s interest in it (if Apple is currently working on a said device). If anything, Steve’s harsh words towards smaller tablets could be a direct indication that the company is working in this direction. And lets not forget, that the said criticism was directed at tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which like most similar 7 inch tablets has a wide-screen design — these kind of tablets indeed aren’t very comfortable to use, nor are the versatile. A slightly bigger (7.35 or 7.85 inch) screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio would be much better.
  • While I agree that a 9.7 inch screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio is indeed a a very good and balanced choice for a tablet, it’s should be obvious that some use cases or users can prefer different sizes, e.g. a smaller and more mobile iPad that would fit in a woman’s purse. And while first there was a small amount of such users (simply because the tablet market it self was quite small), as the tablet market grows there will be more and more of them and it should be obvious that Apple wouldn’t want to cede this market segment to possible competitors.

As I already mentioned in a previous post about an iPad mini in 2012, I think it’s not a matter of If, but when Apple will expand it’s iPad line. Sure, the expansion of the iPad line could go the iPhone route and differentiate devices more on specs, that size, essentially keeping the last year’s model as a low-end device (iPad 3 with a quad-core A6 SoC and a 2048 x 1536 Retina Display from $499 and a “regular” iPad 2 with 16 Gb of storage for $399), but tablets aren’t phones, so a different size is more probable, besides the fact that screen size is perceived by many as a good justification for price difference.

The timing of the possible iPad lineup expansion is mostly tied to Apple’s ability to create a new device, which would be cheaper, but not worse (e.g. having the same battery life), without sacrificing the margins on it. It’s also worth mentioning that decreasing the entry price down even by $100 could result in a giant leap in sales (like the introduction of the iPod mini back in the day), so Apple probably will go for it only if it’s confident in it’s ability to meet demand.

Thoughts on tech