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Why a 7.85" Screen for the Rumored 'iPad Mini' Makes Sense

Rumors of an "iPad mini" have been persistent over the past couple of years, despite an early dismissal of the 7" tablet form-factor by Apple's Steve Jobs:
There are clear limits to how close elements can be on the screen before users can't touch accurately. We believe 10-inch screen is minimum necessary.
Jobs' dismissal centers around an interface issue that a 10-inch screen is believed to be the minimum necessary to provide a good user interface.

Still, rumors of a smaller iPad have persisted with the latest rumors pinpointing a 7.85" screen for such a device. Apple has reportedly received samples of 1024x768 7.85" screens with rumors of mass production of the device sometime this fall.

AppAdvice digs into this exact screen size and reveals why the 7.85" size is not as arbitrary as it might seem.

The site calculates the points per inch (PPI) of such an imaginary 7.85" 1024x768 display and finds it to be 163 PPI. This is the exact same pixel density as the original iPhone and iPod Touch before the Retina Display. Apple's human interface guidelines for iOS development for both iPad and iPhone outline that the minimum size for tappable user interface elements at 44 x 44 points (0.27 x 0.27 inches on the original iPhone screen).

This 44 x 44 point size recommendation is true for the original iPhone and the original iPad, even though the original iPad was slightly less pixel-dense. (On Retina-enabled displays, the recommendation remains at 44 x 44 points, but with each point represented by 2 pixels)

What this means is that any iPad application that was designed with these guidelines in mind would never drop below Apple's recommended 44 x 44 point (0.27 x 0.27 inches) when displayed on a 7.85" miniaturized iPad. As we noted in our paper mockup of a iPad mini, that the user interface elements seemed perfectly usable on the smaller screen, and this would explain why. iPad apps would run without modification on a 7.85" iPad without any elements dropping below what Apple considers the minimal tappable size.

None of this means that Apple will definitely be producing such a device, but does show the 7.85" size is not an arbitrary decision. Existing iPad apps would run reasonably well without modification on such a device.

Related roundup: iPad mini 3

Top Rated Comments

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36 months ago
Smaller would be nice, but I have a hard time believing Apple will introduce a non-Retina device. I think that they've made it clear where they stand on display quality.
Rating: 22 Votes
36 months ago
After upgrading everything from the iPod Touch to the iPad to "retina" pixel density, they are now going backwards to offer a 163ppi non-retina display on a brand new great product? I don't think it will happen.
Rating: 14 Votes
36 months ago
In real life, iPad Mini is as unlikely as this:

Rating: 11 Votes
36 months ago
I don't think that this product will ever exist, unless Apple really cuts their margins. The Kindle Fire has the brand awareness in this size area. I don't think that people will buy the iPad mini unless its ≤$249. That leaves some room for the "Apple Tax" but I doubt that people will pay much more.
Rating: 10 Votes
36 months ago
Highly unlikely. Why does Apple need this? Is the iPad not selling well all of a sudden? The kindle is a completely different product. If this is what Apple does as a way of "finding it's own non-Jobsian" vision we're in trouble
Rating: 6 Votes
36 months ago

I don't mean to argue with a dead man, who knew a lot more about what people want than I do.

However: If 10" is the smallest usable screen size, how do you explain the popularity of the iPhone?


When Apple and Jobs said it was the smallest usable screen size they were referring specifically to apps. As Job stated, any smaller and you wouldn't really be able to create apps that were any different than phone apps.

What makes the iPad so nice is not just that the apps are larger. The apps on the iPad are actually designed using a different UI that better takes advantage of the screen size.

If you look at the nicer universal iPad apps, they are quite different from their iPhone counterparts in design and functionality. They aren't just simply larger versions of phone apps. The smaller devices competing with the iPad don't allow enough room to offer anything more than just scaled up phone apps.
Rating: 6 Votes
36 months ago
This calculation works for a 2048 x 1536 display at the iPhone's 326 ppi resolution as well - I would have though it more reasonable to expect a theoretical 7.9 inch 'iPad Mini' at that resolution, rather than the old non-retina resolution (the iPad 2 is the only device still sold at that resolution).

Certainly would make for an interesting product! :)
Rating: 6 Votes
36 months ago
I don't care about the hardware anymore.
It's good.

If Apple wants to get people excited they need to totally overhaul iOS

It needs a file system that we can store documents from eMails and things like that and find them all in one place.

Also the endless rows of icons is pretty dumb. It's disorganized unless you spend hours dealing with wiggling icons.

I also want to see some live icons.

Fix all that before we start talking about different sizes
Rating: 5 Votes
36 months ago

When Apple and Jobs said it was the smallest usable screen size they were referring specifically to apps. As Job stated, any smaller and you wouldn't really be able to create apps that were any different than phone apps.

What makes the iPad so nice is not just that the apps are larger. The apps on the iPad are actually designed using a different UI that better takes advantage of the screen size.

If you look at the nicer universal iPad apps, they are quite different from their iPhone counterparts in design and functionality. They aren't just simply larger versions of phone apps. The smaller devices competing with the iPad don't allow enough room to offer anything more than just scaled up phone apps.


I get this argument, but rather than explain why it's wrong, I'll show you with a picture I made:



[This is using the 7.85" iPad mockup that Macrumors made, with an iPod Touch laid on top of it for comparison.]

You can't tell me that it's a coincidence that a 7.85" iPad has precisely the same sized tap targets for UI elements as an iPhone and iPod Touch. The best argument that iPad-optimized apps scaled down to a 7.85" iOS device is usable is Apple's own devices. For some reason, no one has really made this point yet despite the rumor being around for months.
Rating: 5 Votes
36 months ago
I'll begin by admitting my bias. I ordered an iPad 3, 64 GB, Verizon LTE on opening day (it arrived via FedEx in the afternoon of launch day), and after spending 2 days with it, I promptly returned it. It was too big. I had been excited for months at the thought of up-scaling my intensive app use from my iPhone upon transfer to my iPad, and the device was just not right for me. I travel between clients often (I work with kids in their homes) and I had assumed (wrongly, I know, and without good evidence) that the devices could be held in one hand and operated in the other. In theory, this is true, but in practice, people set them down on something much more often.

I feel as if I saved $905.

Now, the thought of paying $400 for a similar device, in a smaller form factor, even without the retina display, is a no-brainer. The device would surely be light enough to hold in one hand. I printed a mockup of a 7.85-inch iPad and have been holding it to envision the user experience, and I really like it.

My other rationale for Apple releasing a non-retina iPad is this: Apple tends to condescend occasionally to meet the needs of a demographic that (a) cannot afford the premium cost of most Apple products, but (b) salivates at the thought of owning one just like the rest of us.

Right now, the iPod Touch may be an example of this. It's cheaper than the iPhone, and can't do quite as much, but it satisfies most of the desired ends of having an iPhone.

The iPod Mini, or iPod Shuffle also may be examples of Apple condescending to let the untouched market get its hands on Apple devices.

I'm really hoping Apple releases a Kindle-Killer, because there's no way I'm buying a Kindle Fire (you've got me, Apple!) After trial-and-error, I've realized the smaller (7.85-inch) size would be perfect for my needs.
Rating: 4 Votes

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