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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

Top Rated Comments

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32 months ago
Bet someone is rolling around in their grave at the moment.
Rating: 55 Votes
32 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: 26 Votes
32 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?
Rating: 20 Votes
32 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: 16 Votes
32 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: 14 Votes
32 months ago
In real life, iPad Mini is as unlikely as this:

Rating: 14 Votes
32 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
32 months ago
Won't happen. Not a chance in the world. They don't need another product between the iPod touch and the iPad. If you want a smaller screen, buy an iPod touch. How would they even market this. I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and haven't touched it since. Apple got it right the first time around.
Rating: 7 Votes
32 months ago
I like my HP TouchPad, but I wouldn't mind a smaller iPad in addition to my Touchpad. Pretty cool IMO
Rating: 6 Votes
32 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: 6 Votes

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