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Why Apple's 7.85-Inch 'iPad Mini' Isn't a 7-Inch Tablet

With rumors of an "iPad mini" launch in the coming months ramping up, there has been much discussion about just how usable such a device would be running at the 1024x768 resolution of pre-Retina iPad models. In particular, some commenters have pointed to Steve Jobs' October 2010 discussion of the 7-inch tablets from competitors that were just then hitting the market, where he outlined Apple's belief that such tablets were too small to be useful.

While we argued as long ago as last December that scaling the iPad display down to a rumored 7.85-inch screen would still maintain usability and we provided iPad- and print- friendly examples to allow users to test for themselves, many have remain unconvinced of the benefits of a smaller iPad.

Daring Fireball's John Gruber now takes another detailed look at what an iPad mini would entail, arguing that a 7.85-inch display on an iPad mini would be a very different experience from the 7-inch screen being used by competitors such as Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7.
So, how can we square the idea of Apple making an iPad Mini with Jobs’s remarks from just a year and a half ago? We could point out (again) that 7.85 inches is closer to 8 inches than 7, and that the exact size of the purported iPad Mini display offers 66 percent of the surface area of a 9.7-inch iPad, not 45 percent [as is the case with a 7-inch display]. We could point out (again) that, assuming Apple-recommended 44-point user interface tap targets on a display with 163 points per inch, it should offer tap targets of the exact same physical size as every iPhone made to date, thus avoiding the need for Apple to include sandpaper with the device.

Comparison of "iPad mini" to 7-inch tablets and full-size iPad (Source: @trojankitten, via Daring Fireball)

Gruber goes on to note that Jobs was panning small, expensive tablets running a version of Android never intended to be used on devices larger than phones and that the tablets hitting the market today are very different products. He also points to Jobs' repeated efforts at misdirection in which he publicly spoke out against certain ideas even as Apple was pursuing them, as well as Jobs' ability to quickly and decisively change his mind at times.

Beyond the size of the iPad mini, Gruber also addresses the topic of a non-Retina display in the device, suggesting that with Apple seeking to keep pricing down the display will be one of the main ways it can achieve its desired pricing while retaining significant margins. The iPad mini would naturally gain a Retina display a year or two down the road as pricing continues to drop.

Finally, in addressing pricing on the rumored iPad mini Gruber suggests that Apple could approach the $199 pricing seen on the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 by leveraging its massive supply chain and economies of scale to bring its own costs down to the neighborhood of $150 and still maintain profitability. But even pricing of $249 could be competitive depending on hardware features and factoring in the benefits of Apple's extensive iOS/iTunes/App Store ecosystem for customers.

Related roundup: iPad mini 3

Top Rated Comments

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32 months ago

If Apple do release this iPad mini, I would bet all the money I have that it WILL be retina.


I'll take that bet.
Rating: 35 Votes
32 months ago
If each of us just copied and pasted our existing posts from all the recent 7.85" iPad Mini rumor threads on this site, I bet this new discussion wouldn't look appreciably different from how it will actually turn out.
Rating: 14 Votes
32 months ago
I like the iPad just the way it is. If they come out with a mini, so be it. But I'll gladly pay for the extra real estate.
Rating: 11 Votes
32 months ago
If they can offer a smaller iPad at $250 they'll retain their major lead in the tablet market for the foreseeable future.
Rating: 7 Votes
32 months ago
Currently I have an iPod Touch. It's the single most useful Apple product that I own. I literally have it either on my desk, in my pack, or on the nightstand 24/7. When it comes time to replace it what are the options:

Our full sized iPad is wonderfully powerful but a bit too large to carry with me every day.
The iPod Touch is great for carrying but it's a bit too small for web surfing and underpowered for some tasks.
A 7" device might be "just right".
Rating: 7 Votes
32 months ago
I hate Apple's bezels with a fervent passion.
Rating: 6 Votes
32 months ago
It makes you wonder. A great deal of the 7" tablet appeal was for an extremely small, light, and portable e-reader. Will making the iPad Mini 40% larger than these 7" tablets actually take away from this appeal?
Rating: 6 Votes
32 months ago

So this is how the Steve-is-infallible fanatics will explain the U-turn.


If you knew anything about steve you would know he was known to change directions if convinced it was the best idea.
Rating: 5 Votes
32 months ago
I remember when people argued that no one wanted a tablet and it was a dumb idea and look how many they have sold. so my opinion on the smaller is no matter what people say they would sell a crapload of them and thats what matters. I know i would buy one for at least 4 family members that enjoy the simplicity of tablets compared to computers. on an ipad if they get confused or dont understand whats going on they can just press the home button and all is right with the world again. my parents are afraid of computers because they are always afraid they will screw them up or delete the wrong thing. not so with tablets. being able to just press the home button when they get lost is huge.
Rating: 5 Votes
32 months ago

Perhaps, he doesn't want an ugly tablet. Huge bezel=ugly


my point is, how would you hold it? your fingers would be touching the screen, constantly. the bezel is a place for your fingers to go.. maybe with in cell tech they can figure out a way around it. I can see it now, apple releases a thin bezel iPad and the forums fill up with comments like "how does apple expect me to use this when all i do is hold it and my fingers trigger all kinds of things. I guess im 'holding it wrong'"
Rating: 5 Votes

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