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 5
Buyer's Guide: iPad Mini (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

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109 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.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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109 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.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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109 months ago
In real life, iPad Mini is as unlikely as this:

Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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109 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.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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! :)
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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