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.

tablet size comparison
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 5
Buyer's Guide: iPad Mini (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

Starflyer Avatar
113 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.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Westside guy Avatar
113 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.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BornAgainApple Avatar
113 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.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Daalseth Avatar
113 months ago
Three Bears

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".
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hobo.hopkins Avatar
113 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.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mad Mac Maniac Avatar
113 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?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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