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
Buyer's Guide: iPad Mini (Buy Now)
Related Forum: iPad

Top Rated Comments

Starflyer Avatar
120 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
120 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
120 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
120 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
120 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
120 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)

Top Stories

beats updater

Apple Officially Retires Beats Updater Utility in Favor of Over-the-Air Firmware Updates

Wednesday September 30, 2020 2:30 am PDT by
Apple has officially retired Beats Updater, the software utility that lets users update the firmware of their Beats Wireless headphones, earphones, and speakers. Beats Updater allows users to plug their Beats product directly into the USB port of their computer to check for firmware updates online, but with Apple's growing tendency to deliver over-the-air updates to wireless products via iOS ...
calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
m1 imac orange

New iMac Tidbits: Headphone Jack on Side, Ethernet Port on Power Adapter, Spatial Audio and WiFi 6 Support, No SD Card Slot

Wednesday April 21, 2021 6:38 am PDT by
Apple yesterday announced a completely redesigned 24-inch iMac with the M1 Apple silicon chip. The new iMac, the first major redesign of the Mac desktop computer since 2012, has several changes compared to the previous generation. In the aftermath of the event, a few new features and tidbits may have slipped under the radar, so we’ve compiled this list of some of the less-talked-about...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...