What should we expect from Apple’s iPad Mini?

August 21, 2012

Seven things to expect from Apple’s iPad Mini

It will have a 7.85-inch display

After all the rumors, one thing that seems certain is that the iPad Mini will have a 7.85-inch display. Several reports quoting sources in the supply chain claim this is true, as does Daring Fireball’s John Gruber.

Apple will effectively dodge the question of whether it's challenged Steve Jobs famous criticism that 7-inch tablets are a lousy form factor because, at 7.85 inches, the iPad Mini can reasonably be considered an 8-inch tablet.

Many have questioned why Apple has gone for a 7.85-inch display, which is an odd size by all accounts.

“I have always been amused at the rumors specifying a 7.85-inch screen for the iPad Mini. You get a 7.85-inch diagonal with 1024 x 768 pixels and 163 pixels per inch, which is the same PPI used for all the early iPhones (1 to 3GS) and iPod Touches,” said display expert Dr. Ray Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies.

“But there is absolutely zero advantage for Apple to stick with 163 PPI, because the iPad Mini will require an entirely new LCD mask to be made."

There may be a couple of reasons for the size. For starters, a 7.85-inch display maintains the 4:3 aspect ratio as featured on the iPad and iPhone families, meaning developers won’t have to tweak their existing native iPhone and iPad apps, while it could be that this particular size is more efficient when it comes cutting each display from a glass substrate.

The iPad Mini will debut in October

Apple is expected to debut the much-anticipated iPhone 5 September 12 and earlier speculation had the iPad Mini sharing the stage at the same event. However, more recent reports say Apple wants to give each device its own coming out party, with the iPad Mini getting the spotlight in October. 

The iPad Mini won’t be called the iPad Mini

Not everyone will agree, but the betting here is that Apple won't use the iPad Mini name – or iPhone 5 for that matter. 

The truth is Apple always goes against the grain when it comes to names (who can forget the surprise of "the new iPad" when everyone expected it to be called the iPad 3).

Early mock-ups of the device may suggest that the tablet will bear a closer resemblance to the iPod Touch, and Gartner’s VP of consumer devices Carolina Milanesi even reckons the device could fall into the iPod family.

“My theory is that Apple could introduce a smaller tablet but call it an iPod Touch,” Milanesi said during a recent media briefing. “That way they can keep the iPad brand separate and still say a 7-inch design isn’t good enough for a tablet.” 

A contrarian view was recently posted by the blog Mactakara which claims an unnamed source close to Apple says the company has decided to use the iPad Mini name. We'll see. 

The price will be under $300

Some researchers have forecast a price of around $299, which looks like a good bet. The New York Times also cited one source as stating the very obvious — that Apple's smaller tablet will be priced ‘considerably less’ than the new iPad.

And although ABI Research’s Jeff Orr recently told TabTimes that “miniaturization of technology product design often leads to increased costs for similar functionality”, expect Apple to bring the iPad Mini in at about $299 in order to compete with the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire ($199) without cannibalizing demand for the iPad 2 ($399). A recent estimate claimed that the iPad Mini's manufacturing costs will come to around $190, so $299 would be good for both Apple and consumers.

There will only be one camera

Purported images have shown that the iPad Mini may only have one front-facing camera, as Apple looks to cut component costs.

Smaller dock connector

Further component images of the supposed 7-inch iPad would indicate that Apple is quietly preparing to introduce a smaller 8-pin dock connector to feature on the iPad Mini and iPhone 5

Why the change? Apple fansite iMore reckons Apple may be reconfiguring their entire collection of iDevices, including the iPod Nano, iPod Touch, iPad Mini and future versions of the iPad, with smaller dock connectors this fall. The source says that Apple will do this to maintain ‘consistent Dock connectors across the line’.

It will (probably) run iOS 6

This one is far from guaranteed, but iOS 6.0 looks a good bet to be included on Apple’s next tablet given this latest update to Apple's iOS is expected to launch in September.

So far, we know that the iOS 6.0 will have Apple’s own Maps client (Google Maps has been cast aside), enhanced Siri features, Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, and a Passbook app which will help users manage travel arrangements. FaceTime will also work over 3G and 4G, while there will be a new and improved Safari browser.

3 things we don’t yet know about the iPad Mini

Will it have a Retina Display?

The display holds the most intrigue, because Apple equipped its new iPad with the stunning Retina Display that, at 2048 x 1536, holds a better resolution than flat screen HD TVs.

The trouble is on two fronts; technically, this would be difficult to fit to a 7-inch tablet, while a display may arguably be too costly for a $299 retail price.

“It is a bit of a stretch to think that Apple would introduce a mini iPad that isn't 1024 x 768 because that is the standard base resolution for all iPads, and all existing iPad Apps are written for that screen resolution and 4:3 screen shape”, said DisplayMate's Soneira.

“It is true that they could make it a somewhat higher resolution screen with a somewhat wider aspect ratio and then run the 1024×768 Apps "letterboxed" inside, but that would be awkward and inelegant and not the Apple way I would think.”

Even if Apple could/did do this, such a high resolution screen would be costly. A recent estimate revealed that each ‘new’ iPad screen (display and touchscreen) costs $127. This compares with $97 for the iPad 1 and iPad 2 screens.

If Apple plans to sell the iPad Mini at $249 or $299, the Retina Display will probably have to be left behind.

Cellular connectivity

Will the iPad Mini come with 3G or 4G? No-one knows at this stage, although it is perhaps unlikely given each wireless module for the iPad reportedly costs just over $40. And as we know already, most tablets to date are WiFi only.

How much memory will the iPad Mini have?

There are also questions about whether the iPad Mini will come with 8GB or 16GB of memory. This isn't overly important for Android tablets, given most feature a microSD card slot, but Apple has long since cast aside such options.

One analyst said earlier in the year that the tablet will have 16GB of memory, but again with the costs involved and the danger of iPad 2 cannibalization, it may be that Apple prefers an 8GB edition with a nice tie-in to iCloud and iTunes to make up for limited memory. 

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