There have been numerous rumors of late concerning Apple’s plans to release a smaller version of the iPad. In fact, there have been similar rumors ever since Steve Jobs first stood on stage and unveiled the original iPad. And yet Apple is still not ready to talk about this product that may or may not be in the pipeline.
Apple founder Steve Jobs, now sadly departed, is known to have not been a fan of 7-inch tablets. He believed 9.85-inches was the premium size for a tablet – small enough to be portable, large enough to be usable – and Apple has so far stuck to his grand plan for the form factor. But I think different(ly); I believe now is the time for Apple to release a Mini iPad. If they do I may even buy one myself.
The Mini iPad featured in most of the rumors would feature a screen measuring around 7-inches, boast 8GB of storage, and a Retina Display the same as the full-sized iPad 3. In fact, apart from the smaller size and less storage the Mini iPad could be identical to the new iPad in every conceivable way. Except price, which would likely be pitched between $200 and $250.
What follows are the reasons I believe Apple should release a Mini iPad, and soon.
It may surprise some to learn that not everyone has the same needs when it comes to a tablet. Apple has so far displayed an unwillingness to accept this fact, dictating the terms of ownership to its customers. The attitude seems to be, “We think tablets should be 9.85-inches and only 9.85-inches, so take it or leave it.”
While the 10-inch tablet form is superior in some ways – consuming video content, playing games, writing on the virtual keyboard – the 7-inch form is superior in others – reading eBooks, added portability, can be used with one hand. The fact is that tablets aren’t one-size-fits-all, and Apple should be catering to people with needs different from those the current iPad copes with admirably. Releasing a Mini iPad would go some way to achieving that.
As well as enabling Apple to cater to more people, reducing the size of the iPad would also mean reducing the cost of the components and consequently the price paid by consumers. The new iPad starts at $499, which is too expensive for a lot of people’s budgets. If the Mini iPad was priced at around the $200 mark it would bring it in to more people’s field of vision as a device that is affordable.
Tablets are a strange breed of device in that they’re not indispensable in any way. While most of us need a laptop and a phone, we could live without our tablets. This makes pricing crucial. You may gamble on something costing $100 but you likely won’t on something costing $600. Even those who aren’t sure how often they would use a tablet could be tempted by the Mini iPad.
Releasing a smaller, cheaper version of the iPad would bring new consumers in to the Apple fold. People who eye the current iPad with desire but cannot justify the cost, or who have tried out different sizes of tablets and concluded that the current iPad is just too large for their individual needs.
The Apple ecosystem is such that customers who buy one Apple product tend to buy more. Tempting people in with a $200 iPad would inevitably lead to them installing iTunes and buying content. It could also lead to them buying a full-sized iPad, an iPhone, or even a Mac. Which would all add to Apple’s burgeoning coffers and justify selling a Mini iPad.
Last but not least, Apple could, at a stroke, kill, or at least severely injure, the competition.
There are a host of tablets other than the iPad out on the market. Unfortunately many people adopt the blinkered approach and head straight to their nearest Apple Store. However, Android tablets are growing in popularity, especially as the prices drop and the hardware and OS improve. Even cheap, generic Android tablets are now very capable.
Then there is the prospect of a Nexus tablet on the horizon, with Google expected to add the form factor to its line-up of flagship Android devices by the end of this year. And Windows 8 tablets (and hybrids) which, although some are already mocking, could prove to be popular with folks who still prefer Windows over any other operating system.
If Apple were to release a Mini iPad at a bargain price it would eat into existing Android tablet sales and suck the air out of the launches of both the Google Nexus tablet and devices running Windows 8. On the other hand, if Apple does nothing but offer incremental iPad upgrades for the next few years it could find itself with some serious competition in the market it has so far dominated.
Would I, as the new owner of a 7-inch Android tablet, be interested in a Mini iPad? I hate to admit it, especially at the risk of being stoned by fellow Android advocates, but I would at least be tempted. If, of course, the price was right. While I see no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a full-sized iPad, I could see me using a smaller, cheaper iPad. If only to have access to some of the iOS-only apps.
Do you believe the time is ripe for Apple to release a Mini iPad? Would you consider buying one if they did? As always we’re keen to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Opinion is free, discussion is good, debate is healthy.