When Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new tablet device in March of 2012, people reacted “Why would we want it? It’s just a giant iPhone.” Yes, exactly. It was a giant iPhone, and that’s why it was amazing. See my YouTube video from a much younger me reacting to it.
Currently there are rumors of an iPad mini and the same reaction is the same, “Uh, it’s called an iPod touch”. I cannot begin to tell you how wrong these people are. Are you saying there is no medium between 3.5″ and 9.7″? Yes there is…7″. Also, that’s what she said.
Whether one accepts it or not, here is why the iPad mini would make sense.
Size Matters: Form Factor
The fact of the matter is Apple does not compete with other tablets. It is as if they are in their own ecosystem with the size of the iPad. With the Nexus Tablet, Kindle Fire and other medium-sized tablets, Apple could disrupt that market. I interviewed some tablet users and asked them if they would have purchased an iPad if it was the form-factor and size of a 7″ tablet. All of them said yes. Two main reasons why people do not purchase an iPad: Price and form factor. Here is a great comment from my good friend Tac Anderson too. I have little cousins who cannot physically hold an iPad with comfort.
Think of it as Apple adding a medium sized shirt to the small and large collection. Users are very specific about their hardware and want something for their purpose. It makes sense to provide a third option.
The rumor on Bloomberg is that this device will compete at the $199 price point. Look at the success of the current iPad and imagine how many people would purchase this if there was an affordable version. Don’t think of just individuals, but schools, smaller companies, etc.
Why It’s Not an iPhone or iPod touch
I often wonder why Android users don’t compare their phone to an Android tablet, but for iOS “it’s the same thing”. The user experience is different. iOS on the iPhone is designed for single-hand usage where as a tablet is probably using two hands. The other obvious factor is that the screen size of the iPad mini is going to be about three times the size of the iPhone, with a much more substantial battery life.
What it Means for iOS Designers + Developers
My hope is…nothing much. It seems like there is an opportunity to retain the old 1024×768 pixel range while increasing the density to fit on a 7″ device. Think of it as the original iPad cut down to size to become a retina display. Perhaps like how iOS developers use @2x assets for the retina display, it can be scaled down for the iPad mini. It’s very possible that it would not be a reduction by half by perhaps 1.5.
As an iOS designer, I cannot tell you how happy I would be if there was a new device where you could still use the same aspect ratio.
This product is going to make a lot of competitors cry, trust me. Yes, it is a different size of something that already exists, but quite frankly, that’s all it needs to be in order to achieve success.
If you know why a smaller and more affordable version of a device that has sold to 55 million+ (as of February 2012) users wouldn’t be successful, I would really love to know.
If you do not want the iPad mini, I can assure you that Tim Cook will (probably) not go to your house, point a gun at you and make you buy one, but you can bet that there will be millions of people who will purchase it. These devices might be targeted towards European and Asian markets as well.
So the magic question some of you have asked me…would I personally buy one? Yes, I’d buy four. One for each of my little cousins