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iPad Mini Rumor Roundup: Screen, Design And Tech Specs

As the iPhone 5 advanced into its production phase, the blogosphere was flooded with component photo leaks, silencing the iPad mini rumor mill. In the light of previous rumors claiming that the iPhone 5 and iPad mini will be launched at the same event on September 12, the silence surrounding the smaller iPad could means two things: (1) Apple isn’t working on it or (2) the device entered into production later, which means we will see it happening later this year.

iPad mini
Since I bet on a smaller version iPad, I tend to believe in a later launch, and the reasoning is very simple: Apple doesn’t want to split a key event focusing two major devices. In other words, the launch of the iPhone 5 will be a key event Apple’s history, as well as the launch of the iPad mini, so if you think a bit as Apple’s marketing team, it’s obvious that you want the same accentuated focus on both devices.

Going further, a smaller and cheaper version of the most popular iPad sounds great, but what have we had so far? Not much, but let’s go through it together. Firstly, there is the display. We now know [?] its size: it measures 7.85 inches diagonally, and it has the same pixel-per-inch density as the iPad 2—1024 x 768 pixels at 163 ppi—with the same 4:3 aspect ratio. In other words, just like the pre-retina iPads, but a bit smaller.

iPad Mini Design

The blogosphere has a couple of answers, but I’m not sure if a blown-up iPhone is the device you might want to hold into your hands. Secondly, if you look at the iPhone and iPad’s designs, they are totally different, and each component’s proportions are suited to its particular function. Indeed, they share a couple of similar design elements, but if you think about the bezel, that says it all: the iPad has thick bezels, while the iPhone doesn’t. The answer lays in its usage: you don’t need a place to rest your thumbs on the iPhone, as with the iPad.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball is right when he says that we mustn't imagine the iPad mini as a shrunken version of the original. The reasoning is once again is usage related, and how we interact with the device, which obviously is the influencing factor in industrial design. Knowing Apple and Jony Ive’s attention to every small detail, the iPad mini will indeed have a totally different design.

9to5mac and ZooGue have caught iPad mini part leaks and published them, but all we have so far is its back. The rest—showing its front—is fake, or let’s call it “fantasy rendering”. As the images show, the iPad mini back panel sides aren’t tapered, but rather round. In addition, some of the images are missing the expected microphone hole, which I assume will be drilled at a later stage of production.

Another important piece of information the image leaks reveal is that the iPad mini will have a 4:3 aspect ratio (just a guess based on the images circulating the Web), which will give the device some similarities with the iPhone in terms of design. My guess is that the bezel will be thinner on both sides, and thicker at the top and bottom, as Apple needs room to include a front-facing camera and the home button.

The iPad mini and the 7-inch Tablet Market

Well, there are two major players: Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the recently released Google Nexus 7. Both of them have their own success stories: The Kindle Fire was an unexpected success when launched, and the Nexus 7 got mostly positive reviews. But the 7-inch tablet interaction makes user’s change their habits compared to the iPad or, let’s say, the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

First of all, let me note here that the market is cropped for smaller tablets, as the aforementioned two device’s success show. Secondly, the key element of a smaller tablet—such as the iPad mini—is its display and physical specs. What I mean here is weight and thickness. Again, my argument is very simple: you don’t want to carry a thick device in your pocket, and the 7-inch tablets tend to be used and held with one hand. So, considering these two main usage factors, Apple is on to a winner if it manages to cut down both weight and thickness.

Assuming that the iPad mini will be Wi-Fi only—which is very likely—everything is set for a thin (7.2 mm?) device: the iPod Touch lacks only the phone components of the iPhone and it is 7.2 mm thin (compared to the 9.3 mm of the iPhone 4S), which, as I see it, confirms the possibility of a thinner iPad. Secondly, the in-cell technology also allows Apple to cut down a millimeter or two from the expected iPad mini’s thickness. However, the upcoming iPhone is expected to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, so we can be sure that Apple will use its experience when designing a product for the consumer market. This also means that the device will be much lighter than its competitors, which is a key factor considering this device will mostly be held by one hand.

My final question: will Apple lose the pixel-density battle with the iPad mini? Based on the information provided by the rumors—until now—it looks like it will. But it will gain much more by making a thinner and lighter mini tablet than its competitors, an international launch and cellular connectivity, as well as avoiding iOS market fragmentation by introducing another device with another display resolution with the iPad mini. [Image courtesy of ZooGue]

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