There have been rumors of a smaller 7-inch iPad since…well, since the original iPad hit the street. With the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire, though, followed by the announcement of the Google Nexus 7, speculation has once again reached a fever pitch.
Is a smaller iPad a good idea? It has its merits. But, there are also a number of reasons not to do it. Let’s take a look at the case for and against an “iPad Mini”.
First, the arguments in favor of an iPad Mini:
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The iPad is a phenomenal device. But, as thin and light as it is, it is too large to fit in an average-sized woman’s purse, and it can be a bit unwieldy to hold and use one-handed for extended periods of time.
Smaller devices like the Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, or the new Google Nexus 7 aren’t true one-handed devices since you can’t reach all areas of the display while holding it with one hand. Still, there’s something to be said for the smaller, lighter form factor, and the relative success of the Kindle Fire suggests there’s a market there for an economy tablet.
Some People Won’t Spend $500
Speaking of economy tablets, for some people it’s purely a matter of economics. The smartphone is essentially required technology at this point, and has a lot of overlap with the capabilities of a tablet. But, the smartphone display is too small for many productivity tasks.
People in the market for a touchscreen device larger than their smartphone may find tablets like the iPad, or equivalent Android rivals compelling, but simply don’t have the $400 or more to spend on a device. That may explain the success of the Samsung Galaxy Note “phablet” that tries to be both devices at once.
For cost-conscious users, a $200 tablet is a much easier extravagance to justify.
Stepping Stone (or Gateway Drug)
On that note, an iPad Mini also fills a gap in the iOS ecosystem. As it stands now, younger users can get started with an iPod Touch, and then when they’re in the market for a smartphone the iPhone makes perfect sense because it’s essentially the same device and they’re already invested in the apps and culture.
A tablet might be the next logical step in that iOS progression, but size and cost are both factors again. A smaller, cheaper iPad gives iPhone users a stepping stone to work up to the iPad.
If Apple doesn’t offer an iPad Mini, it may break the cycle and surrender this middle market to the competition. Once they transition to another platform, they’ll be invested in that ecosystem and it will be that much harder to win them back if they choose to buy a larger tablet in the future.