Ah, here we go again. The month’s got a ‘Y’ in it, or it’s a full moon, or a Friday, or whatever. Whichever is the reason this time, the rumours of a 7-inch iPad Mini have resurfaced. And the entire tech webosphere is alight with reports that, this time, it’s definitely going to happen. Is it hell. If you think Apple is going to make a mini iPad, you don’t know Apple. Here’s why…
The rumour? An iPad Mini that Apple will produce and sell at a loss. Cost to you: about $200 or £150. The idea is simple: the Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 are cleaning up with smaller, cheaper iPads, and Apple wants in. Thing is, there are several pretty large problems with this theory.
Where to start? Saying that it’s nonsense because the rumour has come to nothing for three years on the trot is a valid point, but it doesn’t really help in this case because the market is a bit different these days, thanks largely to the Amazon Kindle Fire. That said, my argument still stand thanks to a few key points. These are as follows:
Steve Jobs would never have let a mini iPad see the light of day. The man hated the very idea of such a device. The current rumour says that the mini iPad would boast the same Retina Display as the new iPad. But, according to Jobs, increasing the resolution is still “meaningless, unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of the present size.” Jobs staunchly believed that “there are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a touch screen before users cannot reliably tap, flick or pinch them.
“7-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad display,” he said. “This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion.” But hang on: Jobs isn’t in charge any more. This is true, but it doesn’t mean that Tim Cook has any different ideas.
“Price is rarely the most important thing,” Cook said at this year’s Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. “A cheap product might sell some units. Somebody gets it home and they feel great when they pay the money, but then they get it home and use it, and the joy is gone.”
He went on to assert his view that “the joy is gone every day that they use it until they aren’t using it anymore. You don’t keep remembering ‘I got a good deal’ because you hate it.” Ouch. Seems as though Apple’s top brass are well against both shrinking and reducing the price. As well they should be…
Let’s get this out in the open: maths isn’t my strong suit. Even so, I’m pretty confident in saying that Apple doesn’t need to make anything that sells at a dramatic loss. Especially when we’re talking tablets. The iPad’s market share is bloody enormous. Even if the smaller, cheaper tablets are soaking up some of the runoff, that’s all they’re doing – the iPad is still the biggest selling device in that market by a long way.
Apple’s seen its stock pretty much double since 2009, and held an investor meeting in March to basically tell the world that it had enough money to buy the moon, blow it up and then rebuild it out of Unobtanium. That’s been bolstered by amazing iPad sales. The new iPad shifted three million units inside of its first three days, and there’s still a wait to buy them online.
That says Apple’s selling as many iPads as it can possibly make. With that knowledge, does it really seem likely, or at all necessary, to introduce a new model? Sure, it would be nice to clean up at both ends of the spectrum, but there are enough people scooping up the iPad as it is to say that that approach isn’t needed. And to say, as all the rumours currently are, that it would do so at a loss? Madness.
We tell you what you like
There’s an arrogance to Apple. It’s an undeniable part of the company’s character, and it’s the reason a lot of people have a problem with buying its products, but it serves a purpose. Which is? Inventing rules, and making things simple for its customers.
What I mean by this is that part of the appeal in Apple is in the fact that it doesn’t make many devices. While rivals like Samsung produce umpteen tablets – throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks – on top of a billion other products, Apple sells just 12 products (accessories notwithstanding).
When you limit your lineup to such a small amount of kit, you retain the right to say that the dimensions you’ve chosen are the right ones. The iPhone 5 may well boast an increase in screen size, but in its entire history Apple has maintained that the dimensions it works with are the ‘right’ and ‘correct’ way to go about things.
Jobs was convinced that the size of the iPad’s screen was designed to be optimal for both developers and our fingers. If you then make a device that goes against that, you take away your authority on the matter. That would be very anti-Apple in my opinion.
As it stands, Apple claims that the 9.7-inch display on the iPad is the optimum for a tablet, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
And there’s one more thing within this: if the iPad shrinks and the iPod touch grows along with the iPhone 5, it’ll be more confusing to the customer as to which device to buy. Confusion isn’t what Apple’s about. It likes to keep its products separate enough for each to have its obvious merits. Blurring the lines with an iPad Mini? Not likely in that respect.
Of course, this is my opinion. Nobody outside of Apple’s Cupertino HQ knows what’s coming, and I’m fully prepared to be wrong, but I just find it funny that year after year this rumour persists, with absolutely no backing from Apple.
Will Apple make an iPad Mini? There’s not a single real reason I can think of why it would make sense to. Apple has a track record of telling its customers what they simply have to have in their lives, but it’ll have its work cut out for it if it tries to convince me I need a smaller iPad, no matter how cheap it is.