Rumors are flying - as they will when an Apple product is concerned - about a pending smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch screen, compared to the current 9.7-inch display. According to a report on the Huffington Post (among many), the iPad Mini (not an official name, BTW, since Apple has maintained its usual muteness) will arrive in August.
While one can argue about the pros and cons of a smaller iPad (which I will in a minute), there is one consideration a tablet with a 7.85-inch display doesn't take into account:
Rumor mongers agree
Here's what the rumor mill seems to agree on. Apple has smelled the success of the Amazon Kindle Fire and wants to blunt the potential impact of a possible Google-branded 7-inch tablet later this year and counter the possible popularity of the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, which will be available in stores this Sunday (April 22).
According to this speculation, the iPad Mini would maintain the original iPad's screen resolution of 1,024 x 768, which means all existing iPad apps would look and operate normally, and be priced in the $250 vicinity, the same as the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.
Yes, the Kindle Fire costs just $199. But Amazon priced the Fire below cost, figuring it would make its profit back on folks buying books and movies for it. Apple obviously doesn't believe in pricing products to lose money.
What's the right tablet size?
But I agree with Steve Jobs - a tablet with a 7-inch screen is a poor compromise.
Seven-inches is the right size for an e-reader and maybe for email, but the wrong size for practically everything else. You are forced to scroll diagonally and horizontally, as well as zoom in, way too often to satisfyingly surf the Web and navigate maps, for instance, and movie watching isn't nearly as immersive as it is on a full-size tablet.
While the extra .85 inches on the rumored iPad Mini may ameliorate some of these 7-inch scrolling and zooming drawbacks, they introduce others problems, primarily ergonomics.
A 7-inch tablet has one huge advantage over iPad: it can fit in a pocket - the inside breast pocket of a man's jacket, an outside jacket pocket, cargo pants pockets, even the rear pocket of a pair of pants as long as you remember not to sit down.
Being able to instantly whip out a 7-inch tablet is a huge advantage over retrieving it from inside a backpack or shoulder bag.
Both the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 and the slightly trimmer Amazon Kindle Fire measure less than 4.75 inches across, and so are eminently pocketable.
iPad Mini Maxed
I've done some measuring and figuring, and an iPad Mini with a 7.85-inch screen and the same bezel width as the current iPad would measure 6 inches across, far too wide to squeeze into any regular pocket.
Apple would have to trim nearly three-quarters of an inch off the iPad's bezel to get to 4.75 inches across - except the bezel on the iPad only measures three-quarters of an inch wide.
In other words, an iPad Mini with a 7.85-inch screen would have to completely eliminate the bezel to get pocket-sized.
If you are forced to dig the iPad Mini out a bag instead of being able to quickly slide it out of a handy pocket, you lose any reason to buy one instead of a full-size iPad.
I doubt Apple would even be considering an iPad Mini if Jobs were still alive. Even without Jobs, I find it hard to believe Apple would be considering an iPad Mini that doesn't fit in your pocket.
More iPad rumors
Speaking of iPad, I just received an invite from AT&T for an event at the forthcoming CTIA cell phone convention next month in New Orleans, which I'll be attending and reporting from. AT&T's teaser tells recipients to save the date – framed inside an iPad. Ergo – AT&T has some pending iPad news.
While AT&T has an LTE-connectable iPad, it currently doesn't offer the personal hotspot option – the capability to use an LTE iPad to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. Perhaps this is what the iPad news the invite is alluding to – or perhaps something else. Stay tuned.