Is Small Beautiful, Or Is Bigger Better For Ios Devices?

7/20/2012 9:26:21 AM

It’s the rumour that just won’t lie down and die: Apple will launch a 7in iPad later this year. The stories first started at the end of 2011 when Digitimes, a publication known for its prolific output and erratic hit rate in Apple scoops, claimed Chinese firm Pegatron was making seven-inch screens for Cupertino. According to some stories, the 7in iPad will be a scaled- down version of the existing 9.7in model, with the same processor and screen resolution, yet will cost only $200-$250 (£125-£160).

Phone, iPad mini, iPad Maxi

While it’s easy to dismiss these details as nonsense - the components alone would cost at least that amount, and Apple didn’t build up a $100bn cash mountain by selling products at a loss - there is one piece of the jigsaw that gives the whole picture some credibility. In April, Daring Fireball blogger and respected Apple pundit John Gruber claimed during a podcast that Apple ‘have one [a 7in iPad] in the lab,’ describing it as just like the 9.7in iPad shrunk down a little bit.’

Gruber also acknowledged that just be­cause something exists in Jony Ive’s lab, that doesn’t mean it will ever ship. Ive himself told the Telegraph last month: ‘There have been times when we’ve been... at a very mature stage and we do have solutions and you have that sinking feeling. On a number of occasions we’ve actually all been honest with ourselves and said “you know, this isn’t good enough, we need to stop”.’

Why would Apple, which already domi­nates the tablet market with its pioneering 9.7in format, produce a 7in iPad? To kill off competition from other tablets, according to analysts. This piece of commentary from Mike Elgan on Cult of Mac is typical. ‘There’s money being made by Apple’s competitors in the intermediate space between iPhone and iPad because there’s demand for an intermediate device size. People want a device with a bigger screen than iPhone’s got, but a smaller price tag than the iPad’s got. And because Apple offers nothing in this category, some are turning to Amazon and soon to Samsung.’

Description: 7in Kindle Fire

7in Kindle Fire

“Why would Apple, whose 9.7in iPad dominates tablets, produce a 7in unit? To kill off compe­tition, say analysts”

The problem with Elgan’s analysis is that there’s simply no evidence for it. Apple’s competitors are making very little money from tablets, with the iPad still dominating the entire sector. There’s no data to support the assertion that ‘people want’ a device with a bigger screen than the iPhone - although you could, of course, find plenty of people to say that if you presented them with a care­fully worded survey question. And there’s no doubt that people who like the iPad would like a cheaper iPad even better, but what’s less clear is why miniaturising something would reduce its cost. The opposite, of course, is generally true in the tech industry.

When the stories of a 7in iPad first started to circulate in December, Amazon’s new 7in Kindle Fire was selling in high volumes, quickly becoming the only serious com­petitor to the iPad. Even then, however, it was a very distant second, and sadly for Amazon the Fire’s impressive sales figures didn’t last beyond Christmas. By the first quarter of 2012, sales had dropped off sig­nificantly, while sales of the iPad moved in the opposite direction with the release of the Retina model, taking Apple from 55% of the market to 68%.

Apple’s only other current semi-credible competitor in tablets is Samsung. But its share is around 16%, which includes all of its tablets, at 7in, 7.7in and 10.1in sizes. Even if the vast bulk of its sales were from 7 and 7.7in models, there’s still not enough demand there to warrant Apple complicating its iPad product line with a smaller model.

So if the competition Apple is supposed to be so concerned about isn’t Amazon or Samsung, who is it? Not BlackBerry, HP, Motorola or Sony, looking at their current fortunes. The answer may lie with Apple’s old foe, Microsoft.

Windows 8 and, more importantly, its tablet version, Windows 8 RT, are due out in October. When the new operating system ships, expect a truckload of tablet launches - not from Microsoft, of course, which doesn’t make computer hardware, but from manufacturers leveraging its software. Could a 7in iPad be Apple’s way of spiking Microsoft’s guns? Launching a 7in tablet just as Windows 8 is about to ship might seem like a great way to steal Microsoft’s lunch. The problem is that annoying Microsoft isn’t a business strategy - at least not one that fits with anything Apple has done in its recent history.

Which makes more sense, the iPad getting smaller or the iPhone getting bigger? And how would either benefit Apple?

Unlike Android, Windows 8 won’t be free to hardware makers. They’ll have to pay Microsoft to license it. That will push up their manufacturing costs, and unless they decide to take a hit on profit margin for market share, Windows 8 tablets will be more expensive than their Android coun­terparts. It’s more likely that Windows 8 and Android tablets, which will be made by the same companies and presumably have similar hardware specs, will be left battling it out for whatever’s left of the market after the iPad’s taken the lion’s share, working harder than Apple to shift units at lower mar­gins. Expect to see a repeat of the Fire phenomenon, with a surge of demand in the run-up to Christmas, and perhaps a dip in iPad sales, but only for a short period.

If not a 7in iPad, then what? Why bother making the 7in model referred to by Gruber if it's only going to sit in Apple's industrial design lab? The answer is that Apple, like most hardware companies, makes models of all sorts of products to find out if they’re viable. It may have iPhones and iPads in lots of shapes and sizes, none of which will ever see the light of day.

One model that could make its way to market is a 4in iPhone, larger than the 3.5in screen it’s always had until now. Both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported recently that Apple had ordered 4in screens from suppliers in Asia. The Journal said production would begin this month, which would fit with an Autumn launch. Neither publication provided details of the dimen­sion of the screen, but reported recently that ‘the new iPhone will indeed be longer and thinner than the iPhone 4 and 4S. Approximate measurements are 125mm by 58.5mm by 7.4mm - a 10mm jump in height, nearly 2mm reduction in thickness, and virtually identical width.'

Description: MacBook Pro’s
MacBook Pro’s

A taller screen would change the iPhone’s resolution and aspect ratio, meaning develop­ers would have to redesign apps. But it would suit widescreen movies, and adding an extra row of icons on the home screen and a bit of vertical space to apps would be relatively simple compared to changing the pixel dimensions of both width and height. One developer, reported by GigaOm, speculated that ‘Apple might help developers transition between form factors by providing a system that would automatically adjust layouts for new resolutions and display aspects’, though this would only suit certain types of apps.

Apps designed pixel by pixel across the whole display, such as games, would be trickier to adapt, but perhaps they could run in a legacy space within the screen, leaving an area for notifications or some other iOS function. This sounds awkward, though,and Apple hates awkward. Nor will it want to go down the road of fragmentation that’s put off so many Android developers, with a bewildering variety of screen sizes and shapes to support. There are currently only two iPhone resolutions, one for the 3GS and one for the 4 and 4S, both with the same aspect ratio. A third would, according to another developer spoken to by GigaOm, ‘add considerably to our development time.’

It’s not just on its mobile devices that Ap­ple is making changes to screen resolution. Bloomberg, citing ‘people with knowledge of Apple’s plans’, reported last month that ‘MacBook Pro machines, to be unveiled at Apple's annual developer conference start­ing June 11, also will feature high-definition screens like those on the iPhone and iPad.' Retina display MacBook Pros and Airs could be made possible by Intel’s Ivy Bridge GPU, which can handle resolutions up to 4000 pixels across. Doubling the MacBook Pro’s native resolution to 2880*1800 pixels would give the 15.4in model a pixel density of 220dpi, compared to the new iPad’s 264ppi; viewed from a little further away, it would still make pixels invisible to the naked eye.

Description: Doubling the MacBook Pro’s native resolution to 2880*1800 pixels would give the 15.4in model a pixel density of 220dpi, compared to the new iPad’s 264ppi
Doubling the MacBook Pro’s native resolution to 2880*1800 pixels would give the 15.4in model a pixel density of 220dpi, compared to the new iPad’s 264ppi

This makes sense, and laptops with Retina displays could indeed be just weeks away. A 4in iPhone, of whatever shape, is also a distinct possibility. But our guess is that the 7in iPad is destined to be hidden away forever in Sir Jonathan Ive’s laboratory.

 “A taller 4in screen would change the iPhone’s resolution and aspect ratio, meaning developers had to redesign apps”

  •  Filemaker Go 12 For Ipad
  •  Chrome FOR Android Beta Is Out
  •  Apple’s Sandboxing Security Issue
  •  XNA Game Studio 4.0 Programming : The Many Keys Of A Keyboard (part 2) - Moving Sprite Based on Keyboard Input, Onscreen Keyboard
  •  XNA Game Studio 4.0 Programming : The Many Keys Of A Keyboard (part 1) - Reading Keyboard State
  •  Personalize Your iPhone Case
  •  iOS 6's release
  •  Cheap smartphones at Computex 2012 : Acer CloudMobile S500, Gigabyte GSmart G1362, Malata Z500
  •  5 MP3 players in 2012
  •  Blackberry World 2012 (Part 3) - Mobile computing platform
  •  Blackberry World 2012 (Part 2) - BlackBerry 10, Apps and development
  •  Blackberry World 2012 (Part 1) - The keynote address
  •  World's Most Popular IM Client Just Got Hotter
  •  V For Venerable One
  •  The Human Touch
  •  Some Cool Apps From Various Flatforms To Make Your Life Easy
  •  A Bite of Apple iOS 6
  •  “TU ME” …vs Skype and Whatsapp.
  •  Pandora On Android-Your Best Music Buddy!
  •  Gemini Joytab 8” Tablet PC
    Top 10
    Nikon 1 J2 With Stylish Design And Dependable Image And Video Quality
    Canon Powershot D20 - Super-Durable Waterproof Camera
    Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR – Another Excellent EXR
    Sony NEX-6 – The Best Compact Camera
    Teufel Cubycon 2 – An Excellent All-In-One For Films
    Dell S2740L - A Beautifully Crafted 27-inch IPS Monitor
    Philips 55PFL6007T With Fantastic Picture Quality
    Philips Gioco 278G4 – An Excellent 27-inch Screen
    Sony VPL-HW50ES – Sony’s Best Home Cinema Projector
    Windows Vista : Installing and Running Applications - Launching Applications
    Most View
    Do More With Mail (Part 3) - Sparrow
    Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Proofing and Printing Documents - Using Spell Check, Using Custom Dictionaries
    ASP.NET 3.5 : The HTTP Request Context - The HttpResponse Object
    Introducing Windows Presentation Foundation and XAML : Building WPF Applications Using Visual Studio 2010 (part 1)
    Connect-Back Shellcode
    How – To Mobility: Optimizing Your Green Robot
    Rise Of The Mobile Processors (Part 3)
    Toshiba Portege Z830 - Slim Cut
    Windows Vista : Setting Up a Small Network - Displaying the Network and Sharing Center, Customizing Your Network
    The other side of A Galaxy
    VX-1 Wireless Controller for PS3 – Big Improvement
    Cook Gives No Grist To Rumour Mill
    Tracing the iPhone Application Life Cycle
    Some Of The Biggest Brands In The World Had Their Products (Part 6) - Samsung Galaxy Beam, Asus P8Z77-V Pro, OCZ Octane
    Snake-Oil Solutions For Electrosmog (Part 1)
    ExactTrak Security Guardian - Spies like USB
    Sharepoint 2007: Modify the Links in the SharePoint Sites Web Part
    Documenting an Exchange Server 2010 Environment : Benefits of Documentation
    Port-Binding Shellcode
    Exchange Server 2010 Administration Overview (part 2) - Exchange Server and Windows,Exchange Server and Active Directory