The 2010 iPad Mini and Tomorrow’s Retina iPad Mini

Elephant in the room: If the iPad mini is so awesome, why didn’t it start at 7.9″ with a larger cut iPhone Screen instead of being what it was? Before I get technical, Gruber makes a great point that without making it 9.7, it would be perceived as even more as a “big iPod touch” and might have done as poorly as the seven inchers of the time.

I, too, think a 7.9″ iPad 1 would do as poorly as its 7 inch rivals. Yes, because of marketing, but more importantly, because of performance and shape.

The iPad 1, with its non retina display, was the biggest iPad of them all. Not only was the flat part bigger than the iPad 2 and mini, but it also had that bulge. Most of that was battery, driving those comparably very poor specs that were quickly “obsolete” with the release of iOS 6. Imagine a 7.9″ iPad as thick as the iPad 1. Sure, it’d be way thinner than rivals, but proportionally it’d be very thick. Since the A4 would be driving the same number of pixels with less battery, maybe it wouldn’t be 10 hours, maybe it would get warmer, who knows. Apple probably tried to make one and it probably wasn’t very good.

The night before the mini event, Marco Arment predicted along the lines that there might be an A6X undersold “Speed Bump” retina iPad that might revert to the iPad 2 size and heat performance. Although we got an undersold A6X (reviewers are having a hard time stress testing it) we didn’t get a size reduction from the iPad 3. Instead, we got a new 12 Watt wall charger to improve the iPad 3’s charging time.

When I visited my parents during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, they told how my AT&T iPad 2 I gave them saved them in one driving situation and otherwise was their lone window to the outside world since they don’t have smartphones, and didn’t have power and therefor any FiOS. When I held it, I remembered just how fat my iPad 3 is and iPad 4 will continue to be.

A quick aside: It costs me $10 a month to add that barely-used iPad 2 to my data-share plan. Even if just you and your significant other are on iPhone plans, once you add a third iPhone and an iPad or 2 data share becomes very cost effective, especially if you’re adding people that don’t use a lot of data.
another aside, they actually got power back before me. I’m still waiting!

Looking forward, we can predict that the retina iPad mini will continue to carry the same premium the retina iPad and retina MacBook Pros have: thicker, heavier, perhaps hotter too. I would not be surprised if a lightning equipped iPad 2 gets introduced next year rebranded as “iPad without Retina Display” (there’s also a chance Apple might bother making it as impossibly thin as the mini). And honestly, that’s OK. Fonts didn’t start looking bad on non-retina displays until designers starting using fonts that only look good on retina displays, and there’s always Safari’s reader button. If Apple can keep non retina devices around for the sake of lower price points and people who can’t distinguish them don’t care, that’s a win for everyone.

Personally, I’m willing to accept a little bulk for that beautiful screen. As soon as there’s a retina mini my original will move into its new home in scenic my girlfriends purse.