COME ONE, COME ALL: The iPad Mini invites are here!
Rumors of an iPad Mini device have been swirling for years, despite the apparent disdain of late Apple founder Steve Jobs for the 7-inch tablet form factor, and there has been no shortage of speculation as to what Apple's entry into the smaller tablet market will look like.
And even though there's an understandable variability in what the various technology news sources say the iPad Mini will look like, a broad consensus -- born of leaks, hearsay and possibly spurious information, in the finest traditions of gadget rumormongering -- has emerged.
• Its screen will be slightly larger than 7 inches in size, despite the success of Google's Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire at that measurement. However, the iPad Mini will actually have a lower-resolution display than the competition, according to The Wall Street Journal, and speculation has the Mini featuring a 1024x768-pixel display. The consensus on the possible rationale behind this decision is that 1024x768 preserves the 4:3 aspect ratio present in the larger iPad models -- avoiding compatibility problems with tablet-specific apps written for those devices.
• There will be models with 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of on-board storage available, according to leaked information from retailers. Those leaks also seem to show that there will be both mobile data-ready and Wi-Fi only models sold, despite previous rumors that the device would be Wi-Fi exclusive.
• It'll be cheaper than the latest full-size iPad, but more expensive than the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. Almost no sources say that the price of the iPad Mini will reach as low as the $200 of the aforementioned Android-based devices, despite our own Yoni Heisler's urging. The most frequently cited figure is $250 for an entry-level device (which would presumably be Wi-Fi only and pack just 8GB of storage). That price could go way up, as well, based again on the retail information leaks.
• It wouldn't be at all surprising if Apple rolled out yet another new model of the full-size iPad as well -- given the strong possibility that the iPad Mini will use a variant of the company's new A6 system-on-a-chip technology, which debuted with the iPhone 5, a refresh of the larger device could be in order as well.
In short, the general consensus in the tech media world seems to be that the iPad Mini will be comparable to the existing heavyweights in the 7-inch tablet space (Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD), though it will likely be more expensive. It's hard to say, at the moment, where Apple plans to differentiate itself from its Android-powered competitors -- a Retina display would have been the most obvious way to set the iPad Mini apart, but the company's apparent omission of that technology makes me question why people will be willing to shell out at least $50 more than they'd pay for a rival with a cooler screen.
Now, of course, Apple could easily be planning to surprise everyone by introducing some new feature or hardware wrinkle that hasn't been guessed -- it could even deliver a real shock and announce that it's competing on price, though that's unlikely.
For the moment, though, it looks like Apple will bank on its justified reputation for build quality and hope that polish alone can undercut its rivals in the small tablet space.