Ever since the first launch in April of 2010, Apple's iPad has been wildly popular with demand quite often outpacing the supply chain. Even the latest model, the new iPad, proved to be no different. Pre-orders sold out online in a matter of hours and what stock was sent to brick and mortar locations quickly sold out after 8 AM that morning.
In a world where laptops are more powerful, cheap and portable than ever before, less functional yet relatively expensive tablets have forced many to question what their true purpose is in day to day life. Many, such as myself, have since found a perfect spot in their lives for a tablet and find it somewhat hard to cope without one. People like Evan, on the other hand have not.
Not matter how you look at it, though, tablets are in. Whether they're here to stay or just a passing phase, they're selling like hotcakes (for Apple, at least) and everyone wants a piece of that pie.
But the iPad isn't perfect for everyone.
Unlike the iPad, Android tablets come in various sizes and for a wide range of prices. The lower-end models can be snatched in stores like Big Lots or Walgreens for under $100 – we would never recommend those tablets for anyone seeking a real tablet, though – and high-end models top out at about $900. Apple's iPad variations come in a far narrower range one choices. The bottom-end iPad, which is last year's 16GB Wi-Fi iPad 2, starts at $399.99 while the most expensive model sells for $829.99. Despite a respectable range in price, there are few choices when it comes to hardware. Consumers can choose between white or black; 16, 32 or 64GB; and a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G model.
One key choice that isn't available in any iDevices, though, is in physical size. Every generation of the iPhone has sported a 3.5-inch display. The same goes for every iPod Touch. And every iPad has a 9.7-inch display.
Hope for different device sizes in Apple's mobile products have been relatively slim, however. Despite the average phone size growing with each new device, Apple has fought the urge to follow the trend, sticking by the now miniscule 3.5-inch display. And, as Sam Byford of The Verge reminds us, Steve Jobs himself said that 7-inch tablets would be "dead on arrival" (DOA) and that they would need to come with sandpaper because users would have to file their fingertips down to use them. (That Jobs quote never really made sense to me, though. How could he say this and not feel the same way about smartphones?)
Nonetheless, rumors of a larger iPhone and smaller iPad continue to roll through the rumor mill. This time around, Daring Fireball's John Gruber claims there is a 7.85-inch iPad prototype in Apple's labs. Word is it sports the same 1024 by 768 pixel resolution that the original iPad and iPad 2 feature, putting the display at 163 pixels per inch.
Other details are pretty scarce, but it would be pretty safe to assume that Apple would shoot for similar battery life, offer the same storage capacities, use the same processors and maintain most – if not all – of the features found in the new iPad in a smaller model. But it's safe to keep in mind that this is a prototype and, other than the fact that the Kindle Fire proves a 7-inch tablet isn't necessarily DOA, Apple may have no reason or desire to launch it. It certainly wouldn't be the first product in Apple's labs to never see the light of day.
Still, let's assume the 7.85-inch iPad is real and will launch ... eventually. Who out there would be interested in a smaller iPad model?
I, for one, am not. For me, a 10-inch tablet is just fine. I almost always have a backpack with me and, along with my MacBook Air, I have plenty of space left in my backpack. In fact, for my one-day trip to New York this week, I took only my Powerbag Deluxe – everything fit just fine. So size (in terms of a tablet being too big) isn't an issue. My problem with a roughly 8-inch tablet is it being too small. I've had three tablets that were 7-inches or smaller: Archos 5, original Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire. While all decent tablets, they were an awkward size. They fit my hand perfectly, which made them ideal for reading. Yet they were too big to put in my pocket and too small to justify wearing a backpack for. Their neither ideal for productivity and hardly more portable. I would rather have a 10-inch tablet and simply carry something like the Galaxy Note, which is also great for reading but pocketable.
The other point, however, is price. Apple has never been very concerned with the price point that other tablet manufacturers have set. They set their price before most others and have been very firm, not budging a penny. I imagine their primary goal in creating a smaller tablet is not bringing down the cost, but just catering to a different market and competing with the likes of the Kindle Fire. They would probably be banking on brand recognition and loyalists to outsell the competition, even if their tablet is more expensive, which is totally possible. I imagine a 8-inch iPad would sell for $100 cheaper than the new iPad base model at $400. At $300, it would encroach on the iPod Touch.
For me, there is nothing particularly appealing about a smaller tablet. I may buy the rumored 7-inch Google tablet, simply because its expected price ($150 to $200) is simply too hard to pass up. But I just couldn't justify a mid-sized iPad for $400, or even $300.
What say you, ladies and gents? Does a smaller iPad appeal to you? Or would you rather just save a couple hundred dollars and get a Kindle Fire or the mysterious (and supposedly very cheap) Nexus tablet? Do you think 7-inch and 8-inch tablets are pointless?