Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Eight Inches of Pleasure

In June, I wrote at length regarding the possibility of a 7-inch iPad. But June is all of two months ago, and things have changed. As such, I should do a point-by-point rebuttal of my own analysis, as I would any other piece of writing I would consider egregiously wrong.

The first problem is the notion that Apple feels it necessary to compete against cheaper products. This is nonsense. It’s easy to build products that are cheap, and it’s easy to build products that are overpriced. What isn’t as simple is maintaining a high manufacturing quality and a great user experience while also bringing the price down.

My reasoning for this was based on the Amazon Kindle Fire. It has weak hardware, and consequently a poor user experience. However, shortly after I wrote this, Google released their own-brand Nexus 7 tablet, which has received rave reviews, like Marco Arment’s, for instance:

Most of my Android experience is on the Kindle Fire, which paired shitty hardware with shitty custom software to reach a bargain-basement price. The Nexus 7 seems to have combined mid-grade hardware with much better (and much newer) software for the same $200 price. It’s clearly a showcase of the best software experience and features that Google has to offer in Android today.

There is clearly a way to make a viable 7-inch tablet with a good user experience for $200: Google has stated that they’re selling the Nexus 7 at cost. Apple probably isn’t going to compete at the $200 price point for this very reason, but with their vast supply chain reach, I suspect they could make a decent profit at $249.

My original article also, incorrectly, cited the possibility of a Retina display at launch. I don’t think that’s the case any more. Rumours have noted the likelihood of it being an iPhone 3GS panel cut to a 7.85″ display size, but I don’t think that’s accurate either. I think it’s going to have the same pixel density as the iPhone 3GS, but it will be an IPS panel, not the TN panel of the phone.

Me, again:

While there may have been an iPod at every $50 price point, these products were launched for distinct purposes, not to fill a gap in the market. […]

How would a 7-inch iPad […] differ from [its] larger [sibling] in a meaningful way? The answer is pretty simple: [it] wouldn’t.

I’ve changed my mind on this for two reasons.

To clear this up: the reported 7.85″ display makes it effectively an 8″ iPad, not a 7″ one. Furthermore, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire both possess very tall, narrow displays, whereas the rumoured 8″ iPad will almost certainly carry forward the 4:3 ratio. This moves the user experience closer to that of today’s 10″ iPad.

But I was wrong that a two-inch smaller iPad wouldn’t differentiate the product enough. I think that’s just enough of a size delta to matter for things like reading eBooks in bed, or grasping it with one hand.

So, to summarize, the size difference is less than I originally considered, and that’s enough to differentiate the product. Cognitive dissonance, and such.

I do stand by the other main point of that original article, however, regarding the oft-rumoured iPhone nano:

The iPhone seems to be going in the opposite direction: it’s getting bigger, not smaller. The previous generation iPhones naturally become the smaller models.

I can’t see the point of a 2.5″ iPhone, but I now see the possibility of an 8″ iPad. If the latter is sold for $249, Apple will dominate the smaller tablet market. Consider the introduction of the iPod shuffle: every other flash-based low-capacity MP3 player became obsolete the moment it was announced. That’s the impact an 8″ iPad will have on the Android tablet market.