After slagging off the iPad’s smaller competitors for so long, does Apple really expect us to swallow the iPad Mini?
Remember when Steve Jobs told us 7-inch tablets were dead on arrival? That the 9.7-inch iPad was the perfect size for a tablet? Well now it looks like Apple might do a backflip and unveil a smaller iPad Mini — the little iPad that Apple told us we didn’t need.
If Apple does unveil a smaller iPad it’s certainly in response to the success of smaller Android tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7. Android now accounts for half of all tablet sales and more than half of smartphone sales. If Apple wants to claw back the lead, or at least stand its ground, it might need to rethink its one-size-fits all policy (as it did with the iPhone 5). The iPad Mini would be the clearest sign yet that Apple has turned a corner, whether or not it’s for the good of customers or simply out of fear of Android.
The iPad 3 is certainly slick, but if you spend some time with the latest generation of 7-inch and 8.9-inch Android tablets you’ll find the size makes them a lot more travel-friendly. The iPad might make a great coffee table companion, but smaller tablets are much easier to slip in your carry bag. An iPad Mini could make more sense for commuters looking for something smaller and lighter than the iPad, not to mention cheaper.
Of course Apple devotees have probably already come to terms with Apple’s one-size-fits-all iPad policy and made other arrangements. Perhaps they’re happy to lug around an iPad, or perhaps they’re content to use their iPhone while sitting on the train. If Apple does unveil an iPad Mini you can expect an early rush, but afterwards iPad Mini sales would most likely come at the expense of iPad sales — which isn’t necessarily good news for Apple. But selling an iPad Mini is a better option than risk people turning to Android.
Long-term Apple watchers can probably guess how Apple will deal with this problem — it will introduce arbitrary restrictions on the iPad Mini which “encourage” you to own an iPhone, an iPad and the iPad Mini in between. Each gadget will have its place in the ecosystem, rather than cutting each other’s lunch. Apple enforced restrictions on the iPad to limit its usefulness as a notebook substitute to ensure it didn’t eat too far into MacBook sales. It will be interesting to see what’s missing from the iPad Mini.
Really that’s the biggest challenge for Apple — figuring out what to leave out of the iPad Mini and then convincing us we still need one even if we’ve already got gadgets to handle those tasks. The diehards will buy it regardless and add it to their pile of iGadgets, but most other people need some kind of justification to buy a gadget other than the fact it has an Apple logo on the back. It needs to solve a problem or meet a need better than any device you already own.
It didn’t take long for people to find good uses for the iPad, but it’s going to be harder to justify the need for another smaller one. Especially when Apple did such a great job of convincing us we don’t need it.