Early 2012 iPad “Mini” Rumors Contradict Steve Jobs, Larger iPhone 5

Steve Jobs was very clear that a 7-inch iPad made little sense to him, since it would suffer from an identity crisis. But new rumors suggest a “mini” iPad for early 2012 to compete against the Kindle Fire. How would this affect the prospect of a larger-screen iPhone 5?

Since the death of Steve Jobs, one of the hottest segment of web searches have been for “famous Steve Jobs quotes.” Steve had a lot to say about a wide ranger of topics — so much so that you can find a quote to match virtually anything you want to discuss in tech. He’s like the tech version of Oscar Wilde.

On 7-inch iPads, Mr. Jobs had this to say: “The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad.” In spite of this definitive statement, the old 7-inch “mini” iPad rumors have resurfaced (after being completely forgotten from as far back as the Spring of 2011), with several tech websites prognosticating that a smaller, cheap iPad is due out in early 2012 to take on the Kindle’s new Fire tablet.

GNT has this to say: “The Asian CNet reports that its possible an iPad Mini exists. Such a device has been compared to the Kindle Fire, tablet/reader which was launched in the United States for $ 199 dollars. An eventual iPad Mini would compete with this device, with a 7″ display, while an additional offering from Apple would increase the number of tactile tablets available in their range.”

Would Tim Cook be bold enough to defy the will of Steve Jobs’ ideology so soon in his tenure as Apple CEO? I think it’s doubtful: Jobs most likely hand-picked Cook based on the fact that they shared very similar opinions about the future of the technologies that Apple develops. Also, there is still no reason for Apple to be reactive to any other tablet on the market — including the Kindle Fire. CNET is reporting that 5 million Kindle Fire units are expected to sell in Q4 of 2011: “Checks indicate that they could ship upwards of 5 million units in the December quarter [fourth quarter], which is just shy of half of Apple’s volume.”

But the longevity of the Fire’s sales still remains to be seen, considering that Amazon will benefit greatly from the lower $ 199 price tag (very attractive considering the sagging world economy) and near-Christmastime launch.

What seems clear from the opinions of the tech media is that, whatever success the Fire may enjoy over the next few months has little to do with its smaller, 7-inch screen. Seeking Alpha says: “A 7″ tablet is a device that’s stuck halfway between the iPad and a smart phone, without the advantages of either. Apple conducted extensive market research to figure out the ideal size for a tablet before unleashing the iPad, and Steve Jobs famously declared that all 7″ tablets would be dead on arrival.” Add to this the fact that the Fire doesn’t have a camera, mic, a big app selection and little memory, and you start to realize that even the $ 199 price tag might come to seem steep, considering how little you get with the Fire.

But the other end of this discussion about why the iPad won’t go “mini” has also to do with the prospect of a beefier iPhone 5.

It seems inevitable that the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 6 should apple skip the “5″) is eventually going to get a screen size upgrade. It would be hard to imagine that, once apple adopts a new form factor, that they won’t use it as an opportunity to grow the screen to some extent. Given the Steve Jobs position on 7-inch iPads, why would Apple offer a small-screened  tablet and large screen iPhone? Why would they move the screen sizes of their successful smartphone and tablet closer together? After all, it seems that what Jobs was trying to do is keep a healthy distance between the screen sizes of his mobile devices: smartphones are under 4 inches, tablets in the 9.7-inch range, and notebooks are between 11 and 17 inches.

Dell famously experimented with the tablet/smartphone with the Dell Streak 5. But it turned out to be a largely abortive attempt. Even now, the Dell Streak 7 is making little waves in the tablet sphere.

Not only do I believe that Apple will not release iPads smaller than 9.7 inches anytime soon, I am also skeptical of whether we’ll ever see an ultra large-screened iPhone. The iPhone 5 may very well have a larger, edge-to-edge screen that approaches 4 inches, but I would not expect a 4.1 or 4.3″ screen, even on an overhauled iPhone 5. I like the rumors of the curved glass display (Apple’s going to have to use those glass cutting machines eventually, right?) and some really exquisite, new form factor, like being cut from a single piece of metal.

But something tells me that Apple likes the overall size of the iPhone. They bucked a serious trend by not lengthening the screen on the iPhone 4S. Maybe they see the big smartphone screen as a fad, and that consumers will tire of the bulkiness? You may think that’s impossible, but consumers famously got bored of the ever-shrinking mobile phone in the late 90s. Apple may simply be ahead of the curve on this trend, and by staying pat on their screen size, they’ll remain in the driver’s seat over the next few years.

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