Retina iPad mini speculation before the October 22nd Event
The event, probably most well regarded as the Fall iPad event at this point, will see a few obvious, and hopefully a few not so obvious introductions.
For the purposes of this post, the product I’ll be focusing on is the product that’s brought about the most cognitive dissonance for me. That product is the Retina iPad mini.
After listening to the current episode of The Talk Show, in which John Gruber and Marco Arment debate the price point of the existing mini as well as a supposed Retina mini, I think more than before that a Retina mini doesn’t make sense.
I don’t believe that what screen the competition’s tablets have is a factor in whether the mini will go Retina. Despite being “behind” the Nexus or the Kindle Fire resolution-wise, the mini, from a screen-only aspect, is still a solid product. It won’t be holding the mini back if it remains where it is in the product line-up as a base-level product. I think they can update the mini with the A6, the processor from the iPhone 5c, and keep it at the existing $329, or keep the current specs and drop the price to $299 to be an approachable iPad for the holiday season, although I think this is a much less likely option. The problem with the existence of the Retina mini is that it would potentially be a better display (325PPI) than the iPad 5 (264PPI), which ultimately undermines it. In addition to the overlap in the product categories, the hotter processor, improved graphics to push four times as many pixels, and the larger battery required to maintain even the same battery life, in as tiny a package as the existing iPad mini is simply not feasible. To be fair, Apple has gone this route before, with the iPad 3 being the first iPad to be thicker and heavier than it’s predecessor. I found that to be an out-of-character move, but the iPad 3 sold very well. In addition to the physical issues, if Apple had to introduce this mini, they would be hard pressed to sell it for less than $429. As a flagship product of one segment of the iPad market, an MSRP of $429 would be further hit to Apple’s margins, which is unlikely considering the heat they’ve faced already. At $449, there would not be an acceptable differentiation from the full-sized iPad 5 at $499, and the previous issues remain.
The iPad 5 is more or less a slam-dunk, both in the way of expected hardware, and form factor, based on the numerous leaks of the casing. The hardware is determined according to the existing hierarchy of processors. The appeal is simple. It’s thinner, with smaller bezels, and it’s fair to assume it will retain at least the same battery life. No cognitive dissonance there, or few points of speculation to be made. One of the points of speculation is whether it will have TouchID. I believe it will, as it makes sense on a basic level for the sake of improved security and accessibility, and also serves to further separate it from the iPad mini as a premium product. In addition, the iPad 5 having an A7, or an A7X variant will allow it the technology to support TouchID.
If Apple does release a Retina iPad mini, it will be a compromise in some sense. I am interested to see which way they go.