Apple’s Rumored iPad Mini: Here’s What We Think We Know So Far

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As my colleague Harry McCracken pointed out recently, Apple’s not great at keeping secrets anymore. So although Apple hasn’t announced a mini iPad yet, the smaller tablet is almost certainly about to break cover.

The latest sign comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that an iPad with a 7.85-inch display is in mass production now. This is just one in a long line of iPad Mini rumors, and when pieced together, we already have a good idea of what Apple’s smaller tablet would be like. Read on if you want to minimize the suspense leading up to the inevitable Apple press event.

All About the Smaller Screen

A 7.85-inch display doesn’t sound much different from 7-inch tablets such as the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7, but it’s actually a 40 percent difference in usable space, as this image conveniently points out. The smaller iPad would likely have the same screen resolution and aspect ratio as the original iPad, at 1024-by-768, iMore and others have reported, which means it should support all existing iPad apps.

The smaller iPad would likely be wider and slightly taller than the competition, but its display wouldn’t be as sharp. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, the 7.85-inch display would allow on-screen elements to be roughly the same size as they are on a non-Retina iPhone, which may address the complaints that Steve Jobs once made about 7-inch tablets.

(MORE: Would You Buy a 7-inch Apple ‘iPad Mini’ for $200?)

A Slim Frame

The only problem with a mini iPad, as rumored, is that it wouldn’t be as portable as 7-inch tablets, which are narrow enough to slip into a coat pocket. Still, Apple could try to compensate somewhat by slimming down the bezel around the iPad’s display.

A mockup from 9to5Mac suggests a pencil-thin frame along the taller sides of the screen, but the actual bezel size may be a bit thicker, as supposed spy shots from BoloPad.com have suggested. Those images, along with purported case images from tt.mop.com, show an aluminum rear panel that’s not as tapered as the full-size iPad.

What About the Insides?

Hand it to Apple, at least, for keeping the iPad Mini’s specs under wrap. I haven’t seen any solid rumors on the processor Apple would use, but my guess would be the same A5 chip found in the iPad 2. In terms of processing power, it’d be about the same as the A5X chip in the new iPad, but without the extra graphics oomph needed for a Retina display. There’s some speculation that the smaller iPad would have 512 MB of RAM, just like the iPad 2, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 1 GB instead for future-proofing. The rumor mill hasn’t said much about internal storage, so we’ll have to see if Apple drops below the 16 GB minimum found in larger iPads.

Cameras? Those aforementioned photos from BoloPad.com show holes for them on the front and back. As for connectors, a supposed leaked component photo from UkranianPhone.com shows a nano SIM tray, so we may see a 4G LTE version of the mini iPad. A Lightning dock connector, like the one in the iPhone 5, seems like a safe bet as well.

(MORE: Next iPad Rumor Roundup: The Good, the Plausible and the Just Plain Silly)

Software

If it’s an iPad, it’ll run iOS 6. It’ll have the App Store, movies and music from iTunes, and iBooks. This would be the least surprising element of the iPad Mini, but also its strongest selling point compared to other tablets, whose tablet app selections are smaller.

Price

Speculation about the price of a smaller iPad has been all over the place, but keep in mind that $200 tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are sold at little to no profit in hopes of making money on content sales. Apple hasn’t shown much interest in that business model, so a $200 iPad seems unlikely. My guess is a price of $300 for a basic model, which makes for a $100 step down from the full-sized iPad 2. That leaves some breathing room for cheaper competition, but allows Apple to grab some of the market while maintaining a healthy profit. (An iPad Mini bill of materials estimate by Sameer Singh guesses at a $189.32 cost with manufacturing included).

Availability

FORTUNE‘s Philip Elmer-Dewitt, citing “a major Apple investor,” says Apple may send out press conference invites on October 10, make the announcement on October 17 and launch the product on November 2. I wouldn’t count on that until there’s word from a more reliable source (or Apple itself). Still, if mini iPads are in production now, they’ll surely be ready to roll this holiday season.

MORE: Apple’s 7-inch iPad: The Rumor That Just Won’t Die

11 comments
Electronic Components
Electronic Components

The latest sign comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that the iPad screen with 7.85 inches in mass production now. This is just one of a long series of rumors iPad Mini, when I mounted, and we have a good idea of ​​how small Apple tablet will be the case. Read on if you want to minimize the suspense before the press conference Apple inevitable.

Electronic Components
Electronic Components

The latest sign comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that the iPad screen with 7.85 inches in mass production now. This is just one of a long series of rumors iPad Mini, when I mounted, and we have a good idea of ​​how small Apple tablet will be the case. Read on if you want to minimize the suspense before the press conference Apple inevitable.

Tony Deviti
Tony Deviti

From what I remember Steve Jobbs was completley against any iPad smaller than the 10 inch.

Raymond Chuang
Raymond Chuang

I'd wish Apple would include an infrared port on the iPad mini, because that could turn the iPad mini into the ultimate home theater system remote controller, with a level of control sophistication that even the Logitech Harmony controllers can't come close to matching.

Knuckles Mutatis
Knuckles Mutatis

Apple are going to have to do a lot better than this.

While Mac evangelicals are still widely clueless to it, Android not only has entirely dominated Apple in phones, but as of the most recent 2012 data, Android now makes up 48% of all tablet sales, vs. Apple's 52%. That should be reason enough for the Mac faithful to sound the alarms, seeing how Android had only 15% of tablet sales last year.

You can guess what next year will look like. 

Apple cannot hold onto a lead, and never have. This is going to be Apple vs. MS in the OS wars all over again, where Apple are reduced to an unimportant 5% of the market sooner or later.

Jared Newman
Jared Newman

Apple still has the lion's share of smartphone and tablet profits. You cannot bring up market share and talk about sounding the alarms without at least addressing that one important point.

The good news is that if Apple's making heaps of money, and Android tablets are scoring lots of market share, then both platforms remain viable. That should only upset you if you have a deep-seated hatred for any one particular company.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Even if Apple makes the Mini with the 1024 x 768 screen based on the IPad 2 it will still be a total winner if they keep the price below three hundred dollars.

It will still be an entire IPad, capable of running all IPad Apps and with full IPad support. And it will be in a smaller and more convenient for carrying format.

Apple wins because it an IPad, the others lose because they aren't.

Even people who aren't Apple fans know that and they are waiting for the Mini reveal to decide what 7" tablet they are buying this Christmas.

Gary McCray
Gary McCray

Even if Apple makes the Mini with the 1024 x 768 screen based on the IPad 2 it will be a total winner if they keep the price below $300.00

It will still be an entire IPad, capable of running all IPad Apps and with full IPad support. And it will be in a smaller and more convenient for carrying format.

The simple answer: Apple wins because its an IPad, the others lose because they aren't.

Even people who aren't Apple fans know that and they are waiting for the Mini reveal to decide what 7" tablet they are buying this Christmas.

Todd_in_BMore
Todd_in_BMore

I guess we're all guessing at this point, however I have to think the reasoniong behind this is to get it into the carrier pricing structure.  If it was $199 with a two year agreement, say $15/month to add it to an exisiting plan, then the off-contract costs could be upwards of $500 for the LTE version.  With proper marketing you'd end up with the perception factor the IPhone enjoys" very few people perceive the IPhone as unattainable even though it's a $650 device.