Sunday, 2 September 2012

5 Reasons why the iPad Mini is a mistake

Happy iPhone 5 day!

The big news is expected to be a taller, four-inch-diagonally 16:9 aspect ratio screen All previous iPhones have had a 3:2 screen. (Wikipedia Aspect Ratios)

The iPhone has needed a facelift for a while and this new aspect ratio has a lot going for it; for example, HD movies are distributed in this shape, so no more letterboxing.  The extra screen area also provides more room for icons and apps, information and touch targets. You might be able to see whats happening in your game now that the joystick is not so close to the middle of the screen.

It would be logical for Apple to also announce a new iPod touch with the same screen. It's been years since the last new iPod and it would help create a larger market for 16:9 apps.

Now, according to the Internet, Apple are also planning to produce a mid-size tablet. Maybe I'm missing something but wouldn't it make sense for this to also use the 16:9 screen shape?

The iPad is a great device but it's biggest drawback is it's size. Even though it weighs a fraction of a laptop or netbook, it still needs a bag to be carried about in all day.

Oh, and 4:3 is (to put it politely) inelegant. Just look at the iPad launch video.

There is cheering for the name "iPad" but the crowd's reaction to actually seeing the iPad is muted - is that an ironic wolf whistle? Can I hear crickets? A church bell in the far off distance?

So, it turned out 4:3 is ideal for old TV shows and big productive tablets. Steve Jobs was right again. I still don't think it looks good, even if it has sold fifty bazillion.

So, Apple has a decision to make with their mini tablet. Either make a small iPad or a big  iPod.

Most commentators, including John Gruber, say Apple has gone for a small version of the iPad with a 4:3 screen.

Clearly Apple are smart people, but I think this was a mistake. Here's why...

1. Ugly 4:3 screen.
Even with thinner side bezels, a 7.85 inch iPad mini is "chunky" and old fashioned looking.  Movies will play in letterbox mode.

2. Not pocket size
It's not much, but a 15mm can make the difference between something fitting in a pocket or not. Expect to see adverts for suits with iPad mini compatible inside pockets.

3. Will cannibalize big iPad sales.
Why buy a massive iPad when you can get a smaller, faster one for less? A mid size tablet is really a different class of device, however just as an iPad does 95% of what your PC does, by using the iPad software platform the mini will do 95% of what the 9.7 inch iPad does.

4. Will feel cramped.
When you go from a iPhone to an iPad the feeling is of wide spaces. There are going from iPad apps that won't adapt well to the iPad mini. Why not expand the 16:9 ecosystem from the retina iPhone 5 up to a ~7 inch non-retina screen? This would be technically trivial but still feel luxurious. Where did I leave my sandpaper for filing my fingers?

5. 16:9 is the new black
Android tablets with 16:9 displays pushed Apple to produce the iPad mini, but may have swung the decision to go with 4:3. I think Apple want to prove that they don't "steal" ideas, (except for notifications, GUIs, mouse, pinch to zoom etc...) The fact remains - 16:9 is good enough for the phone!

There's only one thing I can think of that 4:3 is actually better for - the keyboard. The ipad keyboard the best touch screen keyboard on any device I've ever used. The beauty of the 4:3 aspect ration is that the keyboard is nicely proportioned in landscape. On 16:9 the keyboard seems long and unweidly, and there isn't much room left above it for the app.

It'll be interesting to see how the iPhone 5 keyboard handles this, but people don't type so much on phones, do they? Of course its still possible the iPad mini will be 16:9 (especially if Tim Cook reads this ;) but what would be even better would be a 16:9 iPod Deluxe.

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