The rumor that was making its way around before the iPad 2 debut last year is back for an encore. At the time, it was suggested that the iPad would be getting a refresh and a smaller, low-cost version at around 7″ would also come out. It would have directly contradicted Jobs’ own dismissal of that smaller form factor, but the rumor mill churned mightily anyway. And of course there was no mini-iPad, only the thinner and faster iPad 2.
Now those whispers are starting back up again, as LG Display and AU Optronics are reported to have sent samples of 7.85″ LCD panels to Apple.
With the rest of the market differentiating along size and power lines, and perhaps the greatest single threat to the iPad (such as it is) being Amazon’s 7″ Fire tablet, it’s in the air that perhaps Apple is reconsidering the single-form-factor aspect of the iPad.
This I don’t really buy. While I do eventually see the iPad splitting off into a few versions (the high-res version, for example might cost more, while the original 1024×768 iPad would be the budget version), I’m not convinced Apple is eager to make its now-iconic (in the tech world at least) tablet just one of many. It’s the same reason they haven’t released an iPhone XL with a 4″ screen, nor made the iPod touch any smaller than its big brother. Their UX and ID experts are confident in their decisions, and why shouldn’t they be?
But that doesn’t mean that Apple can’t experiment. As one of the world’s largest tech companies, it has to have an entire research division dedicated to this kind of thing. Chances are they accepted these samples so they could check the quality, test glue and other materials, and just be more informed about what the possibilities are. A smaller or larger iPad isn’t an impossibility, but as everyone else is already in that space, Apple would like to be able to come into it saying “well we actually waited and did it right.”
Besides, considering how well the iPad is selling right now, they’ll want to let this design ride for a bit.