How a smaller iPad could still have a 9.7-inch screen

How a smaller iPad could still have a 9.7-inch screen

Summary: Apple could redesign the iPad so that it had a smaller footprint yet retain the 9.7-inch display that people love. It's all down to the bezel -- or lack thereof. Is this the smaller iPad that everyone is predicting?

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Tablets
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There's increasing speculation that Apple is planning to release a smaller iPad, dubbed the 'iPad mini.' Taking a closer look at the iPad 3, a smaller iPad could still sport a 9.7-inch screen.

The argument in favor of a smaller iPad is rather weak at best. The idea is that because Amazon and Google have a small tablet, Apple needs the same, despite there being no real evidence to suggest that there's anything more compelling about either the Kindle Fire or the Nexus 7 than the $199 price tag.

Yesterday, The New York Times published a piece which contained quotes by Leslie Grandy, a former Apple manager who is now a consultant and an adviser to start-up companies. According to Grandy, a smaller iPad could be "appealing to people who do not now carry their iPads with them because they are too large and heavy.

While a 7-inch device is too big for most pockets, Grandy said, it is a good size for women's purses. "I really do feel like this is the sweet spot for them."

But a 7-inch tablet is fraught with problems. Not only is the screen of such a size that it becomes tricky to develop a user interface that works -- because while you can scale the display down, you can't scale people's fingers down in the same way -- the content that we consume is designed for three different types of screen: full-sized desktop screens, tablets in the 9- to 10-inch range, and smartphones.

While Amazon has been able to take the Kindle Fire and make it the most popular Android tablet on the market, commanding a market share greater than 50 percent, it's likely that this is down to the price tag rather than a pent up demand for a tablets that are a bigger than a smartphone but smaller than an iPad. $199 is, after all, quite a leap away from the $399 of the iPad 2 or the $499 starting price of the iPad 3.

But if people do indeed want a tablet that's smaller than the current iPad, there's a way that Apple could reduce the overall footprint of the iPad without having to tinker in any way with the screen. In fact, it's so simple that I'm surprised that no one has suggested it before.

So how could this be done? Take a look at the current iPad:

Notice that thick bezel all around the screen? That bezel adds about 1.5-inches to the overall width and height of the iPad. While a bezel of some sorts is needed in order to make the iPad easier to handle, and to accommodate the Home button and camera, it doesn't need to take up the space that it currently does.

Reducing the size of the bezel would be one way to trim down the footprint of the tablet without affecting the screen size.

Is it plausible to cut down the size of the bezel? Sure it is. If the current crop if iPhone 5 rumors are true, then it is exactly how Apple plans to increase the screen on the iPhone 5 without dramatically altering the size and shape of the smartphone. Much of that bezel is down to legacy and the way that screen used to be manufactured. Screens can now be manufactured with a much smaller surround, meaning that the bezel can now be dropped.

This small design modification could allow Apple to deliver all the benefits at a 9.7-inch screen has to offer, but cut down the footprint of the device down dramatically.

A smaller iPad with no loss of screen size or functionality. It's a win-win situation.

Image source: Apple.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Tablets

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14 comments
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  • How do you hold it without bezel?

    I think a tablet with a smaller bezel would have a major usability issue.
    I do agree though that 7" tablet for $200 does not make much sense for Apple as it would compete with the $500 model. Why join the race to the bottom if they can afford not to?
    Scrabbler
    • Hehe...

      an entirely new batch of "You're holding it wrong!" problems!
      wizard57m-cnet
    • No bezel, no tablet

      With iPhone you can get rid of bezel while still holding the iphone in your hand. For a tablet without bezel it would essentially render it useless.
      Samic
  • That's odd.

    I seem to remember that finger size was never an issue, al just figments of people's imagination. Why changed?

    And where would they place the home button?
    William Farrel
    • There have been references to a software rather than a hardware home button

      design from Apple. So that type of tablet without a physical home button could be done.

      However, as cool as AKH's conjecture is, if the "leaked" iPad mini prototype images we have all seen are close to reality than the rumored 7.8" mini iPad tablet will have a "conventional" tablet design.
      kenosha77a
  • Doesn't make business sense...

    keeping the "iPad mini" screen the same size as the current iPad. How is this even considered a mini iPad anyway? And why would anyone buy the more expensive current iPad if the one with the smaller bezel and same screen size is $200 less? The idea of a smaller iPad (for Apple) is to expand the iPad demographic and market. They've done the same thing with the iPod models when they introduced the iPod mini, the nano and iPod shuffles into the lineup. Brought in more consumers who maybe wasn't as dedicated music lovers but wanted a cheap mp3 player for running, for instance. Or teen/tweener who couldn't afford the higher priced iPods. The iPod mini/nano did not kill the full size iPods, it simply expanded the iPod market and allowed Apple to dominate for years.

    I'm not even sure they are much concerned about the Fire or Nexus. I would be very surprise if this iPad mini (or whatever it's called) wasn't already in development years ago and Apple was just waiting for the right time to drop it. Pushing developers to standardize on the larger screen size before releasing the smaller version. Much easier to scale down graphics than scale up.
    dave95.
  • Nintendo DS Approach

    I waiting to see if any tablet makers take the Nintendo DS approach which is to clamshell two screens. When I first heard of the DS, it seemed like the stupidest thing on the earth, but having used one, it worked great.

    Dual screen would allow it to fold into a smaller protected package and still have lots of display real estate. Shrink the bezel and the divide would be less noticeable. It will tide us over until they come up with usable foldable bendable thin displays.
    kurio999
  • 3 issues (Maybe 4)

    There are 3 issues.
    1) the front facing camera. You lose it.
    2) the home button. You move it.
    3) the battery. It will be smaller and will not last as long.

    and maybe a fourth issue, Heat. With a smaller size, but using the same amount of power (assuming the same screen and processor) it will run warmer, possibly overheat.

    I can live with the first three, if it does not overheat.
    Prescott_666
  • The ride is nearing the end.

    The problem is getting someone to research and develop their ideas.
    Apple may have minimalist design done well, but none of the internals are engineered or manufactured or even assembled by them.
    Since the competition is coming from the same people who come up with these tech breakthroughs I see a point of no return for Apple.
    The next contract and the one after that will include very healthy increases in price for the array of parts that is in these products and both Apples price point and profit margin will be the big losers.
    They are a marketing firm with a shrinking market and there are just some many people that will spend any amount of money for just another piece of shrink wrapped tech.
    sickntired44
    • Shortsighted

      Wish I had a dollar for every time Apple was written off as a marketing company! They also design attractive intuitive hardware and write attractive, intuitive software. They command superior QC on the sourced components and assembly. Keep writing them off, I'll keep buying shares on the dip and watch them climb a few months after they release another game-changer.
      Scott HB
    • Ok,

      whatever you say.
      non-biased
  • They are not going to redesign the iPad to fit purses

    They are already redesigning purses to fit the iPad. I should know: I own a few.
    Blurgle
  • 9.7" Ipad can be made smaller, but not as small as a 7" tablet

    The minimum width of an IPAD with a 9.7" screen is apx. 5.85". (IPAD screens are a 3x4 form factor. Screen sizes are measured diaganolly. If you remember high school trig, this is a 3-4-5 triangle. If we assume a 10" size for ease of calculation, the minimum width of the pad is apx. 6 " and the min ht. is apx 8 " (actually just a bit smaller).

    Yes you could make a smaller tablet, no you couldn't make it as small as a 7" tablet no matter how small the bezel is.

    The advantage of a 7" tablet for many people is that it will fit into a pants pocket or small handbag and it is lighter than the larger form factor, so it is easier to hold in one hand.

    Yes the text is smaller, but I compensate by using a horozontil view. I'm over 50, have bad eyes but can still read it that way. My only real problem with the form factor is that it is harder for me to type on the smaller keyboard.
    norm_london@...
  • hello

    can i sell your items?
    shatee