Apple’s invitations for its “new iPad” event in March read, “We have something you really need to see.” The company’s newest invitations released this week said, “We have a little more to show you,” hinting at an introduction of the smaller tablet.
Most analysts and sources close to Apple expect the 7.85-inch iPad Mini to do everything the traditional 9.7-inch iPad can do – Web surfing, book reading, game playing, movie watching, all of that – but what about speed? What about cameras? What about battery life? How much faster, if at all, will the iPad Mini be than the “new iPad” released seven months ago? Will Apple include LTE in the device, or will the iPad's little brother be restricted to Wi-Fi zones?
We don't know the exact features or specs Apple has packed into its mini iPad -- Apple refuses to comment on rumors or speculation -- but we nevertheless have a pretty good idea of what CEO Tim Cook might unveil on stage in San Jose on Tuesday. Over the past year, we've been keeping an eye on rumors, reports, and patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, looking out for possible software features Apple might introduce in the iPad Mini. By now, we have a great idea of what Apple has decided to feature in the iPad Mini.
Here are the eight most important features and tech specs we're expecting to see in the all-new iPad Mini, set to be unveiled this Tuesday at 10 a.m. PST:
1. Size Dimensions: On Aug. 14, Apple rumors site 9 to 5 Mac discovered a pair of schematics originally posted on ThinkiOS in July, which perfectly matched up with what the company had originally reported. The schematic said the iPad Mini would measure 7.3 mm thick, 134.73mm wide and 200.13mm long.
While we believe these rumors to be true, another report from Gotta Be Mobile in July featured "exclusive" photos of what it believed to be an engineering sample of the iPad Mini design, which revealed many possible features of this tiny tablet. Gotta Be Mobile's Shawn Ingram said the engineering sample photos came from a "trusted source inside the Apple supply chain" in Asia.
According to Ingram, the photos suggest the iPad Mini would be much wider and a little taller than the Nexus 7, Google's recently introduced 7-inch tablet, and it would be slightly thinner than Apple's third-generation "new" iPad. Here's Ingram with the details:
"What we've found, using a pixel count, is that the iPad Mini should be around 213.36mm tall and about 143.67mm wide. This is approximately two-thirds of the size of the new third-generation iPad. The new iPad is 185.67mm wide, 241.3mm tall and 9.39mm thick."
2. Display Size and Quality: For the iPad Mini, Apple has reportedly decided to preserve the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad, rather than try to give the new tablet a 16:9 aspect ratio closer to the newly-released iPhone 5. Gotta Be Mobile's "exclusive" photos didn't show any etchings to signify the size of the screen itself, but most believe Apple's iPad Mini display will stretch 7.85 inches; Apple Insider claims more precise measurements, saying the iPad Mini's display will measure 6.38 inches (162 mm) long, 4.88 inches (124 mm) wide, and nearly 8 inches across diagonally.
In all likelihood, the iPad Mini will boast Apple's branded liquid crystal Retina Displays -- high-density screens where the individual pixels cannot be discerned with the naked eye -- but some say the iPad Mini may also feature an indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) display made by Sharp Inc. Sharp's IZGO displays can be fitted for extremely thin hardware devices and can reportedly handle 330 ppi, which would be incredible since the new iPad can only achieve 264 ppi. However, 330 ppi would make it competitive with the brand-new Amazon Kindlewhite, which features a similar pixel density. IZGO displays are also said to feature better brightness than most LCD screens on the market, so while the display resolution is still unknown, it's possible Apple could pack in plenty of pixels into this 7-inch wonder.
3. Skinny Side Bezels: Sources close to Apple believe the new iPad Mini's screen will stretch further to the face's edges. From 9 to 5 Mac's original report:
"The lack of bezel on the side will not allow you to carry it like you hold a full-size iPad when in portrait mode without triggering some multi-touch on the display," said Seth Weintraub. "Perhaps Apple has some software to dull the side touches when in portrait mode. But, really, this is unnecessary. You will need to hold it from the back more like you hold a phone (or one of those 7-inch tablets above). This is not hard, and, in fact, it is the de facto way I tend to hold a Nexus 7 even though it has a bezel."
4. A6 Processor: We haven't seen many reports on the processor that will drive the activities on the new iPad Mini, but we presume Apple will either use the same dual-core A5X chip with quad-core graphics used to power the new iPad's display, or it will jumpstart the iPad Mini with the all-new A6 chip, which debuted with the iPhone 5 on Sept. 12. The A6 is a custom-built chip from Apple, which is not only 22 percent smaller than the A5 and A5X chips, but it’s also twice as fast and has twice the graphics performance. Better yet, the A6 is far more power efficient, contains 1GB of RAM, and makes handling duties like memory, streaming, compressing and decompressing information, and activities like photo-taking and running multiple apps simultaneously an absolute breeze.
5. Network Connectivity: The iPad Mini will definitely be Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0-friendly, but will Apple endow its tiny tablet with the all-powerful LTE chip?
There are two differing reports to consider here: One report from earlier this month indicated the iPad Mini was Wi-Fi only, while a more recent report on Oct. 16 indicated Apple will sell 12 variations of the iPad Mini, which means with three storage sizes and two colors, Apple is still left with six variations; if Apple sells LTE models, the math adds up.
If Apple sold LTE models of the iPad Mini, it would sell those tablets at a significantly higher price – same as the new iPad. Compared to the Wi-Fi-only new iPad models that cost $499, $599 and $699, the 4G LTE versions cost $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB and $829 for 64 GB. If Apple starts selling the iPad Mini at $199 or $249 – the likely range – the 4G LTE iPad Mini models, if priced the same, could range from $329 to as high as $579.
In addition to appealing to a greater diversity of income brackets, selling LTE models of the iPad Mini will ensure Apple stays competitive in the increasingly-crowded tablet marketplace. Now that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have had two years of experience in the market – with newcomers Google and Microsoft playing catch-up this year – Apple needs more features to distance itself from its rivals.
Even though Google looks to dominate the 7-inch tablet space with its Nexus 7, Amazon’s more recent Kindle Fire HD has raised the bar on tablet tech specs, deciding to include 4G LTE wireless connectivity, which is also significantly cheaper than what Apple sells for LTE packages. Owners of the new iPad with LTE (32GB) pay $959 per year; owners of the Kindle Fire HD (32GB) pay $549 per year.
Even if Apple can’t compete with Amazon’s LTE pricing, it still needs to match the feature. And if any company can afford to implement expensive features, it’s Apple.
Adding LTE gives Apple an excuse to price the iPad Mini at a greater variety of tiers, and higher tiers at that. The new iPad is expensive with just Wi-Fi, costing between $499 and $699. If you add LTE, however, the new iPad costs between $629 and $829, which works out incredibly well for Apple and either Verizon or AT&T. Hopefully, the iPad Mini launches with more LTE carriers so the rates are lower, even if the entry price stays the same.
6. Lightning Connector: Earlier this summer, most major news outlets reported on Apple’s plans to slim down the traditional dock connector across all iOS devices, and that’s exactly what happened. Apple’s SVP of marketing Phil Schilller told a packed house in San Francisco on Sept. 12 that its new Lightning dock connector, which is 80 percent smaller than the 30-pin dock connector used in the original iPods, iPhones and iPads, will be the connector “for the next decade.” In other words, the iPad Mini will definitely feature this new 8-pin port.
7. Cameras: On Aug. 3, a rumor swept the Web saying the iPad Mini wouldn't feature a rear camera. The report was only supported by a set of photos posted on the Chinese social network Weibo, which most experts said were "also 99 percent likely to be fake." Trusted Apple source 9 to 5 Mac believes Apple will keep the front and rear cameras in the iPad Mini, although the exact specifications of the cameras are unknown.
If Apple builds the iPad Mini like it built the new iPad with Retina Display, the iPad Mini ought to feature a VGA-quality FaceTime camera on the front and a 5-megapixel iSight camera built with an ƒ/2.4 aperture and Apple's specialized five-element lens. The cameras ought to shoot 5-megapixel stills and record HD video in full 1080p.
8. Battery: Battery drain is typically an issue with Apple products, but amazingly, most Apple products get between seven and 10 hours of battery life. Nothing is truly known about the iPad Mini's battery, but assuming the tablet has a Retina Display, Apple will likely feature an identical, if not slightly smaller, version of the 42.5-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery featured in the new iPad.
On Oct. 13, MacRumors received a pair of photos that showed what one source claimed to be be iPad Mini’s battery. The 3.72-volt battery, model number A1445, had an Apple part number (616-0641) and reportedly offered 16.7 watt-hours of energy on 4490 mAh of charge.
“While we cannot confirm the authenticity of the part, the markings are consistent with those seen on batteries from other Apple products,” MacRumors’ Eric Slivka wrote. “The battery's proportions also seem to fit fairly well with what is expected for the iPad mini, although the exact dimensions of the part are unknown.
Apple always promises 10 hours of battery life on its products, and the iPad Mini ought to be able to accomplish that bare minimum. It would be an added bonus if the iPad Mini could squeeze out more battery life and get maybe 11 or 12 hours, and still be cheaper than all previous iPads.
If Apple’s history is any indicator of its future, we will most likely see Apple release the 7.85-inch iPad Mini on Friday, Nov. 2
To contact the editor, e-mail: