WildBill's Blogdom

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Regarding iPhone 5 - and iPad "Mini"

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Everyone’s got their own opinions and ideas as to what the latest iDevices are going to be coming out of Cupertino next week. I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring too.

So, let’s just get it out there right now. I don’t think the iPhone 5 will have the “stretched” 16:9 screen that everyone else thinks it will have, though I’m pretty sure it will have a mini-dock. As far as the iPad Mini goes - I don’t see this being a product Apple would release, at all.

Let’s start with the iPhone 5. Yeah, I know I’m going against places like iMore who say the iPhone 5 will have a 4-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio display, but I actually think Apple’s experimenting here at best, and trolling us all at worst. The thing to remember here is that Apple’s Jony Ive has stated repeatedly that the iPhone design isn’t fashion, it’s function. So, let’s look at function, then, and let’s start with ergonomics. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to fiddle with all makes and models of devices at my day job, and I’ve always felt that the current trend of ever-increasing phone screen has made the devices less ergonomic. It gets harder and harder to use the device single handed - which is a big use model when using a phone. (Think about using the device when you’re in a store, pushing a shopping cart, not what you thought about when I said single-handed. Perverts.)

I’m going to steal a shot I saw on Dustin Curtis’ blog that shows off what I mean here…

Four Inches - iPhone/Android Comparo

The green area denotes about the arc the average hand can sweep through on an iPhone-sized display. Look at the Galaxy S II’s screen and you can see there’s at least 20% on the right side you can’t access. I can’t believe Apple wouldn’t pick up on this. Remember, the iPhone is about function for them, or so they say.

Also on the function front is screen resolution. The original iPhone thru iPhone 3GS shipped with a 320x480 display. iPhone 4 and 4S upped that with a 2x “retina” display at 640x960 resolution. The folks at iMore and other tech reporters out there seem to think that Apple’s moving to a “taller” design at 640x1136, changing the aspect ratio to a cinema-style 16:9. That would require new UI design, and new application packaging across the board, and would fragment the resolutions that developers would need to support into three factions: Non-Retina, Retina, and “Extended” Retina. Fragmentation’s been something Apple’s avoided at all costs so far, and I don’t think that sacrificing their function is worth the application developer headache to them. Now, I’m aware we’re seeing leaked parts on the Internoodle that look like a longer iPhone 5 is in the cards, but these could very well be Apple experimental prototypes, or flat out red herrings designed to keep us (and Apple’s competitors) guessing.

As far as the mini-dock goes, yeah, I think Apple WOULD do this. It’s in their interest to keep connectors as small as possible to increase the interior volume of the phone available to components, and the current 30-pin dock connector carries a lot of legacy baggage. Also, Apple’s never been afraid of breaking backward compatibility in the pursuit of moving forward. Take the Magsafe connector on the MacBooks as an example: Apple’s recently made it thinner and wider on the newer laptops, requiring either “Magsafe 2” power adapters or a little adapter to put on your existing Magsafe units. Apple’s also gone from Firewire to Firewire 800 to no Firewire to Firewire 800 to Thunderbolt on their systems, all with the express desire of moving forward in feature set and speed. A mini-dock may seem like a dick move by Apple, but it’s totally within their MO to do such a thing.

Now, moving on to the iPad Mini rumor – that is, a 7” iPad I don’t see Apple doing this. It’d erode current iPad sales, even while they COULD use iPad 2 style hardware in it and keep the costs down and margin up, I don’t see them cannibalizing their cash cow like that. On the function front for them, there’s one compelling thing I keep coming back to that makes me think Apple will keep the 10” screened iPad as the only iPad: the keyboard. You see, the iPad’s keyboard, in landscape mode, has almost the same size, spacing, and layout as a MacBook or Apple Wireless Keyboard (minus the numeric keys on the top). This isn’t a coincidence. Again, from a function standpoint, this is incredibly logical. Take a look at this shot I took with an iPad 2 and Apple Wireless Keyboard:

iPad Keyboard vs. Apple Keyboard

See the similarities? There’s no way a 7” iPad could have that layout. If you look at everything through a function-based lens as if you’re Jony Ive, you’d say that an iPad Mini just doesn’t make much sense. Yes, it leaves Apple at a slight market disadvantage, as Google, Amazon, and Samsung all have 7” tablets that fit a lower-end market, but Apple’s proven time and again that they don’t generally like to play in those spaces. If Apple does decide to play in those spaces, they just discount their previous generation of gear and call it a day. (Look at the iPhone 3GS and iPad 2 for examples of this.)

We’ll see in a week if I’m right or wrong on this. I don’t have a crystal ball, but this seems like the logical move for Apple to me.