7 ” - A New Form Factor For Apple?
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in 2010, the underlying assumption was that there is a place in between the 3.5” iPhone and the 13” Macbook (the 11” Macbook Air hadn’t been introduced yet). Since then, the iPad has become a significant revenue factor for the company. Evidently the assumption was correct. Although many self-proclaimed “tech-journalists” are still denying the ability to create something on it (I won’t link to them, but you can listen to Angry Mac Bastards if you are interested), iPad owners all around the world find use cases for a 9.7” tablet in their daily life.
As of today, the tablet market is an iPad market in reality. For the last three years, many iPad competitors have come up and either proved to be vaporware (RIM Playbook) or didn’t sell very well (HP Touchpad/WeTab). Crappy hardware, outdated and unresponsive software, a 16:9 ratio (instead of the 4:3 ratio of the iPad), a high price point and probably many other factors played a role in this dilemma.
Only tablets that aimed to replace an e-ink reader were semi-successful and got rather good reviews. Both the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nook Color from Barnes and Noble had the same 7” form factor, a forked version of Android and were sold by big (e-)book-selling companies. Both companies were right to focus on a media consumption device and market it like a much more able e-reader to show off their iTunes-Store-like media distribution qualities.
The release of the Nexus 7 tablet by Google and especially the positive review of it at The Verge (2nd place of all tablets, just behind the iPad) prompted me to tweet this after another rumor about a 7” iPad came up: “Käme mir gelegen. Will mir kein iPhone oder nen neuen iPod Touch kaufen. Her mit dem neuen Formfaktor!” Translation: “This would be just in time for me. I neither intend to buy an iPhone nor a new iPod Touch. Keep the new form factor coming!”
What would I do with a third device added to my iPod Touch 3G and my original iPad?
For the last 3-4 months my iPad has been in my mother’s house, because her notebook was broken. During this period I had to rely upon my iPod and my late 2009 iMac (“I know, I’m the WORST”, quote by Paul Miller). When I got my iPad back last week, it felt clunky and just too big. (I do not want to imagine what a 13”
surfboard tablet must be like). Now I wish to have something bigger than my iPod which is at the same time as light as a Sony e-reader (but without the crappy UI).
My main use cases for a 7” iPad would probably be: reading my Instapaper queue, flipping through Zite and Flipboard, checking my bank account via iOutbank, scrolling through my Twitter timeline, doing windowshopping with the Amazon app, responding to emails, study lecture material with Goodreader, search for something online, …
I tend to read things on my iPad while I listen to podcasts on my iPod. Although my podcast queue is synced in Instacast via iCloud. Maybe I can confine my mobile usage needs into three spaces. Audio, Text and Video. Audio, for me personally, is best consumed on my bluetooth Sennheiser MM100 headphones paired with my iPod. Text isn’t perfect on either device. 3.5” is too small, an iPad too heavy to hold for the length of an article. At last, Video looks nice on the IPS panel of an iPad propped up with a stand.
When I look at both iOS devices lying on my desk right now, I see that there is still space in between them that can be filled by a third mobile form factor. I am not going to discuss what problems will arise for developers and consumers (of course you cannot just run a 9.7” iPad app on 7” without proper adjustments), but hope for an elegant solution by Apple in our glorious times of resolution independence.
Yutaka Tsutano http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivyfield/4486938721