Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Size matters: What are the dimensions of the “perfect tablet” and will the (rumored) iPad mini fit the bill?

Ain’t gonna lie. Fifteen years ago, I thought the portable CD player was the epitome of the term ‘portable.’ I even used the double-compartment carrying case—one pocket for the player, the other for the CDs. Before long car rides, I would agonize over which albums to bring along since the pocket could only comfortably accommodate four plastic disk cases. If that wasn’t sufficient, the CD binder would have to come along. But that was fine. As in life, decisions must be made.


I never questioned the actual level of the CD player’s convenience, or how my music-appreciation experience could be enhanced by a different device.

The appearance of “curiously small” MP3 players blew my mind. These have, of course, become ubiquitous and practically synonymous with Apple’s iPod. Cellphones seemed to have followed the same trend: the smaller the better. For a while, small was hip, it was sexy, it was techy. Oh, but was it smart?

Smartphones have blessed or cursed society with the convenience of a pocket-sized, touch-screen computer with integrated features. Being a cellphone (or hand phone or mobile…pick your poison),  the smartphone was restricted in terms of how big it could get. Ereaders? Okay, they’re more or less “book-sized.” No surprise there.

But what about those tricky tablets? Size matters, but how big is too big, and how small is too small?

Let’s analyze the numbers. According to, Apple’s iPad—the paragon tablet of the industry—is still too big to be truly portable:

The iPad may be far lighter and portable than a laptop,  but surveys suggest it’s still too bulky for many customers to carry with them at all times. Some 62% of iPad owners leave their iPads at home, according to a study of 15,000 iPad owners by the research firm McKinsey & Company. Just 4% of consumers said they take the tablets to run errands and 5% report bringing them to meetings or class, according to a 2011 Nielsen survey of 12,000 tablet owners. “Finding that sweet spot blending portability and usability is what everybody’s searching for,” says Michael Holt, analyst at Morningstar.

Source: Brooke Crothers/CNET

Now the rumor mill tells us that an “iPad mini” will be out by October 2012, just in time for the holiday season.

An article from the Washington Post reports on the possible specs:

The new model will have a screen that’s 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally, less than the current 9.7-inch version, said [two people with knowledge of the plans], who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public. The product, which Apple may announce by October, won’t have the high-definition screen featured on the iPad that was released in March, one of the people said.

Considering the dimensions, the mini will be in direct competition with the likes of Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7—which begs the question: does this mean the industry is finally approaching the sought-after “sweet spot”?

Or is it smarter to go even smaller?

“Smartphones are getting bigger while tablet computers are getting smaller. In the future, analysts say consumers may end up buying a hybrid of the two,” writes columnist Quentin Fottrell. “Some analysts say that the gap is closing between the e-reader, tablet and Smartphone toward a hybrid: a larger phone/smaller tablet that does the work of all three.”

Samsung’s Galaxy Note, with its 5.3 inch screen, aspires to fill this role.

While impressive, it also inspires ambivalent thoughts. Perhaps I need to summon my inner Goldilocks to figure this one out. I can’t tell if the Galaxy Note is too big or too small, or if the idea of a 7-something inch iPad is just right.

4 comments on “Size matters: What are the dimensions of the “perfect tablet” and will the (rumored) iPad mini fit the bill?

  1. Tom Griffith
    July 10, 2012

    Hi Jenka. These comments sounded familiar, and I realized it’s just what you told me on the Green Line yesterday. Let me weigh in on portability. I bought an iPad 2 this spring (when the iPad 3 came out and prices dropped). I commute to work by train and foot, with my life in my backpack. It leaves me keenly conscious of the weight of items. It was to avoid carrying heavy books that I wanted the iPad in the first place, as an e-reader. While it’s small, it’s heavy – about 1 1/2 pounds, more than most any paperback. So it feels like a wash – in train reading, I switch between e-books and book books. It’s nice having access to both, but it makes want a smaller and lighter device. I’ll probably leave the iPad at work as a classroom tool, since I never use it to go on-line at home. Anyway, very helpful article, and cool blog! -Tom Griffith

    • Dametkul
      March 10, 2013

      , even the first generation mngeaad to open and close apps faster than most people would be used to on their computers, so while this is an improvement it’s more akin to showing off.AppsOne thing that Apple has clearly the advantage in for the moment is app availability. The App store has close to 70,000 iPad specific Apps, all of which will work on the iPad 2. The new cameras will undoubtedly see this list expand rapidly, as will the inclusion of a gyroscope for gaming and motion based uses. There are also a substantial number of professional applications ranging from document creation to photo editing and vector drawing. Chances are if you can dream it, there’s an App for that (and if not you might want to get started on one to fill in the gap). The Android market is making a strong showing, and ultimately it’ll likely be a strong competitor, for now it still has a ways to go, but any potential buyer should consider the strength of the application market before buying a tablet.Pros:Weight. Seriously. The minimal weight of this thing is by far the most impressive feature about it in my opinion. It seems to defy physics and logic that so much could be in such a small space working that hard for that long.Battery Life. From full to dead my iPad 2 went just over 11 hours with the movie Robin Hood showing twice during that time, the screen at half brightness, wifi turned on, an Angry Birds marathon and a good portion of a book in ibook. That’s better than a work day and that’s constantly on.Books. This is definitely a Pro, but reading itself could go either way. The great benefit to the iPad is having access to Google Books, ibook, Nook, and Kindle. This allows for some comparison shopping and price competition (although for the most part they’re all usually about the same). Reading in the evenings in bed is great as the back light means you don’t have to worry about keeping others awake, but the glass screen causes some glare trouble when trying to read outside or near a sunny window. If you’re an avid outdoor reader the Kindle might still be your best bet.Cons:Still no dedicated USB support. While there is a camera add-on that allows for certain USB devices to be used there is no option for mass storage. Some of the Android Tablets allow for this and if you find yourself wanting to use your tablet as a standalone storage device this might be something to consider. The device can read from certain flash drives though, but is largely limited to photo and video files. Jailbreaks offer solutions to this, but those come with their own issues as well.Still no dedicated SD card slot. This is troublesome on two fronts. First, if you want to import pictures from your camera you have to have an adapter which is just one more thing to carry around. Second, the lack of expansion means you’re limited to what you purchase in terms of storage. I purchased a 32GB iPad last time and never filled it up completely, so for me capacity wasn’t an issue. If you want to be able to have your entire movie collection with you though you may want to consider whether the iPad 2 can meet your space requirements.HDMI output. Really this is a Pro and a Con. The iPad does allow for HD output over HDMI but again it requires an adapter. All of these adapters are additional purchases for features that some tablets offer built in. This can be a pain, but then again if you’re not likely to ever use HDMI Output then you’re not paying for something you won’t use.No Flash Support. This is becoming less and less of an issue as the internet and web developers are moving away from Flash for many websites, but there are a lot still out there relying on Adobe’s Flash to run properly (including a lot of web based games). Before you pick a tablet consider what kind of websites you frequent and try and determine if they are Flash driven or not. If they are you may really want to consider something from the Android offerings as it is expected that they’ll have at least some Flash support.If you’re in the market for a tablet device the iPad 2 should definitely be on your short list. If you’re uncertain it is always best to go and play with these things hands on first if you can. Best Buy is a good place for that, so are Verizon Stores since they have the Xoom and 3G iPad. Don’t get pulled into the hype and mania that comes with an Apple release. They’re exciting and new, and they’re impressive enough to warrant some excitement, but it will die down and there will be other products that prove a strong competitor to the iPad 2. If you’re looking for right now though, this is probably your best bet. I gave the device 4 stars, as I did the iPad 1. I did this in contemplation of the features offered by competitors that are absent from the iPad, most notably the requirement for adapters for USB/SD/HDMI. While these features are there, they aren’t as convenient as in other tablets. With that in mind I firmly believe that the iPad more than makes up for this in usability, reliability, and design and in those areas far exceeds its current competitors.

    • zaytzsd
      March 12, 2013

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  2. Pingback: Mini me, you complete me: Small is big in new tablets « appazoogle

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This entry was posted on July 10, 2012 by in News, Technology and tagged , , , , , .

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