Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
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 SmartMoney.com, 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.
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 SmartMoney.com 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.