MACMAN August 09, 2012
A bigger screen is not always better when you are on the move. Photo: Bloomberg
The dimensions of the screen are a crucial factor when choosing a tablet.
THE blogosphere has seethed for months with speculation that Apple is about to produce an iPhone 5 - which will have a larger screen, better battery and faster processors - and what might be called an iPad Mini.
Now, The Wall Street Journal's All Things D online forum has joined The New York Times in confidently predicting both devices are due, and conjectured a launch on September 12. Those boys and girls deal only in ''judicious leaks'' - at least a wink, if not a nod, from someone not far from the mothership's helm.
The big change will be screen size. The iPhone 5 is expected to go to a four-inch diagonal that's longer, but not wider, than the iPhone 4's 3.5-inch (89-millimetre) diagonal. Wider would be a pain to hold to the ear.
As for the iPad Mini, better bloggers agree that its screen will be 7.85 inches diagonal (199 millimetres) with a 4:3 (traditional TV) ratio, which is 40 per cent larger than the Google Nexus and Amazon Kindle Fire.
Apple has tinkered with screen sizes on the many iPod variations, but avoided change on the iPhone, though progressively raising screen quality and resolution. So, too, with the iPad.
Excluding the variations of the screen-less Shuffle and the iPod touch, which shares iPhone screen size, most size changes have been in iPods. The Classic had one change, from two inches (51 millimetres), used in the original click-wheel iPod of 2001, to 2.5 inches (64 millimetres). Nanos have ranged from 1.5 inches (38 millimetres) to 2.2 inches (56 millimetres), with later versions offering touchscreen control. The Nano is still popular but waning as sales soar for smartphones with music and video player features.
But for Apple's flagship devices, changes in screen size, dictated to a great extent by the dexterity of users, have been avoided. The iPad Mini is about to change that, but even so, the range is likely to be limited as it is with iPhone and iPad.
John Paczkowski of All Things D says: ''The tablet market lacks a true second-place contender, and with Google and Amazon rising fast, size has become an issue.''
Add to that Apple chief executive Tim Cook's oft-spoken view: ''Apple has no plans to leave a price umbrella around the iPad that would allow a rival to shake its dominance by introducing a lower-cost device.''
The iPad is dominant but one size does not fit all in tablets, nor iMacs, MacBooks and almost everything else.
Among the 50-odd tablets battling it out, there are at least seven variations in size, ranging from Galaxy's 10.1 inches (256 millimetres) and iPad's 9.7 inches (246 millimetres) to the seven inches (178 millimetres) of the Nexus and Kindle Fire. The iPad, king of the field with 68.2 per cent of global sales, according to IDC, could be considered optimum size, but with rising competition from Samsung, Google and Amazon, Apple sees consumer markets shifting and is covering its bases. A seven-inch tablet with a high-definition Retina display screen could attract consumers - lower price, high quality and services proven by the current iPads.
Innovations expected on the iPad Mini and iPhone 5 include a Nano SIM card - 40 per cent smaller than the micro SIM in iPhone 4, 4S and iPad - a 19-pin connector socket (replacing the 30-pin), faster processors and better cameras.
The stakes are high. Industry analyst Gartner expects tablet sales to reach 120 million this year, 98 per cent up on last year, with the iPad holding its more than 60 per cent share. By 2016, tablet sales will reach 370 million, of which 170 million will be iPads and 138 million Android devices. Microsoft's Surface will get 4 per cent of sales this year, and may reach 12 per cent by 2017.
Demand is near insatiable, especially in industry and business where millions are forsaking desktops for iPad mobility and facility.
In Melbourne recently was Chuck Hollis, the chief technology officer of marketing for EMC, a US information management company. He told me his company's 55,000 employees, 500,000 business customers and 6000 partners ''all would prefer to do their day-to-day work on an iPad''.
Mobility is not just here. It's taking over, whatever the shape and size of the device.