There have been rumors floating around for ages that Apple is getting ready to release an iPad with a smaller display. That may or may not be true, but Apple blogger John Gruber says he’s heard from multiple sources that Apple is testing a prototype with a 7.85 inch display.

Apple iPad back

Gruber typically has pretty good sources, and doesn’t often comment on rumors other than to debunk them. So there’s reason to think he at least believes the prototype exists.

You can hear his comments at the 1 hour, 19 minute mark of a recent The Talk Show podcast.

But here’s the thing — a prototype isn’t a finished product. It’s possible that the 7.85 inch iPad could never actually see the light of day. Apple may be testing the form factor in order to decide whether or not to release it.

The prototype allegedly has the same 1024 x 768 pixel resolution found on the original 9.7 inch iPad and iPad 2 models. That makes sense, because it means that every app written for the larger iPads would work on the smaller device. The text and graphics would just look a little sharper.

Apple still sells more tablets than any of its competitors, but the second-place tablet maker is Amazon, who sells the 7 inch Kindle Fire for $199. It’s possible that Apple is exploring the possibility of selling smaller, cheaper iPads to swat off the Amazon fly.

On the other hand, I’m a bit perplexed about the assumption that smaller equals cheaper. Yes, there’s less glass, plastic, and metal involved in smaller tablets, but unless Apple also uses less storage, less memory, or a slower processor, it should cost almost as much to make a smaller iPad as a larger one.

Once upon a time, smaller actually meant more expensive because electronic components weren’t as small as they are today and shrinking them to fit in a tiny case was harder work. That’s not as true today as it was a few years ago, because if you’ve ever looked under the hood of an iPad you’ll know that the system board is actually pretty small. It’s the battery that takes up the most space.

But unless Apple cuts some corners on components beside the screen size I’m not sure how much cheaper a smaller iPad would be. After all, an unsubsidized iPhone is about the same price as an iPad.

Then again, Apple makes a pretty healthy profit on today’s iPads, so the company could certainly afford to sell new models for lower prices if it’s at all worried about competition.

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3 replies on “Apple is reportedly testing a 7.85 inch iPad, may never release it”

  1. It will be highly amusing if Apple releases a 7″-ish iPad model. If only to watch the pro-Apple tech bloggers twist themselves into pretzels explaining how the mini-Pad is so revolutionary, after, claiming that 7″ tablets are such a terrible and failing form factor (because Apple said so, back then).

    BTW, I think that Apple isn’t just going after the Kindle Fire, but also the upcoming Nexus tablet, which is rumored to be cheaper than the Fire and would open up a whole new market at the low end. That has got to be a bit of a worry to Apple, since if enough people buy cheap tablets running stock Android, then we could see increasing shares of Android tablets and a “high end” Apple vs “affordable” PC type market emerge, as has happened with iPhone vs. Android smartphones.

    1. Chevy does make cars and not sell them. All of the car manufacturers do. They are called prototypes or show cars. Chrysler just showed off several Jeeps that they made and do not plan to sell.

      Apple is well known for doing this. They don’t blindly believe that what looks good on the designer’s computer screen will work in real life. They make a few test models, pass them around to employees and actually use them. Then they go back to the computer, redesign from what they learn, and make another batch of prototypes.

      As far as cost cutting goes, the speculation is that Apple would put older components in a 7″ tablet. In particular it would not have the latest, greatest display or processor.

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