Apple is reportedly testing a smaller version of its wildly popular iPad, with a display that measures approximately 7.85 inches.
According to Apple guru John Gruber, the prototype allegedly features a display with 1024 x 768 pixel resolution - the same as the original 9.7 inch iPad and iPad 2 models.
"I've heard from numerous people that that's one of the ideas that they're noodling with," Gruber revealed during an episode of The Talk Show. "[Sure], there are a couple areas where I think text is maybe a little too small, but it's not ridiculously small."
As Brad Linder of Liliputing notes, this actually makes perfect sense, because it means that every app written for the larger iPads would work on the smaller device. In fact, the text and graphics would just look a little sharper.
However, Linder emphasized that while Gruber typically has pretty decent sources, a prototype, even if designed by Cupertino, is far from 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," he opined. "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."
As Josh Ong of AppleInsider points out, rumors of a smaller iPad are hardly new and have been circulating since the original tablet launched in April 2010. Nevertheless, reports of a smaller form factor iPad gained significant legitimacy in February when the prestigious Wall Street Journal claimed Apple officials were showing off designs for a smaller tablet with a screen resolution similar to the iPad 2.
More recent reports indicate that the prototype tablet could feature a "slim bezel display," while Samsung Securities claims Apple could release an iPad Mini in the third quarter of 2012.
However, it remains unclear if Apple is seriously considering rolling out a smaller iPad. To be sure, the late Steve Jobs apparently believed 7-inch tablets would have very little chance of success in the hyper-competitive mobile market.
"Jobs was emphatic in his view that 7-inch tablets were dead on arrival (DOA)," Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair wrote in a 2011 industry note. "We believe it would be unlikely to see the company test the waters in this category anytime soon."
Indeed, back in October 2010, Jobs opined that devs weren't going to deal well with different tablet sizes, which would force them to alter code every time the screen size changes.
"When we make decisions on 7-inch tablets it's not about cost, it's about the value of the product when you factor in the software," he explained.
As such, says Blair, Apple won't debut any new products in 2012 with a 7-inch display, whether it is an "iPad mini" or a "jumbo" iPod Touch.