Apple iPad Mini – Why does screen size make a difference?

I love it when Apple launches new products. Its always such a media spectacle, and today was no different. However today’s iPad Mini announcement wasn’t really a giant leap forward in technology, in fact it felt a bit downplayed. Yes, its a new device, but for most it just looks like a different screen size. So it begs the question, “do we really need it?” There have been 100 Million iPads sold to date. Are all these people going to buy a new iPad Mini? Is the market much bigger than that?

For those that have an iPad already, more devices (aside from the additional cost) means more syncing issues (didn’t I already read this on my other device?), more app updates, operating system updates, and one more battery to keep charged. If I’ve got an iPad already, do I really need a smaller one? The not so dirty secret is that it's not just about the screen size, it is also about the weight.

There are three primary things that you do with mobile devices. You communicate (talk, text, email), watch (videos), and read (iBooks, Web) - (yes - gaming is important but I’m thinking about more fundamental uses, and gaming is just a combination of these). Why this is important is because reading is the one thing that isn’t natural for iPhone or iPad. People don’t like to read on an iPhone because the text is too small, and reading on the iPad is cumbersome because the iPad is difficult to hold in one hand. And who likes to read a book with two hands?

The iPad mini is attempting to find the balance between a screen size that’s easy to read with a device you can hold in your hand. The Kindle made it popular; the iPad Mini will make it commonplace.

So what does it mean for us?

From an enterprise perspective I have a different take on the roles these devices play in our daily lives. We used to look at the iPad as just a larger iPhone - a mobile device that gives more layout for reading. What we’re finding is that people want to use the iPad for more than just reading. In fact, they are looking for the iPad to someday replace their laptop. People want more of a full-featured experience with the iPad, but with healthy consideration for its limitations (fingers aren’t great mice so buttons need to be bigger). iPhones, on the other hand, are for triage. People don’t use iPhones for focused working; they use it to keep up with what’s going on, save tasks for later, or delegate to others. The iPhone screens are too small for anything else. Interfaces need to be simple and fast, because you're rarely not doing something else when you pick up your phone to check in.

Where does that leave the iPad Mini?

While we’ll need to play with it for a bit to get to know it, my sense is that initially it will do what the original iPad set out to do, which is to become a great content consumption device. Because the screen resolution is the same as the iPad, none of the iPad apps will need to change. And by positioning between the iPad and the iPhone and taking on the established iPad use cases, it will encourage iPad apps to finally step up and start to become the laptop replacement everyone wants it to be.

What do you think?


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