How I learned to stop worrying and love the idea of a 7-inch iOS device…

20120422-144346.jpg

This article was originally intended as a frothful rant aimed at Macworld UK’s Ben Camm-Jones, who opines that Apple should launch a 7-inch iPad. ”Absurd!” I was to proclaim, and ”pointless!” I planned to spout. It was going to be a classic example of the type of rambling sub-analytical blog-turd that has led this humble writer to be hailed by ‘critics’ worldwide as “an arrogant piece of shit.”

But then something funny happened. The more I thought about a 7-inch iOS device, the more I found myself thinking, hmmm… this might just work.

That doesn’t mean the iPad Mini hype-mongers are right. I maintain that a budget, low-spec, small screen iPad makes no sense for consumers or Apple. However, I’ve grown exponentially infatuated with the idea of a big iPod Touch. I don’t know whether this interest is due to a previously undiscovered void in my digital lifestyle (that has to be one of the more pretentious sentences I’ve written), or whether it’s just your basic Kindle envy (on my daily commute, I now see more people reading Kindles than paperbacks). All I know is Apple should definitely launch a big-ass, 7-inch iPod Touch.

I think this makes infinitely more sense than an iPad Mini. For although the iPad is routinely dismissed as a mere consumption device, its lasting appeal is that it can accomplish a huge range of tasks through a massive choice of apps using creative new modes of interaction. The future of the iPad will only see more advanced apps allowing users to accomplish even more complex tasks. This requires more power to be crammed inside the iPad’s dinky frame. So even if the iPad never truly replaces desktops or laptops (as I doubt it will), it will still need to develop in capability relative to these. A second tier pad with minaturised screen will only hinder the evolution of the platform. It would be a downgrade creating two ‘speeds’ of development.

20120422-144515.jpg

On the other hand, a larger screen iPod Touch will only enhance the user experience in all the ways the device is intended: watching video, playing games, and browsing the web. I don’t imagine many people are currently using the Touch for reading books, but they could if it had a larger screen. There will be no step backwards in terms of technology, rather the opportunity for greater battery life and, of course, the bigger screen, which, with retina-level apps, needn’t compromise on the Touch’s current display quality. Why would Apple make an inferior iPad when they could make a superior iPod Touch?

20120422-144658.jpg

In fact, there are several advantages to using the iPod Touch as a basis for the 7-incher over the iPad:

  • Upscaled iPhone apps would look way better than shrunken iPad apps. All iPhone apps would work on a larger screen, while many iPad apps would be practically unusable squished onto a smaller screen.
  • Less developer work. Major changes to the iPhone or iPad line-up would mean devs will be compelled to take these variations into account. The need to tailor your app for the Touch audience is not as vital. I don’t think many devs are building apps with the Touch in mind. If that status quo remains, so be it. If devs actually want to optimise for the Touch because they find it’s worth the effort, that’s their choice.
  • It won’t hurt sales… probably. A 7-inch iPod Touch would be entirely different to the iPhone and iPad, meaning minimal cannibalisation of sales. I believe a smaller, cheaper iPad would detract from regular iPad sales as some people will always choose the cheapest option. Yes, it could also massively increase iPad sales, but if the user experience of the Mini is just as good as the Regular, there’s no incentive to buy the more expensive option. If it’s not, what’s the point?
  • No need to awkwardly split the product portfolio. The iPod Touch is pretty popular, but I reckon Apple could safely replace the current model with a 7-incher without negative repercussions. What the Touch would lose in pocketability (i.e. as a music player), it would more than make up for in terms of video, gaming and reading experience. It may even be a big benefit for the Touch to no longer be defined as a cheapo iPhone sans phone. Consider, alternatively, two different types of iPad, each offering a completely different experience and benefiting two completely different users. Why muddy the waters unnecessarily?
  • It’ll sell to current owners of iDevices. I can’t imagine most iPhone and iPad owners rushing out to buy the same devices with a different screen size. Likewise, there’s currently no real reason why these people would buy a contemporary-gen iPod Touch. The ‘Touch 7’ is different enough to be a justifiable purchase (arguably).
  • A bigger Touch will be cheaper than a smaller iPad (I’m guessing…). I don’t know for sure, but surely the tech required to power a 7-inch Touch will be less than that needed to power an IPad? Of course, even if the production costs were the same for both, the retail price for an iPad Mini would have to be somewhere below the iPad 2 and above the 4th gen iPod Touch (probably nearer to the former). In my hypothetical fantasy world, Apple could/should sell the Touch 7 for the same price as the present day Touch. This puts it in the same region price-wise as the Kindle Fire.

I think you’ll agree that those are six pretty awesome reasons for the Touch 7. But if you’re still wedded to the idea of a bigger iPhone or smaller iPad, allow me to summarise:

  • Big iPhone: reduced display quality, two-tier development on flagship device, won’t fit in pocket.
  • Small iPad: less powerful, inferior experience for creative tasks, too expensive.
  • iPod Touch 7: an upgrade that redefines the device, the cheapest option, no extra work for app developers required, 7-inch usage suits the brand.

It just makes sense.