• Lessons the iPad mini needs to have learned from the Nexus7

    Turns out there is one area of the tablet computing universe that Apple doesn’t dominate. When it released the iPad as a brand new class of device at a price that competitors couldn’t match, Apple gained a headstart in this new industry that has only recently been threatened. It took perhaps 18 months and an inadvertent firesale of HP Touchpads at $199 to show iPad-competitors that there was a way to sell tablets in a category the iPad invented - go super cheap.

    Since this discovery we’ve seen the B&N Nook tablet, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Google/Asus Nexus7 all retail at this low price (at least in the USA) - with all of them apparently selling at cost at attempting to make money from selling books and movies. Consensus among reviewers is that the Nexus7 is the best yet, so in anticipation of Apple entering this smaller tablet space, I have penned a few thoughts on what an iPad mini needs to do better than the Nexus7 (based on my recent review).
    • Screen Ratio - One area of criticism for the Nexus7 is the uneasy compromise that having a 16:9 screen brings. While great for portrait use and landscape movie watching, any other landscape such as typing a document becomes difficult. Lesson? Keep the iPad mini at 4:3. If it does use the rumoured 7.85 inch screen at this ratio, it will be large enough screen-wise to work well in both orientations (as the original iPad does) but still retain a relatively pocketable size.
    • 3G/4G - I knew my Nexus7 didn’t have 3G capabilities - but I was surprised how much I missed it after having had the 3G versions of iPads 1-3. It just meant that even when I carry the N7 with me (which is easy due to its size) I often ended up just using my iPhone - because it is always connected. Lesson? Make sure there is a 3G/4G model.
    • Battery life - Unlike most reviewers, I don’t get great battery life from my N7. It has gotten much better since I turned off the Google Now feature - but even so it goes flat after about 4 days where I might use it for only a couple of hours. Lesson? By all reports the iPad mini will be quite thin - but seeing as Apple has never deviated from the ’10 hour battery life’ mark for the larger iPad models, I hope they stick to this for the mini also.
    • Phone apps blow up - Another one of my major complaints in my N7 review was that Google chose to use the phone version of Android 4.1 rather than the tablet version. At first this seems a crazy choice given it is a tablet, but I think that because proper tablet apps are still few and far between for Android, that they had to choose the lesser of two evils. The evil that remains however is apps that are stretched and don’t look great on the Nexus7 at all. Lesson? Leverage the 50,000+ iPad apps already available. If the theory of John Gruber and others about its 7.85 inch screen prove correct then this has already been taken care of.
    • Small text thats not smoothed - When Google chose the phone version of Android for the Nexus7 it seems to have meant that in many apps (like GReader, ABC News, Zite, Facebook) the font size is way too tiny for extended reading, which is a shame as the size is a good one for this. Fonts are also rendered in a jagged way not evident even on my pre-retina iPad1. Lesson? Arrange for text to still look good and be re-sizeable even if apps on the mini will be shrunken down to the 7.85 inch screen.
    • Kids buy content too easily - As I said in the review, I have a friend who’s son bought apps and used up his Google Play store credit - because the store doesn’t by default require a password for purchases. Lesson? Well this should have been a lesson for Google as the app store already requires a password by default.
    • Camera - In my N7 review In noted that “I really think that the size of the Nexus7 would make it perfect for recording video and could have been an advantage over the iPad in this regard. I know they wanted to hit a certain price point, but I would have paid more for a ‘Pro’ model with even 720p HD recording from a rear camera”. A 7-8 inch tablet would seem to be the perfect video recording comprimise - a nice large screen to see what is being recorded, you hold it with two hands which gives greater stability, but its not too large or heavy that prolonged use becomes difficult. Lesson? Make the iPad mini start at $249 if you have to, but at least have the iPad 2’s video recording capability.
    • 85 - Make a profit - This one doesn’t perhaps require a full number point, but if you are lucky enough to be an Apple shareholder I think it’d be important. While profit made purely from content sales may be enough for other manufacturers, and while Apple certainly does ok from its 30% operations cut from apps and books, entering this market wouldn’t make much sense for Apple if thats all that was in it for them. Lesson? Apple must call on their legendary supply chain efficiencies and ability to buy in bulk so as to price the mini as close to $199 while still retaining a hardware profit as well.
    So, given that Apple have been going gangbusters of late in squeezing advanced engineering into small packages, we can assume the iPad mini will address the above Nexus7 issues. The latest rumours point to its introduction in October, just in time for the Christmas buying season. Will you bite? Or choose it over the larger iPad going forward for kids or family say?
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