Marco Arment is a smart guy. Helped create/develop/invent Tumblr, created Instapaper (which I couldn’t live without), and started The Magazine (which I love to read), he also has some practical and pragmatic things to say about why we couldn’t have made a Retina iPad mini—at least not yet.
In Marco’s post overnight—The iPad Mini and the cost of Retina—he goes through the good (size, built, fast and easy charging) and the bad (the screen) about the iPad mini, but most importantly he points out a few things we’ve been forgetting about the “amazing” iPad 3 and iPad 4.
Remember how we noticed how heavy the iPad 3 was? How it had to be thicker to allow for the bigger battery? How about how warm it got because the processor and GPU had to work so hard to make it all happen like magic?
Yeah, we did kvetch about those things, remember?
The iPad 4? Sure it’s better, but as Marco points out, it might run cooler, but it’s still thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. You want to know what I really notice when switching between my iPad 4 (where I’m writing this post, btw) and my iPad mini? How freakin’ heavy the iPad 4 is. I don’t really notice the screen. Remember I read from a screen for a living; my whole day is either putting things onto a screen or reading things from one. So when I pick up my mini to catch up on news, it’s fine. Really.
In order to have a Retina mini, Marco figures that we’d have to have a thick, bulky, more expensive device that might have had crap battery life. That, folks, would have been an abject failure for Apple. It would have made Maps look like a home run.
Imagine the fallout if a Retina Mini shipped with only three hours of battery life, or was inelegantly thick and heavy. Or, very importantly to the iPad’s market, imagine if its GPUs were slower and it ran existing iPad games extremely poorly. And then add the component-price differences: imagine a Retina iPad Mini that was bulkier, shorter-running, or much slower (or all three) and that started at $399 instead of $329.
That’s why we don’t have a Retina iPad Mini yet. It’s not only about price: it’s because the resulting product would suck in at least two other important ways.
I think what we have to keep in mind is that Apple is certainly working on a Retina mini and when the technology meets up with what both Apple wants and we expect, it will appear. Nothing happens overnight. Everything is a step-wise iteration in technology. Undoubtedly there are similarly sized tablets that have better screens. I don’t think anyone is denying that. I think what maybe what we’re missing is that maybe, the iPad mini screen is actually pretty darn good and more than good enough for us—for now.
It’s stake in the ground time. I like the iPad mini’s screen. I love using the mini. I pick it up first now over my iPad 4. I proudly stand behind everything I’ve written about it and I really think Apple produced a device that we’ll look back on as a turning point for Apple.
Okay…let the comments fly folks.