I wrote an opinion piece last year speculating on Apple’s plans for its 2017 iPad line-up. A couple of factors led me to suspect that Apple may be planning to drop the iPad mini.
First, there was the fact that the starting price for the iPad mini 4 is exactly the same as for the iPad Air 2: $399. You’d already have to have a very strong preference for the smaller form-factor to want to shell out the same cash for the mini – especially given that you could combine phone and small tablet functionality by buying the Plus model iPhone.
Second, a KGI report suggesting that the 10.5-inch model would be the successor to the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro, while the new 9.7-inch model would be a low-cost model. That made it seem possible that Apple might be targeting an even lower price than $399, putting further pressure on the mini.
And now, consistent rumors of what we can expect from the iPhone 8 give a third reason to wonder whether the iPad mini has a future …
All the reports are pointing to a near bezel-free iPhone 8. This is said to feature a 5.8-inch display – though there is some doubt as to whether all of that screen size will be usable by apps. The belief is that Apple will squeeze a larger display into the same chassis size as the current iPhone 7 Plus.
Nor will it end there. While we’re currently expecting the iPhone 8 to drop a physical Home button and Touch ID sensor in favor of one embedded in the display, we’ve heard no such reports of Apple removing the ‘forehead’ of the iPhone 8 that houses the camera and speaker. But that does seem to be the end-goal – Jony Ive’s reported goal of a single slab of glass – so at some point the company will be squeezing even more display size into the same size case.
At the point at which Apple can get say a 6-inch screen into an iPhone, what role does that leave for a 7.9-inch iPad mini at a price at or above that of a 9.7-inch one?
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m well aware that the iPad mini has its fans – and not just those buying on price. As a couple of our readers recently commented, for some the iPad mini is exactly the right size.
[Not] everyone has or wants the Plus model phone. I hate that size in a phone. Too big for carrying around. Would rather have the regular phone and keep the iPad mini for couch surfing. For more interactive use, I’ll get the laptop. The regular iPad is too in between.
The mini fits perfectly in cargo pockets. Which for a contractor is actually pretty useful. When I was doing field work the mini was my go to. Now its on my coffee table as an e-reader because I’m no longer doing field work. But its perfect for reading.
But the same would be true for any size. For some people, 6.5-inches would be the perfect size; for others, 7-inches … and so on. No matter what Apple does or doesn’t offer, there will always be people who ideally want an in-between size.
It’s also notable that, while we’ve heard multiple reports of Apple’s plans for the standard-sized iPads, we’ve heard almost no rumors of a new iPad mini.
My guess, then, remains that Apple plans to drop the mini from the line-up. I wouldn’t put money on whether it will do so this year or next, but I do think the smallest iPad is now living on borrowed time. The most recent model will likely remain on sale for a year or two after it’s discontinued, but I’m expecting one more mini at best – and very possibly none.
Last time we asked, more of you agreed with me than disagreed. Have the iPhone 8 rumors made it seem more likely? Let us know your views by taking our poll and sharing your thoughts in the comments.