Apple May Have a Rainbow of Retina-Display Minis Under Wraps
The iPad's younger sibling is at the center of the latest Apple rumors kicking around the blogosphere, which run the gamut from "yes!" to "say it ain't so." A Retina display? Of course. Apple needs to compete with Google's spiffy new Nexus 7. Candy colored casings? That's a much tougher call. Rumors of bright -- or sickly -- colored cheap iPhones abound, but is the iPad mini ready to rock lime?
The next iPad mini, expected to debut in the December quarter, may have a high-resolution display and come in an assortment of colors other than black and white.
The switch to Apple's famous Retina screen -- reported by The Wall Street Journal, which cited "people familiar with the matter" -- will bring the next-gen mini in line with the company's other iOS products.
This isn't the first hint that Apple may be adding more color to its iOS line. A mid-tier priced iPhone also may have a number of color options.
This latest bit of iPad mini speculation comes on the heels of Google's introduction of its latest Android Nexus 7 tablet, which has a 7-inch screen that supports 1080p HDTV video and has a density of 323 pixels per inch. That's still lower than a Retina display's 364 ppi but higher than the current mini's 264 ppi.
Keeping Up With the Googles
Market pressures may be influencing Apple's display decisions for the next iPad mini.
"Apple's doing this to stay up to the competition," Ken Dulaney, vice president for mobile computing with Gartner, told MacNewsworld. "It's almost a necessity."
As the latest Nexus 7 shows, mini headhunters can use the tablet's display as a way to boost the stock of their slates over Apple's.
"It's a hardware area where competitors have an opportunity to differentiate their product," Charles Golvin, a principal analyst with Forrester Research, told MacNewsWorld.
"Screen depth and screen quality is something that has a noticeable impact on customer experience," he said. "It's a place where competition is progressing, and Apple has to be there."
Even with a Retina display, the mini is facing some tough sledding as competitors bring better displays to market.
"Any competitive differentiation that would have been perceived for the iPad is diminishing," Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices with ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld.
Eschewing a Retina display in the next mini could hurt the device's competitiveness in the market.
"It's a question of not losing potential customers because Apple may be seen as deficient in regards to display quality," Orr noted.
If Apple were to introduce a mini with Retina display, it likely would retain the existing unit and sell it at a lower price point -- somewhere in the US$249 to $299 range -- as it has done with the iPhone and iPad.
"It would sneak a cheaper iPad into the market," Carl Howe, research director for the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
Maintaining the current price of the Mini -- $329 -- is important to keep the device competitive, contended Gartner's Dulaney.
"If they jack up the price, it would not be a good move by Apple," he said.
"The Android devices that are well under the price of Apple's products are very good," he continued. "They'd be giving more market share to Android."
Beyond Primary Colors
Will the new mini need more colors to sell it?
"I don't think that's in Apple's vision," Orr opined. "I think that the original iMac was the last time we saw the Life Savers roll of fruit colors in a product offering."
"From a design perspective," he continued, "it likes black and white, and I think that's where the company wants to stay."
Mini users looking to add color to their units can do it by buying a case from one of the many makers of those add-ons for Apple devices.
"Apple is quite fine leaving color choices to the aftermarket," Orr observed.
If color is in the mini's future, it's unlikely to happen in the next iteration of the product, Forrester's Golvin said.
Apple tends to introduce colors at a point in a product's evolution when competitors have caught up to it.
"Apple then uses color as a further way to expand customization and differentiation," Golvin explained. "I'm not sure that we're there yet in tablets."