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Make Room for Mini: Will a 7-Inch iPad Make App Devs Sweat?

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 16, 2012 11:49 AM PT

Some iOS app developers may need to take a long, hard look at their apps, as rumors about a forthcoming iPad mini continue to gain strength, most recently in a New York Times report.

Make Room for Mini: Will a 7-Inch iPad Make App Devs Sweat?

"Apps custom-coded with Objective C and the Apple SDKs (software development kits) will need to be recompiled and rewritten," George Adams, cofounder and CEO of ViziApps, told MacNewsWorld.

The rumored tablet's supposed dimensions -- around 7 inches diagonally -- will present a new screen size in the iOS app universe, different from the approximately 4 inches and 10 inches featured in the iPhone and iPad, respectively. This may mean new version of existing apps will have to be written.

However, devs using ViziApps' browser-based visual system for creating native, hybrid and Web-based mobile apps for iOS "will be automatically rescaled to the differing iPad screen sizes and aspect ratios," Adams added.

On the other hand, "the likeliest possibility" is that the 7-inch iPad will have the same resolution as the original iPad -- 1,024 x 768 pixels, Joshua Greenman, president of Mercury Development, speculated. "If that's the case, all iPad apps will work with the new device and any iPhone apps would work similarly to the way they work on iPads now: in a window or with magnification."

Should apps need to be reworked, that might not be too onerous because "fundamentally the heavy work has gone into making sure that your icon appears clearly on the Retina screen at a certain resolution," Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld. "There might be a lot of buffer space not used in a 10-inch screen."

Why 7 Inches?

The 7-inch tablet market has caught fire as of late. Products in this category include the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, the Amazon Kindle Fire, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the recently announced Google Nexus 7 tablet. Others are the Toshiba 7-inch Thrive and the Lenovo Ideapad A1 22282EU.

The 7-inch screen is the new battlefield, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, wrote in a July 11 article on Pund-IT Review. Dell was first in this area with its ill-fated Streak, he pointed out, but it was Amazon that showed how effective devices this size could be when it debuted the Kindle Fire.

Amazon may bring out three more tablets in the 7-inch class, Enderle speculated. This market's currently dominated by Amazon and Samsung.

"There's a unique case for the 7-inch tablet over a 10-inch tablet, and we're starting to see that to be true," ABI's Morgan said. "The 10-inch tablet is a two-handed nomadic device, meaning you carry it with both hands, set it up in a spot, and use it. The 7-inch tablet is one-handed, and you can carry it and use it on the go. So maybe Apple sees merit in that use case."

Or it could be that a 7-inch tablet "will let [Apple] make a lower-cost tablet while, in theory, retaining margin," Morgan continued. "All you have to do to go from a 10-inch tablet to a 7-inch is change the screen size. With the Retina screen, making a smaller screen is easier than making a larger one, which is why the Retina screen hit the iPhone first."

Looking at the iPhone

At the same time as the rumor mill has Apple working on a smaller tablet, there's speculation that the company's developing a larger iPhone with a 5-inch screen.

If true, the larger iPhone likely won't require app devs to do too much reworking of their apps.

"In the five-year history of iOS, Apple has gone to great lengths to guarantee that apps would work on new devices with minimal effort," Mercury Development's Greenman told MacNewsWorld.

United We Stand

One possible outcome of Apple's rumored move into different-sized iDevices is that this might fragment the market for these products.

"We think this is unlikely," Mercury Development's Greenman said. About 30 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store, making Apple $2 billion and driving iDevice sales, and "it is extremely unlikely that Apple will jeopardize this by allowing the iDevice universe to become fragmented in a way that's cumbersome for app developers."

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