by Tom Kaneshige

iPad Screen: Size Matters

Aug 16, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsTablets

Can you foresee a 13-inch iPad? Maybe a 7-inch iPad?

So, what could Apple’s next move with the iPad be? Maybe there’s not much to improve on, as iPad rivals stumble to compete. But that won’t stop me from guessing.

My bet: Next year we’ll see iPads with various screen sizes, not just the 10-inch screen today.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. “There’s an opportunity for a larger iPad for architects and construction with AutoCAD and that sort of thing,” says Kyle Wiens of iFixit, a Web site that provides free repair manuals and advice forums. “I’d love to see a 13-inch iPad with a double-resolution screen that would be big enough to do an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of paper.”


Are multiple screen sizes in Apple’s future?

Apple has always appealed to musicians, graphic designers, artists – and these folks need a bigger canvas. If Apple wants the iPad to truly replace laptops and desktops, then Apple will have to address the needs of this artistic customer segment by delivering at least a 13-inch screen.

“Can you imagine GarageBand on a bigger iPad screen? That would be amazing,” Wiens says.

Apple might decide to go smaller, too. The 7-inch tablet is quickly emerging as a sweet spot in the form factor. There’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as 7-inch tablets in the works from Acer and Hewlett-Packard (along with HP’s 9.7-inch TouchPad). Others in the 7-inch tablet club include HTC Flyer, Sprint Evo View 4G and RIM BlackBerry PlayBook.

So what’s driving the 7-inch tablet? Convenience plays a big role. PC World writer Melissa J. Perenson says she has found the 7-inch tablet easier to hold and less obtrusive in meetings. “Even for casual use while on an airplane, I found I preferred the compact nature of the 7-inch to a 10-inch,” she writes.

Admittedly, the 10-inch iPad can be a bear to hold while reading or viewing content for extended periods. Even the thinner, lighter iPad 2 can produce hand, wrist and arm cramps. However, I’m not grabbing for my 3.5-inch iPhone instead. The iPhone screen size works in a pinch but not for leisure.

Maybe a 7-inch tablet does offer the best of both worlds.

Delivering iPads with multiple screen sizes, though, will be a software developer’s nightmare. It wasn’t long ago when app developers tried to push existing iPhone apps onto the new iPad with little, if any, optimization. Apps will have to be tuned for each screen size.

The bigger question: Is it in Apple’s DNA to alter screen sizes? Well, Apple has done it with iPods, Macs and MacBooks. “Look at every other Apple product segment,” Wiens says, “there are multiple versions, multiple screen sizes. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be like that with the iPad.”