November 3, 2012

Will Apple Really Give the iPad mini a Retina Display in 2013?

The iPad mini is a nice little piece of hardware, light and featuring an overall nice design. It works surprisingly well in both portrait and landscape mode, something I was a bit worried about due to the small form factor. As for writing on it, well I’m tapping away at it right now and it works well enough, I’ll be doing speed tests later.

One thing that really does bother me however, is the lack of a retina screen. Sure, the iPad mini might share the resolution with the aging iPad 2, and thanks to the smaller screen each pixel is smaller, making text look less jagged than on the iPad 2. If I had never seen a retina iOS device I might not have been bothered by this.

But I have, and I am.

Most people seem to think that we’ll get a retina iPad mini next year, pushing the current model down as the budget alternative much like the iPad 2 is for the retina iPad. I’m not so sure about this. Look at the retina iPad and how it actually got thicker and heavier compared to its predecessor, the iPad 2. The reason for this is that the retina screen needs a lot of processing power to manage that beautiful screen. That screen and processing power comes at a price, being the mammoth-sized battery. Hence the iPad 3 and 4 are thicker and heavier than the iPad 2.

The iPad mini is thinner than the iPhone 5. Its form factor and the weight are the selling points for this device. The iPad mini has a weaker processor because it doesn’t need as much power; the screen has the same resolution as the iPad 2. While the iPad mini definitely is a lot more than a shrunken iPad 2, it is still the best comparison there is when talking about the hardware.

So the iPad mini is really thin, and it doesn’t weigh much. These are selling points, and they hold true.

What will happen when it gets a retina screen? This isn’t a device that can be much heavier, it would be against its purpose, but it might have to be if it is to get a retina screen anytime soon.

The keyword is “soon”, of course. Maybe Apple will refresh its iPad line next year, making the retina iPad more powerful but also lighter and thinner thanks to advancement in technology. Perhaps this means that the iPad mini can stay the same size and weight, despite getting such a substantial update as a retina screen would demand.

But you know what, I’m not holding my breath on that one. Apple will no doubt give the iPad mini a retina screen sometime, but not until they can do so while also maintaining its selling points: Size and weight.

Let’s hope y’all is right, that we’ll get a retina iPad mini next year and the current model will be the entry level choice. That would fit me and the way I use my iPad (3, incidentally) just fine. This is one time I’d like to be wrong all the way through. Unfortunately, I think the chance of a retina iPad mini in 2013 is below 50%.

Then again, Apple have amazed me before. I didn’t think I’d like this little bugger in the first place, for one. So there’s that.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.