The Realistic iPad Mini
On a purely technical level I think the, still unnanounced, iPad Mini is quite realistic now, at least if the already existing products are anything to go by. Not being able to get all the needed parts and sufficient battery life strikes me as more than enough reason for Apple to not have launched an iPad Mini before now. Bear in mind that I’m just talking about the purely technical details here, not the politics involved with such a device nor anything in its possible marketing or target audience.
The New iPad has proven that Apple could cram even more power into the battery pack while retaining an acceptable weight for the whole unit. Since the iPad Mini would have to have a smaller battery than the full size iPad, this is crucial to the equation. If the iPad Mini couldn’t at least maintain the same impressive battery life as its bigger sibling, I doubt Apple would want to release it.
Looking at the work Apple has done with the new A6 chip as well as the updated A5 that goes into the current iPad 2 and Apple TV, it’s easy to speculate about a very powerful, yet quite powerful efficient chip working away inside the iPad Mini. This would put it on par with the iPad 2 in terms of both CPU power and graphical prowess, but fall well short of the multi-core graphics chip of the New iPad. Naturally this could mean that the iPad Mini would not be able to push enough pixels to have a “retina” class display.
As far as the display goes I think we can see some clues in the new iPhone 5, where Apple and Sharp have managed to reduce the thickness of the whole assembly and made it viciously thin. As I understand it, it is also very power efficient, again being a huge help on the energy consumption of a smaller device. I’m still not sure if this display would be what Apple calls “retina” class, as perhaps it would be too much of a drain on the battery with the same resolution as the display in the New iPad as well as the graphics processor needed to pump its pixles pleasantly. The iPad 2 is still around and has the same 1024x768 resolution as the old original iPad, leaving the door open for that resolution to be used on the still hypothetical iPad Mini.
The iPhone 5 is also a good place to look when considering the wireless communications that Apple might want to shove into the iPad Mini. While the big iPad doesn’t have true global LTE, the Mini could. A better question would be if Apple would want to release the Mini with that capability before they launch the next generation iPad that will undtoubedly have just that feature. Other wireless communications worth noting are the full speed WiFi of the 802.11n variant and Bluetooth 4.0 chips that are both snappy and efficient in power consumption.
Without a doubt Apple would have sourced all the parts and manufacturing for the iPad Mini by now, if it really is to be unveiled later this month as rumors have been whispering. Unless Apple waits for the next expected iPad refresh next year spring, that is. Personally I think it would make more sense to drop a new iPad together with the iPad Mini at the same time, but that’s just me.
All in all, I think Apple can indeed build an iPad Mini while maintaining the core essentials of the iPad as a product line. The real question is still; would they?