Rumor: Apple to Release a 7-Inch iPad This Fall

The rumor mill has been heating up lately, with respected news organizations Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal both reporting that Apple is preparing a 7-inch iPad for release this fall. If true, Apple’s goal is clear: to compete with the Amazon Kindle and the recently released (and critically acclaimed) Nexus 7 from Google, both of which ring in at $200, or half the cost of the cheapest iPad model currently on the market.

Since its inception in 2010 all versions of the iPad have sported a 9.7-inch screen, so the rumored 7-inch iPad would be significantly smaller and probably quite a bit lighter, as well. That’s good news for anyone who’s tried to read an ebook on a full-sized iPad while holding it with one hand (and has the wrist cramps to prove it). The rumors also indicate that the smaller iPad’s screen will not have the pixel density of Apple’s “Retina display” devices, so it will probably look more like the screen of a first- or second-generation iPad, which no one really complained about until the third-gen iPad was released.

The current 9.7-inch iPad.

Assuming this device is coming out, the big question is the price. Although Apple would want to compete with the Kindle and Nexus 7, they’ve never been a company to sell any hardware unless they can make a healthy profit off of it. That would mean a likely price for a 7-inch iPad would be in the range of $250. In comparison, both Amazon and Google sell their 7-inch tablets either at or below cost to meet the $200 price tag.

But wait, you may be saying. Didn’t Steve Jobs, in a 2010 earnings call, say that any 7-inch tablet would be an utter failure because the screen would be too small for human fingers? He did indeed. But if the 7-inch iPad rumors are true, it wouldn’t be the first time Apple made a product that Jobs had previously dismissed; in 2003 he famously said that tablets had no future. And anyway, people have been happily tapping and swiping at 3.5-inch iPhone screens for years.

The big question for us is how would gaming on a 7-inch iPad be? I’ve played games on a few 7-inch Android tablets, and that form factor seems to offer a pretty similar experience to the current iPad–in other words, it’s totally doable. Assuming it’s not too difficult for developers to make their games compatible with a 7-inch iPad, I think the rumored device would simply bring more people to iOS gaming, which is always a good thing.

[Via Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal]