Steve Jobs: 7-inch tablets are terrible

Steve Jobs' surprise appearance on Apple's Q4 conference call, and his utter annihilation of the 7-inch tablet concept, means Apple will never, not ever release a 7-inch tablet... or is planning to release one very, very soon.

Highlights, paraphrased:

  • SJ: Other tables appear to be just a handful of credible entrants. Almost all use 7" screens compared to iPad 10". Would offer 70% of benefits. But only 45% as large because of diagonal measure. 7" screens a bit smaller than bottom half of iPad screen. Not big enough to make great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Apple has done extensive testing, really understand this stuff. Limits to how close you can place elements for usability. Why 10" is minimum size for great tablet apps.
  • SJ: Every tablet user is also smartphone user. No tablet can fit in your pocket. Giving up precious diplay area to fit tablets in pockets isn't the way to go. Tweeners.
  • SJ: Many use Android software, even Google, tells manufacturers not to use Froyo. What does it mean when your software supplier says not to use the software and you ignore it?
  • SJ: iPad now has more than 35,000 apps. New tablets will have 0.
  • SJ: Competitors have a tough time coming close to iPad pricing even with smaller screen. Apple creates own chip, battery chemistry, enclosure, everything. Incredible product, incredible price. Competitors will likely offer less for more.
  • SJ: New crop of tablets will likely be DOA. Too small. Will increase size next year, abandon customers and developers who went 7-inch.
  • SJ: Reason they wouldn't make 7-inch tablet isn't because of price point, it's because they think it's too small to express the right software. Apple is a software-first company. Developers aren't going to deal really well with different screen sizes, when they can't put enough elements on screen to build the apps they want to build. 7-inches isn't about cost, it's about value when you factor in software.
  • SJ: Can't assume software will take care of itself. Can't just put in less memory, slower processor, assume software will come alive. It won't.

So do any of those points ring true to you? Was Jobs giving his true feelings or just setting the market up for a surprise 7-inch iPad next year?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Steve Jobs: 7-inch tablets are terrible


I couldn't agree more with Mr. Jobs. I have a Samsung Q1 laying around somewhere (it has a 7" screen) that I probably used all of 6 months (maybe). Biggest problem? Not enough screen real estate (the resistive screen and stylus didn't help much, either).
It boggles the mind there are so many companies releasing tablets with 7" screens. Doomed to failure! No doubt!

I'm going with Dieter on this and say yeah, 7" is perfect size for me. IPad size is just a stay at home device size, 7" is perfect for being mobile.

It is an opinion remember. WOW! I think some people will actually prefer a 7 vs. a 10 as some prefer a 4.3 inch phone screen versus a 3.5 inch phone screen. Once again, for the consumer...choice is good thing.

@fire sign - Wrong. I use an iPad and enjoy it. I just find Steve's arrogance a bit much...and his raving fans a bit slow. Choice is good!

@mark - I agree, choice is good. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy an Apple product. He actually makes some good points here.

I'd like a 7" iPad. At first apple said ipads would be good for a classroom setting. In college, the desks are far to small to accommodate a standard size college text book, let alone a 10" iPad. It just isn't as portable as it's made out to be.

Steve Jobs is idiot, will never be a fan again. Hey Steve what makes you drive to be better, you tend to follow in others footsteps, you think your an inovator and you think your better than others. Well my iphone and 2 macs are being sold to the lowest bidder and I am going with the Blackberry Playbook and the Torch. See ya apple hello pc and Blackberry. Once again you will be following in the foot steps.

@Dennis. Just curious if Steve Jobs is following why is everyone copying him? I agree he's arrogant but you can't argue with his record of late.

I gotta agree with Jobs on this, and I don't think we'll see a seven inch anything from Apple. A wee bit larger iPhone screen, maybe, eventually. The iPhone is a one-hand device, the iPad two hands. A seven inch tablet is, what, one and a half hands? No, Apple has the usability figured out.

With his level of success I think he's entitled to be arrogant and state his own opinions.
I will say my dreams of a 7" iPad were crushed but oh well life goes on haha.

I agree with Jobs. 7" is just a waste of time, and noone would have mentoned a 7" if there wasn't those rumors a while back.

I disagree from the stand point people come in all sizes a 10" could be too big for people while perfect for others and vice verse with the 7". I think its silly to claim that everyone with a tab will have a smartphone thus saying that will be a crippling blow to the 7" tab, please prove that statement which you can't and no one can. Same how people buy iPhones but don't have a computer believe it or not it happens and I've witnessed this first hand.

I had an iPad... have an iPhone4, and also a 13" Macbook... I love Mac products and would love the choice of a 7" iPad. I put mine up on eBay after three or so months as I found it didn't have enough middle ground between my iPhone and my Macbook. For quick things it was easier and more convenient to just whip out the iPhone. For more sit down, take a few minutes, kind of things it was just as easy and more powerful to bust out my Macbook. The Macbook was just as portable but had more uses. Sure the battery wasn't close to that of the iPad but when I use my iPhone in conjunction with my Macbook battery life was never an issue. Had my iPad been the size of the new Kindle I would have kept it, and given the option, I would buy another one in a heartbeat!

No way Apple is bluffing this time. They've never bashed a product in this harsh of a manner and then immediately come out with one. 7" ipad is dead. I'm also glad he finally said what everyone was thinking too, these Android tablets look bad. The software is not meant for a tablet period. Get out of my face until you can show me something interesting!

My own feeling is that the iPad has cornered the tablet market.- period. There is no need for a 7" tablet- from Apple or anyone else. If you have to have portability, use a smartphone.
All other tablets are "after the lord mayor's show", they've missed the boat.

I think he's setting the stage for a bigger (but still pocketable, perhaps 4.3") iPhone option down the road.
7" really would fragment app development and UI and THAT would do plenty of damage all by itself.

Wow, Steve has gone off the deep end. I think he needs to spend more time getting his beloved products up to spec with the the competition. And less time with these classless comments about the competition. It's obvious the 7inch tabs have him all hot and bothered. Mostly because they have twice the specs as the iPad and he can't figure out how he'll ever offer that at competitive prices. Wait apple doesn't have competitive prices...nevermind. I wish Bill Gates never told him tablets were the future years and years ago.

@lolatsteve, well put. I guess my longer post yesterday was way too much since it was deleted. I am disappointed in that but not surprised. Steve needs to focus improving his products and if he cannot win at that then attack he shall.

I recall when nobody thought an MP3 player touchscreen phone would be successful, and the iPhone proved them wrong. Everyone thinks a 7" tab won't be successful. Well guess what... you don't know until you build it!

The man has full blown aids at this point he doesn't have long to live. These are just ramblings of a decaying mind. He should be spending his last days with friends and family but nobody can stand the old bastard.

Steve Jobs was a university drop out because of (quite enviable in many ways) a complete unability to bear being told what and how to do.
To my eye and ear, he's become an iCon because he can make others accept what they're told.
Personally, I chose BlackBerry; none of Apple products appeal to me.

Jobs is assuming a certain ceiling on resolution, right? If Apple drastically improves screen resolution, there is a subset of applications (like shopping) that may really benefit.