If the new Nexus 7 can have a Retina-like screen, why can't the iPad mini?

If the new Nexus 7 can have a Retina-like screen, why can't the iPad mini?

If Asus can get Google's new Nexus 7 to Retina-like densities while retaining its small, 7-inch form factor, why can't Apple do likewise and launch an iPad mini Retina already? That's a question that's been asked again and again since Google introduced the new Nexus 7 earlier this week. Here's the answer:

Last fall, when Apple launched the iPad mini, it was with their standard 1024x768 panel at 163ppi. Apple had to choose between lightness, Retina, and battery life. They could only have two of the three. For the full sized iPad, Apple chose Retina and battery life. For the iPad mini, lightness and battery life. (An iPad getting 5 hours on a full charge is a non-starter.) That's why Apple couldn't use Retina in the original iPad mini. So why can Asus? Well, they can't either. They're using 1080p, not Retina, and believe it or not, it makes a big difference.

To maintain app compatibility, like the iPad 3 and iPhone 4 before it, Apple would need to go to @2x (double the horizontal and vertical pixels) to increase the density.

  • The iPad mini is 7.87- x 5.3- x 0.28-inches and weighs 0.69 lbs. It currently uses the aforementioned 4:3 1024x768 (786,432 pixel), 163ppi screen, and gets 10-hours of battery life.

  • A theoretical iPad mini Retina would need to stick very close to those same size, weight, and battery life measures, but bump up the display to a 4:3 2048x1536 (3,145,728 pixel), 326ppi monster.

  • The Nexus 7 (2013) is 7.87- x 4.49- x 0.34 and weighs 0.64 lbs. It now uses a 16:10 1920x1200 (2,304,000 pixel), 323ppi screen, and gets 9-hours of battery life - in airplane mode.

So the Nexus 7 is a little thicker (though still light thanks to the plastic back), but more importantly, has only 3/4 of the amount of pixels an iPad mini Retina would need, and even then at only a fraction (who knows how much?) of the battery life. In other words, the Nexus 7 (2013) is thicker, has less pixels, and less battery life than a theoretical iPad mini Retina.

While impressive in its own rights, those still aren't the numbers, and certainly not the formula, Apple needs to hit.

Apple, I'm guessing, wants the same or similar thinness - technically lightness, but they use aluminum instead of plastic for the chassis so it needs to be thin to be light - from an iPad mini Retina as the original iPad mini, with four times as many pixels, and with the same battery life. And the devil most certainly is in those details.

There have been advances in LED backlighting, and in display technology, in systems-on-a-chip, and in operating system battery optimization that might let Apple hit all those measures. But they weren't in place last spring when the original iPad mini launched. Whether or not they are in place by this October, the same time this year that the original iPad mini launched last year, we'll have to wait and see. (That's perhaps the reason for the seemingly conflicting rumors of fall 2013 and spring 2014 releases - best possible and fall back windows.)

Much like the first Nexus 7 showed the small tablet form factor has potential, the second Nexus 7 shows the high density small tablet form factor has potential. It wasn't where Apple needed it to be before, but it's coming. Of that, have no doubt.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

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

If the new Nexus 7 can have a Retina-like screen, why can't the iPad mini?


Well it is smaller so makes sense that it would be thicker to accommodate the higher res screen. Not to mention wasn't there some tech out there just released to make the thinnest screen out there? Apple going for the paper thin is hurting themselves. That and they don't want the retina mini further eating into their iPad full size sales

We don't know if Apple will or will not have a retina mini. They were interested in thinner LED lighting, so it could be a possibility.

Rene! How have you been buddy? I am good! What happen to tipb? How did you decide on selecting the name iMore? Thanks!

There 9.8-inch tablet is not an ideal size and it is too squarish. I haven't touched my iPad ever since I got my Nexus 7 last July. Too be fair, the only time I used the iPad was for that Stargate Game that came out early this year. That's really it.

If people are not trapped into the Apple Ecosystem and want to spend less money, get a Nexus 7. Even the 4G model is more bang for your buck compared to the iPad Mini.

Sadly, most people see a little fruit and all sense of reason is usually lost.

Many of the apps I use simply aren't available on Android. And most Nexus 7 users I've heard from say their Nexus 7 is unusably slow and went back to iOS.

If you like your Nexus, fine. But to write off iPad users as lost all sense of reason, is childish, offensive, and just plain wrong.

Why is that insulting? Most people are brand ignorant*. They don't know Nexus but they know Apple. Hence why it is sad.

The sad thing is, the iOS fanboys came out on this one without ever questioning what I exactly I meant. They went on defense mode right away. Don't get me wrong, I was entertained by the comments. :D

In case you are offended by the word "ignorant"

1. lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned: an ignorant man.
2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact: ignorant of quantum physics.
3. uninformed; unaware.
4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training: an ignorant statement.


Based on your sole argument "price" why aren't you usings a $60 android tablet from Big Lots? It offers significantly better "value" and probably has a microsd slot.

Sadly certain people see an oversized X and all sense of reason is usually lost.

1 huge reason: It's a Nexus and will get updates immediately. Sorry if you missed that one. It's not obvious to people that are unaware.

LOL. I love people that don't know what they are talking about. Crippled? I have had the 1st Generation Nexus 7 since day of release. For a "crippled" product people sure did use it a lot.

Thanks for the laugh though.

"Sadly, most people see a little fruit and all sense of reason is usually lost."
You just made your argument worthless with that comment.

Sorry if that offends you but most kids want Apple. They don't know anything but that tiny little fruit. Most adults don't run off and buy the latest and greatest gadget.

My statement never said they buy Apple because of it just are influenced by the tiny little Apple logo. I'm sorry if you don't see that but I see it a lot especially with my co-workers kids and relatives.

Why do people have to keep making the "my tablet choice is better" arguments? Honestly who cares? I have an iPad 3 and my wife has a nexus 7 and in all honesty they are both great, we are constantly switching back and forth for different use cases. There may have been a time when apples devices were far better than any of the android devices, but, IMO, that time has passed. Both have pros and cons and to anyone buying one research those to see which will have th biggest effect on your user experience and get the one you want, you can't go wrong either way IMO. Unless you are just predisposed to hating one company or the other.

Honestly a lot of tech pundits have been saying that for the past few days. Why on earth would you buy a iPad Mini at this point. It's not about hating on Apple at all. Sorry if you are seeing that way.

Honestly I have an iPhone, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, iPad 3, Macbook Air, Chromebook and a Windows laptop.

I don't hate on any company just products that some offer.

The same reason people buy iPhones over Androids. They prefer the UI, the design, and the apps that run on them.

How old are you? People of all ages buy apple products, and people go "gaga" for that little apple logo for the same reason they go gaga for BMW and Fendi logos: it implies quality.

Did you just state that BMW implies quality? Are you actively smoking crack and live in a cave?

BMW is one of the most unreliable vehicles to ever grace our streets. There are some exceptions but for the most part, they fall apart faster than you can tie your shoe.
They are good fun, with fantastic handling and sound wonderful. Then, they fall apart at the seams.
Stop being an ignorant dick. BMW is not a quality product.

Yeah, that's why Apple released the iPod mini and the the nano. Apple's not stupid. They'd rather have someone buy a mini over a full size iPad than buy a competitors device.

Great. But were talking about tablets here. Not MP3 players were Apple dominated pretty much uncontested in an advertising sense.

It IS Apple, to be fair.... You should know by now they release a shyte version 1st, and then the year after, or a few months down the line, they claim to be 'REVOLUTIONARY' by adding a mega-pixel into the camera and then adding a few pixels into the screen....

It's all money making... that is why Nexus 2013 has won! Apple could of released a Retina display iPMini when it came out.. but they want people to buy the crappy one first... then buy the 'revolutionary' product *AGAIN*..

The only thing revolutionary about Apple, is their marketing department. Most of their silly claims aren't revolutionary, magical, or innovative.

Apple products are mostly nothing more than evolutionary products.

It IS Apple, to be fair.... You should know by now they release a shyte version 1st, and then the year after, or a few months down the line, they claim to be 'REVOLUTIONARY' by adding a mega-pixel into the camera and then adding a few pixels into the screen....

It's all money making... that is why Nexus 2013 has won! Apple could of released a Retina display iPMini when it came out.. but they want people to buy the crappy one first... then buy the 'revolutionary' product *AGAIN*..

The only thing revolutionary about Apple, is their marketing department. Most of their silly claims aren't revolutionary, magical, or innovative.

Apple products are mostly nothing more than evolutionary products.

Apple went thicker from iPad 2 to iPad w/Retina. Why is it so unbelievable they wouldn't do the same for the iPad Mini w/ Retina? I'd argue the Mini could use a little more meat on it's bones.

My guesses, in order...

1) The conspiracy theorist in me says it was to give people a reason to upgrade to the Mini 2.
2) They didn't have to.
3) Increased profit margin, battery life, size and/or hardware limitations, etc.

Here's what I think.
1. They need to make the resolution one that already exists on other devices, whether that be the ipad 2 resolution (which it already has) or the ipad retina resolution. This way, developers won't murder them for introducing a new resolution they they now have to code for.
2. If they introduce a Mini with the same resolution as the regular iPad, it brings up the question of "Why would you buy a full-sized iPad if the Mini has the same screen?". You could argue that it's still bigger and to some people that matters, but if they release a mini that has the same retina display as the full-sized iPad, then my reasoning for buying a regular iPad doesn't exist anymore. I'm not sure if Apple wants to give the regular iPad fewer advantages over the mini.

I don't understand the reasoning behind making a resolution that already exists. Android developers have been dealing with all kinds of screen resolutions; there is no set formula. And I don't see Android developers screaming bloody murder about having to support all these resolutions. Is it because Android has built-in code to automatically adjust a program to the screen size of the device it is being run on? I honestly don't know. Why can't Apple increase pixel density by half, or by 3/4s? Is it really that hard to adjust application screen density on iOS? And if so, why?

You must not be a developer then...:)

In reality it depends on your app. For fairly straightforward apps, such as my own, its really not much of a problem, but for those who have a very different interface on iPad and iPhone, its much more of an issue.

But what would Apple rather have - people buying a retina mini or jumping ship and buying a Nexus 7 or similar Android device? Tim Cook has often said he doesn't fear cannabilzation; he'd rather have Apple cannabalizing itself than people choosing a competitors product.

"In other words, the Nexus 7 (2013) is thicker, has less pixels, and less battery life than a theoretical iPad mini Retina."

You're comparing a Nexus 7, which is an actual physical product, with a "theoretical" (as you said) device. Currently, it's purely subjective and speculation as far as we know.

And not only that, but your clever and somewhat-deceptive wording would probably make those that are not "tech savvy" believe that the Nexus 7 is an inferior physical product... and to something THAT DOESN'T EVEN EXIST! You're making it sound like the iPad Mini is ahead of the game and Nexus 7 is playing catch-up.

Rene, seriously, I don't know how any informed person would read your biased posts and not consider them comical.

I agree, but I better watch out. I was banned for posting anti-Rene comments in the past. Most of his post titles are comical to me, they typically say "Why Apple did this..." or "Why Apple chose this..." as if he is on the board of directors. They are typically opinions filled with huge words.

I was in awe of how persuasively written this article is. He actually said he could tell the difference between 1080p and "retina". Retina only means 300ppi or more... how can someone make statements like that!!?!?! The Nexus 7 with 323ppi has a retina display. My HTC Rezound had a 720p screen and that is 342ppi which would also be "retina". And after referring to 326ppi as "monster" I wonder what that would make my 2 year old phone? I would expect more from the people at mobile nations.

I'm actually caught between the iPad and iPad mini. As I get older, my eyes are failing me. An iPad is better for my eyes. I enjoy the portability of the iPad mini, but I don't know if it will make too much of a difference having retina resolution since my retina doesn't receive images in focus anyway. :)

What I would like Apple to do with the next version of iPad/iPad mini is to have stereo speakers in landscape mode. There is a noticeable difference watching movie on a Kindle Fire HD and an iPad.

Do you think apple will do what they did to the iPad 2 and retina iPad and cut the og mini by $100 and make the retina mini $330? Something just doesn't sound right about a retina device that cheap from apple of all companies.

It's simple. If Apple released all of their ideas when they were "available" then they'd have to wait 5 years to come up with/steal other peoples' ideas for the ipad mini 2. They could have made a retina display for the ipad mini but then they'd actually have to think up something worth buying for the mini 2. Has Apple ever released a full featured device in the first generation?

To a more basic question: Why would a device the size of an iPad mini NEED a 2048x1536 display? I think the device is too small, and that resolution too high, for there to be any real benefit to a normal user's eyes.

Make the resolution on the iPad Mini 1536x1152. You'll get a crisper, near Retina quality display by increasing the density by 1.5 times normal. And if this can't be done, why not? Why does everything have to be in multiples of 2?

There is actually a lot of work done by the software side to make retina work, but in a nutshell, scaling the display by any factor that isn't a whole number won't look as good (i.e.: images may look blurrier or fuzzier).

Well, a better question is why iPad mini doesn't have 32GB storage for $299 in 2013 (Nexus 7 with 32GB has an additional sd card port AND costs $280) ?

Nexus Products do NOT and will NOT have an SD card. Vanilla Android no longer supports SD cards. Google has been saying this for awhile now. Last Nexus to have an SD card was the Nexus One I believe.

It feels like this is the next chapter in google pushing the cloud in everything purely Google. I have a feeling that the Chromebook was only the first device we will see with little on board storage and no expansion, but the push to use the cloud. It really makes sense: Google wants to catalog all the world's information and use it to make money on advertising. What better way than to force information into their cloud? Just a thought.

SD-cards aren't that reliable and come with their fair share of problems. Samsung is one of the few companies that use them, and a quick google turns up tons of complaints about them not working properly.

If you want a hassle-free user experience, shun sd-cards.

I'm quite happy with my original Nexus 7. I picked up a 32gb version on sale and considering it's my first tablet, I'm more than satisfied. I've watched both dvd and blu-ray transcoded movies on it @ both 720 and 1280 resolution. On this 7" screen, it's more than enough for a pretty picture. Besides, I couldn't tell the difference between 720 and 1280 widths resolution. I highly doubt the newest 1920x1080 would make a difference whatsoever on this size of a screen.

It's a nice movie watching upgrade from my old 80 gb ipod video.

Agreed, 720p in 7" already good. Full HD only make the GPU work harder.
I'm satisfied with my 1st gen Nexus 7". I just wish 2nd gen use better SoC such snapdragon 800 or Tegra 4. But I know that Nexus is meant to be a cheap tablet.

I have a Nexus 7 and it is smooth, Fast, and now, Google has more apps than Apple. I have used apple products and it has a lag to it and it can be slow opening apps. I think Goole makes the best tabelets and for phones, Blackberry and Windows. Fastest phones out there on the market with the Nexus 4. The ipod isnt bad but its a little pricey. For laptops, Windows because the speed and the simplicity. The Mac is good for music production and making movies.

I am itching to go out and buy the new nexus 7. I have always been an ipad man. I have had all 3 and stopped at the first retina one. I use a new 27 inch imac for work and pleasure and an android phone. I am thinking of switching to the nexus. It's getting rave reviews. For $349 32GB nexus with LTE v. $529 for the ipad mini, one can only assume it could go up a bit for the retina one. $200 is a lot for some people. It is for me but I spend most of my play money on technology. Probably why I'm single. :)

lol. Im sticking with my Blackberry phone but for tablets, im going with Android. The nexus devices is the most smoothest devices with google. Plus, for 200 dollars, thats a good deal. Thats crazy for an ipad, There products are always expensive. Plus, i feel like Apple doesn't offer as much like Google.

Because the Nexus 7 is 100% better than any Apple Product...that is just for starters! I am just getting warmed up!

Think of it this way: Google is trailing badly in the pad computing space, so they need to try harder. They need to expand the market for Nexus 7. Easier said than done vs. iPad mini.

Hit up TechCrunch and search for "Nexus 7 trade-ins" and you'll find a story with this title: "Nexus 7 Trade-Ins Suggest Lots Of Upgraders To New Model, Little To No Interest From The iPad Crowd."

Here are some quotes:

"... The Nexus 7 trade-in activity spiked so high that it made up nearly a quarter of all trade-ins for non-iPad tablets since the site began accepting them earlier this year. ..."

"... Gazelle saw no appreciable increase in iPad trade-ins on the new Nexus 7 launch day. That means Google probably isn’t luring iPad owners away from the iOS fold. ..."

" ... It’s probably not surprising to longtime tablet space watchers that the new Nexus 7, with all its apparent merit, isn’t an iPad killer. ..."

Those three quotes pretty much answer the original question.

I dipped my toe in the Android pool when the Nexus 7 mk I came out and I sold it to get an iPad mini on launch. A retina class screen wouldn't have kept me on Android, I just didn't warm to it.
Price sensitive agnostics would do well with the new Nexus 7 but I'll wait for a retina mini, whatever its resolution. My eyes are spoiled by the iPhone and iPad now and it *does* make a difference.
For the record, the mini wasn't launched last spring unless this article is aimed at the Southern Hemisphere

I have been using my Nexus 7 for several years now. I must say its held up well...I don't think I could ever buy another Apple iPad ever again!

Years? Back from the future are we?
PS: Nexus 7 (The first model) was released on the July 13, 2012.
Just saying.

Haha I think Dorito6 has a warped of reality bases on this and a few other comments. A common psychological trait among trolls.

I am with you willy-BH, I really dislike trolls and would prefer them to visit some other website. That being said, I am just saying the Nex 7 is awesome…I purchased it on July 13th of last year. Now I do have an iPod 5, that thing rocks; however, maybe you can help me answer a question. WHY on the iPod do they put the headphone jack on the bottom, but on the iPhone 5 it’s on the top? I just don’t get it! Jacks should always be on top! Thanks for the help! Dorito

I don't doubt that the Nexus 7 is a good device. I would actually like to try one for a month and do my own comparison. I just prefer iOS to Android. but I use both. As for the headphone jack, it is actually on the bottom of both (assuming you are referring to the iPod Touch). I agree, I was not happy with this change at first because I usually like to sit my iPhone on the treadmill right side up. However, I have moved to a bluetooth headset so it has taken care of the problem. I am sure it had something to do with how thin the device now is and adding the LTE radio. As for the iPod Touch, I would assume placing the headphone jack was to maintain consistency with the iPhone 5. Just my guess based off teardowns that I saw a while back.

Willy? I really need to know WHY on the iPod do they put the headphone jack on the bottom, but on the iPhone 5 it’s on the top?

While everything this article says is true I bought two of the new Nexus 7's as gifts today and a non-retina iPad Mini is going to be a hard sell to most people at $100 higher. Try expelling to your average costumer why they get grainy text on a device that costs $100 more.

Only if display quality is all that rules their decision making process. There is so much to consider when purchasing any device although I admit that the Nexus 7 makes a great case for itself in many areas. I am a multi OS device user and I have never made a decision on a device bases on on feature.

Don't forget that Asus only need to produce about 1/10 as many Nexus 7s as Apple need to produce iPad minis. Lower yields of hi-res screens are acceptable when they only need a few of them, but not for a big-seller like the iPad mini, they ned both higher res *and* the best possible yields for the screens to make it economical.

Despite the protestations of the Nexus fanbois the Nexus 7 hasn't sold all that well, and it's highly unlikely the new model will do much better. The best Google can hope for is that the new Nexus 7 will at least keep working after a year or so.

I'm really hoping iPad mini 2 will be launched with retina display. However, iPad mini is an iOS device with a least amount of profit so I think Apple will be changing the price. :(

Apple smarten up! I have retina displays on both my ipad 4 and my ipod touch. Surely you can put retina on something in between with little difficulty. I am not going to buy a mini that looks like s__t.

It is now 2013, the first retna display came out in 2010 in their lineup. It is time for them to make this the standard for every model in their store. The "retna" display is no longer a good selling point since Android devices come out every month with great screens.

Nexus 7 2013 battery life is actually 6 hours.
That makes the trade-offs even clearer.

You should change the intro line by "Beyond Retina Screen" instead of of "Retina Like Screen". Everybody knows Rene, u r lying by saying that line, and u know that. And, i'm an Iphone5 and iPad 3 & 4 owner. i would give more marks to Google for this crystal clear and beeeeaautiful display. However, im nt jst ready to explore those world as of now. lets see in future, if they impressed me.....again....i might consider somewhere down the line......