There's a story about how the other Apple executives pitched Jobs on iTunes for Windows. He said no. They said they were going to do it anyway. Jobs cursed, told them to do what they wanted, and they were responsible.
Similar with iPad mini.
That Steve Jobs, one of the biggest deciders in the history of personal technology was willing and able to let the people he hired and trusted make some of those decisions, even when he fiercely disagreed with them, is a leadership case study for another time.
For now, let's dig into where iPad mini is going next.
iPad mini Evolution
iPad mini has the shortest turn around of any iOS device ever, at least up until that time. Apple went from not making one to scheduling one to ship on a dime.
Luckily, the software teams discovered that the existing 9.7-inch iPad interface, shrunk down to 7.9-inches, with the density increasing from the iPad's 132 ppi to the iPhone's 163 ppi — remember, these were the days before Retina — kept it completely usable.
That wasn't the result of any careful, multi-year planning to re-use existing screen fabs or save on UI work, it was simply the karma of solid, practical past choices creating opportunities for smart, efficient future choices.
Combined with the next-generation, size-bezel-slimmed design language Jony Ive and the ID team had been working on, and the new Lightning port the platform technologies team had been developing, for the full-sized iPad, and the teams once again managed to do the impossible — turn around and ship the iPad mini in record time.
And, in 2012, it enjoyed a good amount of success, especially back in the days before big and bigger screen iPhones, Plus and now Max models that might as well be tiny tablets in their own rights. It pushed down iPad ASP — the average selling prices financial analysts often cite when commenting on market health in lieu of any deep product knowledge. But some customers really loved it.
In 2013, it went retina with iPad mini 2, in 2014, it got Touch ID with iPad mini 3, and in 2015 it finally got the laminated display and A8 processor… of the previous year's iPad Air 2. But without the benefit of any keynote time, other than a pricing slide.
Because iPad Pro had come, with a 12.9-inch display, Apple Pencil, and an average selling price that would make Wall Street beam a little again. At least for a while.
And, since then, nothing. Nothing and more nothing. Until now.
iPad mini 5 Rumors
There have been some off and on rumors about a new, updated iPad mini... pretty much since the last iPad mini shipped back in 2015. Some were wishful thinking. Others, perhaps, echoes of experiments attempted and shelved. Recently, however, the rumors have picked up again.
October 23, 2018, supply-chain exfiltrator extraordinaire, Kuo Ming-Chi, via MacRumors
Kuo says that Apple will launch a new version of the iPad mini, which has not seen an update in several years. Kuo says the device will feature an upgraded processor and a lower-cost panel.
Kuo does not know, however, if Apple will announce it during the media event or launch it sometime later in the year/early next year, but if an updated model is in the works, it makes sense for it to launch alongside the iPad Pro.
Obviously, iPad mini 5 didn't launch alongside the newly redesigned iPad Pro last October, but that doesn't mean it isn't launching sometime in the near future.
December 20 2018, China Times rumored:
Due to the outstanding results of the 2017 low-priced version of 9.7 吋 iPad sales, the recent supply chain, Apple will launch two low-priced versions of the iPad in 2019, hoping to lift the overall iPad sales growth. The 7.9-inch iPad mini, which has not been updated for two years, will unexpectedly launch a low-priced version of the new product in 2019. The supply chain will begin shipping in late December and is expected to be available in the first half of 2019. In addition, the low-priced version of 9.7 吋 iPad is also planning to launch a new version of the product, the frame is narrower, the size will be enlarged to more than 10 ,, is expected to be mass-produced in 2019, the second half of the year.
Yeah. I'll revisit those full sized iPad 2019 rumors in a future column.
January 8, 2019, a Mr. White on Twitter reservoir dogged up some photos of what they claimed was the new iPad mini:
January 17, 2019, the randomly accurate Digitimes, which previously said Apple was AirPorting the iPad mini, EOL, exercised some self retort:
Apple reportedly plans to launch two entry-level tablets in the first half of 2019, including a fifth-generation iPad mini and another entry-level iPad model, said the sources
So, what can be made of all that?
iPad mini 5 Potential
An iPad mini Pro has been the dream of many. Same size, just over an 8-inch size. The new, retro, squared-off design language, and all the state-of-the-art accessories, bells, and whistles Apple can pack in.
This… almost certainly won't be that. No matter how much I'd like to see what Apple and Logitech and others can do to make a really small Smart Keyboard a really useful reality.
Pretty much all the rumors point to the exact opposite — a low-cost iPhone 9.7-inch style 7.9-inch iPad mini.
If the leaks are accurate, the design looks like the most recent 9.7-inch iPad, including the antenna lines. It's possible that will be tweaked up, svelted up even, but probably not to the current iPad Pro style, not on a budget.
The display is one area where we might see some real regression. The iPad mini 4 got the iPad Air 2's laminated display. The last two 9.7-inch iPads lost that to keep costs down and it sounds like the new iPad mini will lose it as well and for the same reason.
At the very least, people will stop being confused about why the smaller iPad currently costs more than the smaller iPad…
The current iPads Pro — It's a the West Wing joke, relax about it — use Apple's latest-generation A12X systems-on-a-chip. The current iPad non-Pro uses the 2016 A10 non-X SoC. The current iPad mini 4 uses the 2014 A8 also non-X SoC.
So, obviously, there's a ton of room for improvement there. But, to keep costs down, we'll probably end up with quite a few pounds less than a ton. Worst case, the A10. Best case, the A11. The first would give Fusion level efficiency and performance cores. The second, a full-on neural engine.
Even if — and it's still a big if — Apple brings the neural engine to the iPad mini, it's tough to see them bringing Face ID along with it. Don't get me wrong, I want Face ID everywhere. Every iPad, every Mac. But it's currently still a premium feature and that doesn't fit with the rumored budget narrative here.
Last year's 9.7-inch iPad got Apple Pencil support. What was previously a niche, premium feature got taken out across the line and made accessible to a much wider audience. It'd be great to see Apple continue to push Pencil tech out to the new mini.
It may not be enough to satisfy those who want it on the iPhone as well, but it will make for the best small tablet drawing and note taking experience in the industry, and I would very much like that.
Inductive charging, water proofing, 3D Touch or haptic touch, OLED displays — none of those have come to iPad yet, so it's tough to see them coming to an entry-level iPad mini first. Especially when all of them are made more complicated by iPads size to begin with.
iPad mini 5 Timeline
So, when can we expect the new iPad mini, if we can expect it at all?
- iPad mini 1 was announced on October 23, 2012.
- iPad mini 2, on October 22, 2013
- iPad mini 3 ,on October 16, 2014 and
- iPad mini 4, on September 9, 2015
Since then, though, the non-Pro iPads have moved from fall to spring:
- iPad 5 was announced on March 21, 2017 and
- iPad 6 on March 27, 2018
At last year's education event.
Apple has held March events in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, and 2018. That's five out of the last eight years. If Apple holds one in 2019, and there's another new 9.7-inch iPad, that could be the best time to announce a new 7.9-inch iPad as well.
And the price — total guess — maybe $299 and even less for education?
It's possible iPad mini has set a course for the second star on the left, but it's also possible Apple is readying it for a relaunch. We'll have to wait and see.