Apple’s next iPad might look like an enlarged iPad mini, according to new pictures received by 9to5Mac that claim to represent the device’s new back casing. The pics aren’t “verified,” the blog says, but 9to5Mac’s track record is solid, with another example that it generally posts good info coming earlier this week. And let’s face it, Apple has nowhere to go with the big boy iPad except for slimmer and lighter, if it wants to keep the thing appealing.
The iPad getting a mid-cycle update could suggest that we won’t see a bigger update for the Retina model until later in the year, so these could still be very early prototypes. But we have heard before that there will be a new iPad around spring, which would fit with case parts being in-stream among Chinese supply partners, for production testing ahead of building a shipping product. And Apple borrowing a design page out of the iPad mini’s book makes a lot of sense: the smaller tablet blows the pants of of the larger one in terms of look and feel in my opinion.
What makes the iPad mini such an attractive option over its larger sibling, for me and for many of my fellow tech bloggers and reviewers, is the fact that it’s so much smaller, lighter and generally more manageable than the full-sized iPad. Cutting weight and depth, as the case depicted in these photos appears to do, would be a good move in terms of giving reviewers something to crow about with a new iPad launch. And it could help the device strike a nice balance between portability and screen real estate, maybe attracting back a few customers who purchased the iPad mini despite its lack of a Retina display and other trade-offs, strictly for the nearly pocketable design.
Apple CEO Tim Cook may not fear cannibalization, but a better situation would be one where Apple can create compelling-enough design iterations on both the iPad and iPad mini to keep a percentage of consumers swinging back from one to the other with each successive update. The one advantage of Apple having had to go to a slightly thicker, heavier design between iPad 2 and the first Retina Display iPad is that a swing back the other direction now could really impress. Even if customers only upgrade each once every two cycles, the relationship could become more synergistic than cannibalistic, though we’ll have to see what kind of additional product differentiation Apple has in store to make that happen.