I’ve been an iPad owner from day one; well, month one. The first iPad wasn’t initially sold here in France, but I had a colleague in the US buy me one and ship it to me. From the beginning, I felt that the iPad was the computing device that I never had but had always needed. I had played around with a number of small computing devices over the years. I never owned a Newton, but for a couple of months, in the end of 1996, I used one when translating a manual for some Newton software. I owned a couple of Palm pilots in the late 1990s, but I found them too small. I wanted a device that I could use for applications, but also for reading books.
The iPad is certainly a revolutionary device, and was exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t the first tablet; there were a number of Windows–based tablets before it, but they were big and clunky. Just as Apple revolutionized the MP3 player when the company released the iPod in 2001, the release of the iPad did the same for tablet computing.
There are two things, however, that I dislike about the iPad. First, it is relatively heavy. At 651 grams, plus a bit more for a case, you notice it when you’re carrying it in your backpack. When you think about it, an iPad is roughly the weight of an average hardcover novel. Compare that to the smallest E Ink Kindle; at 168 grams – just 30 grams more than an iPhone – I don’t notice it when it’s in my backpack.
The other problem with the iPad is that it takes a long time to charge. Battery life is decent, but I find that if I play a few games, then read the news or a book for a while, my battery life can go down pretty quickly. Unlike the iPhone, which seems to charge extremely quickly, the iPad really needs to charge overnight to fill its tank.
As rumors circulate about a seven-inch iPad, I realized that this would be the perfect size for such a device. It would be smaller and lighter, and for most of the things that I use an iPad for, it would be sufficient. Not only would it be big enough to read and play games, but with the smaller display, it might have longer battery life (though the smaller size also means a smaller battery).
There are two uses for the iPad: creating and consuming. Many people use an iPad to create content: they write, draw, or edit documents that they or others may have made on a computer. If you’re fiddling with a spreadsheet, you want as much room as possible. If you’re writing an article, you may want a larger screen to see more of what you write. (Though in many cases, you could probably write just as well on a 7″ iPad.) However, if you are simply consuming – reading books, web sites and e-mail, or playing most games – the smaller display won’t be much of a problem. Sure, there are some games that wouldn’t work well on a 7″ iPad, and you may need to zoom a bit more to read web pages, but given the lighter weight, I think this is a fair compromise.
It’s no surprise that Amazon’s Kindle – both the E Ink version and the Android version, the Kindle Fire – are so popular. The people who buy these devices are media consumers, not creators. You don’t need a very big screen to read books. While I feel that the smaller Kindle is a bit cramped for reading, this is more because of the limited number of font sizes, and the poor pixel density. A 7″ iPad with a retina display would be far more practical for reading than an E Ink Kindle.
I think that if Apple releases a 7″ iPad, it will be a hit. It may cannibalize the larger iPad market a bit, but it may also attract owners of Kindle devices, who will see the better display and understand the disadvantages of the E Ink Kindles. I know I’ll buy one. There’s not much that I do on my iPad that I couldn’t do on a smaller model. Given the lighter weight, it would be much better for reading books, which is one of my main uses for the iPad.
What do you think? Would you buy a 7″ iPad? Vote in the poll in the sidebar to the right, and if you have any comments, feel free to add them to this post.