Why a Smaller 8-inch iPad Makes Sense Along With the iPad 3

Apple is working on a smaller, and likely cheaper, 8 inch iPad to compete with the Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet and Galaxy Tab 2.

Apple is expected to launch the iPad 3 in early March, with an announcement likely on March 7th and devices reaching hands as early as March 16th.

The new iPad is expected to be the same size as the current iPad 2, but will have a higher resolution Retina Display. The iPad 3 may have a quad core processor and improved graphics and 4G LTE. We’ve heard confirmation that the iPad 3 will have 4G LTE from several sources, including The Wall Street Journal. Read What to Expect from the iPad 3 for more details.

iPad Mini

Will Apple shrink the iPad to 8 inches?

According to The Wall Street Journal Apple has been working with suppliers to test a smaller iPad. We’ve heard rumors of a smaller iPad for some time, but the WSJ has a good track record with Apple rumors, so the smaller iPad could be real this time.

It would be a surprise to see Tim Cook announce a smaller 8 inch iPad on stage in March, but if Apple has worked with suppliers for some time, the smaller iPad could be closer to a reality than we think. I’ve heard from one source at a company that deals with the iPad in the secondary market, that his company has a plan in place in case Apple announces a smaller iPad in March, though he wasn’t hopeful that we would see the iPad Mini in March.

While Steve Jobs was critical of seven-inch tablets, Apple has a history of changing direction after bashing a product if consumer demand is there, and the company feels it can do better.

Why a Smaller iPad Makes Sense

We’ve seen millions of consumers opt for smaller and more affordable tablets in the past six months, and while Apple didn’t show a bad holiday season by any means, the company may want to bring first time tablet buyers into the iOS ecosystem rather than allowing them to get invested in the apps and accessories on the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire which are cheaper than the iPad 2.

ipad screen

The iPad 2's display could shrink to 7 or 8 inches this year in the iPad Mini.

An 8 inch iPad would be a cheaper device, which would allow Apple to court the price conscious consumer, and it would give the company an easier entry into schools where it hopes to launch an eTextbook program nationwide. Smaller, more affordable devices will be a key part of this strategy. Even with bulk education discounts, it is difficult for many schools, struggling with things like building upkeep and slashed staffing, to think of purchasing iPads.

We’ve heard that Apple wants to change the iPad pricing strategy in 2012, and this could be part of a bigger plan to offer several iPad prices, similar to the way the iPhone comes with different features and different prices.

Last year I described a potential pricing model based on two versions of the iPad 3, which I think translates well to the iPad 3 and an iPad Mini. If Apple announces an iPad Mini we might see the following prices across the board, giving the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet a tough go of things.

  • iPad Mini– $$249 – 299
  • iPad 2 – $299
  • iPad 3 – $499

Apple has already offered tiered pricing on the iPhone, and we’ve seen this with the iPod for years, offering many models at varying price points to make sure everyone has an iPod that fits their needs and budget. By doing so, Apple became the de-facto MP3 player.

If Apple does introduce a smaller and cheaper iPad, it would nullify this new Amazon Kindle commercial which boasts the ability to buy Two Kindle Fires and a Kindle touch for less than the cost of an iPad 2.

Would You Buy a 8 inch iPad?

I would seriously consider purchasing an iPad with a smaller display, though if the iPad 3 has a Retina Display and a smaller iPad does not, it would be a tougher decision.

Having reviewed several 7 and 8 inch tablets, I am a fan of the form factor and weight, which make them perfect for longer reading sessions and for carrying around in a jacket pocket.

If the iPad Mini is priced below $300, I wouldn’t hesitate to make it my go to gift for my in-laws, parents and my sister.

iPad screen 2

Will the iPad Mini have a Retina Display?

Like many shoppers, my mother bought a Nook Color instead of the iPad mainly for price. given the opportunity to use all the iPad apps and multiple bookstores, she would jump to the iPad Mini when she upgrades.

Would you buy a smaller iPad? How cheap would it have to be to earn your cash?