Apple iPad mini/nano: What to expect

In a move to reinforce its hold on the tablet market, Apple [AAPL] plans to introduce the 7.85-inch iPad mini (iPad nano, iBook) at a special event in mid-October, reports claim. What can we expect from the new ‘iThing’?

[ABOVE: The inevitable iPad nano/mini mock-ups are already in the wild.]

The special event

Fortune reports that invitations to the media event will be distributed among Apple’s extensive list of approved journalists on or around October 10, with the event itself scheduled to follow on October 17/18. The new iPad model should hit retail just before Thanksgiving on November 2.

Apple has said nothing about the matter: it never comments on unannounced comments and would likely cast these claims as so much “rumor and speculation”.

The Fortune report follows a second rumor speculating production has begun. Japan’s spookily accurate Macotakara blog claims that Apple partner, Foxconn, is manufacturing the new device in Brazil. 

It’s possible the new device will be manufactured slightly differently. That’s because production is being supervised by Apple’s senior composites engineer, Kevin Kenney, the Japanese site claims.

Previous reports have claimed the device will be manufactured by both Foxconn and Pegatron. 

In mid-September, China’s Economic Daily News claimed production had begun at Apple supplier, Pegatron and that the device was set to launch in October. Production is set at five million a month, previous reports have claimed.

Analysts expect the device will help Apple secure its hold on the throne of the tablet/iPad market. Topeka Capital Markets analyst, Brian White, says: "[A 'Mini'] will be pretty big..., huge. Eventually, it will be bigger than the [traditional] iPad market."

Apple’s move into a low-cost, smaller tablet will cost the company some sales of its full-sized iPad product. This doesn’t make it an unreasonable plan: company executives clearly feel that it’s better to cannibalize its own product with another product that it makes rather than allow competitors the chance to do the same.

What can we expect of the device?

Apple’s focus on cost means it is likely to deploy a 32-nm version of its older A5 processor inside the iPad nano, with 512MB RAM. The 32-nm processor is cheaper to produce than the original A5 and more power efficient.  

The display may be manufactured by Sharp. That company showed a 7-inch IGZO display at CEATEC this month, but declined to explain who it has been making these for. However, company president Takashi Okuda has previously promised manufacture of these displays will begin “in August”, leaving just enough time for Apple to manufacture a few of the things for launch.

Don’t expect a Retina Display; though it will offer a 1,024-x-768-pixel resolution, according to Nowherelse.fr.

Equipped with Wi-Fi support as standard while 3G models are likely to be made available, the new iPad could cost as little as $249, some claim. It will offer front and rear cameras for taking snaps and chatting over FaceTime and be equipped with a Lightning connector, use of which enables the company to create a device that’s really thin.

Apple’s new iPad mini will bounce against Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and Googe’s Nexus 7, but the company’s aggressive focus on price means it is likely to limit the success of those devices. This has led IDC to predict that Apple will retain at least 60 percent of the tablet market into 2013.

To bullet point what we can expect so far:

  • A5 processor
  • 7.85-inch display
  • 1,024-x-768 pixel resolution (not a Retina Display)
  • An aspect ratio of c.1.5
  • 7.2mm thin
  • Front and rear cameras and 3G support
  • Low price (between $249-299 is frequently discussed)
  • iOS 6 (of course)

One thing that's not being speculated upon so far concerns what new iPad-supporting features we might expect from iTunes. Might these include streaming music services? It is thought the company has been moving to secure rights to offer these in recent weeks.

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