Using the slim evidence of new device identifiers, the developer of the popular Instapaper software yesterday speculated that Apple's long-rumored "iPad Mini" will include some of the same components as the low-priced iPad 2 tablet.
Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, said Thursday that he had found previously-unseen device identifiers in his application's usage statistics: iPad2,5 and iPad 2,6.
Those numbers, Arment noted, are in line with the iPad2,1 through iPad2,4 used to identify various models in the iPad 2 family.
But he's convinced that the identifiers aren't for a refresh of the iPad 2, which Apple launched in early 2011 and now sells for $399 in a 16GB, Wi-Fi configuration as its lowest-priced tablet.
"The iPad2,5 and iPad2,6 could be boring: GSM and CDMA versions of the die-shrunk iPad 2...bringing lower costs to the other iPad 2 configurations that are still for sale," Arment wrote on his blog yesterday. "But now, even later in its lifecycle, that would be a pretty strange move."
Instead, the devices may mark the new, smaller iPad, which most have dubbed "iPad Mini," and which Apple is expected to introduce and start selling this fall, probably in October.
"The much more likely explanation is that iPad2,5 and iPad2,6 are the new 'iPad Mini,'" wrote Arment. "If so, this suggests that the iPad Mini is, effectively, an iPad 2."
Arment predicted that the smaller iPad will feature the same A5 SoC (system on a chip) silicon used in the iPad 2 after it was revamped by Apple last March. Then, according to reports, Apple shrunk the chip from a 45-nanometer die to a 32-nanometer version as a cost-savings move.
The refreshed iPad 2 was quietly introduced March 7, 2012, the same day Apple launched the new iPad, which some call the "iPad 3." It uses the device identifier iPad2,4.
And as others have speculated, Arment bet that the display, supposedly 7.85-in., will not be a so-called "Retina" screen but instead one with 1024--768-pixel resolution.
"Rather than just sell the original iPad 2 with a price cut, they've made a new product designed to be far less expensive from day one by combining old and new parts," Arment wrote, ticking off the 32-nanometer SoC, displays cut from the same cloth as that used for the 2010 non-Retina iPhone 3GS, and a smaller case and battery.
Most analysts believe that Apple will introduce an iPad Mini this fall -- to, as IDC said earlier this year, slow the growth of Android tablets and maintain its dominant position in the market -- and price it somewhere between $249 and $299.
"I bet they could sell that for $249, and that would be a steal," asserted Arment.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.