The new iPad mini is coming tomorrow. That, at this point, is a cold hard fact. What we’re not so certain about however is what we can realistically expect to see at the event tomorrow. There are a whole bunch of oft-quoted rumors, some of which are clearly bologna, and some of which we’re pretty certain about. In this post, we’re only concerned with those rumors that are not only likely, but also nearly certain.
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1) A 7.85″ iPad with a 1024 x 768 resolution.
If we’re certain about anything tomorrow, it’s that we’re getting a smaller iPad with exactly a 7.85″ display and a 1024 x 768 resolution. Some people are still holding out hope for a smaller iPad with a Retina display, but I just don’t see how that would be in the cards for this year. Apple’s obsession with thin and light devices – specifically while looking at the iPod touch 5G and the iPhone 5 – shows where Apple’s priorities lie. It just wouldn’t be possible today, in 2012, to make a device as thin and light as Apple more than likely wants to make the iPad mini with a Retina display. Some people argue that Apple wouldn’t do dare risk release a device without a Retina display, but for evidence of the contrary just look at the new MacBook Air which was released in WWDC last June, which came without a Retina display. As for why a 7.85″ display is the only thing that makes sense, check out John Gruber’s article on the iPad mini that he published a few months back.
2) Two color choices – black and white – each coming in 16GB/32GB/64GB configurations.
Some people are still holding out hope that the iPad mini will come in the full suite of colors now found throughout Apple’s entire product line. I don’t see this happening. For one thing, the iPad mini is not an iPod. It’s in the same category as the iPad and can only be compared with the iPad, not the iPod touch. Apple does not consider these two products as competitors, because one – the iPod lineup – can fit in your pocket, can be used for exercising, and is most often associated with more basic, limited functionality. The iPod, not even the iPod touch, is not a premium product. The iPad, on the other hand, is a premium product lineup. Even a lower priced iPad would still likely be price out of “impulse” range for most consumers, meaning that this needs to look the part. The colorful iPods, while fun, do not impress a “premium” mentality to me. The iPad mini needs to. That said, I believe we’ll see a lineup that looks most like an iPhone 5 – gunmetal “slate” black and white. A leaked look at Apple’s inventory system seems to confirm that notion.
As for why 16GB/32GB/64GB, we already know that based on those leaked inventory shots that we’ll be getting three different configurations for each color and connectivity type, which makes sense when you look at the current iPhone 5 and iPad lineup. Some spectate that the iPad mini will start at 8GB like the iPhone 4, however when you consider that the iPad mini will be focusing on the education market and iBooks, no way will Apple make the mistake of offering an iPad that can only hold up to two or maybe three iBooks textbooks. That’s silly.
3) A network enabled, 4G LTE iPad mini.
There were some rumors floating around that the iPad mini will be released sans any sort of network connectivity, but don’t worry – the iPad mini will indeed come in optional 4G LTE models. Want to know how this is going to work? Take a look at the current iPad lineup. LTE variants costs a $129 premium over the Wi-fi only models. One reason this is the case is because Apple needs to combat Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD LTE product, which offers 250MB of data a month for only $49/year. Google is also said to be releasing a network enabled 7″ tablet at their special event next week.
And if you need even more confirmation that Apple will be releasing an LTE iPad mini, take a look at leaked photos from just a couple of weeks back that show an iPad mini back plate with the cutout for the LTE/3G antenna, just like the normal iPad. Done deal.
4) A premium price for a premium product.
The Amazon Kindle Fire starts at $159. The Nexus 7 today starts at $199 – next week it could start at $99. The iPad mini is not going to start in that price range. Apple is not interested in the race for the bottom. Steve Jobs once famously said that there are some products that Apple just can not create, because they want to create only what is, in their minds, “the best”. Expect a product no cheaper than $299 – a recent report has even suggested as high as $329 for the base model iPad. This will allow Apple to create a cheaper iPad without compromising on the quality.
5) iPad 2/iPhone 4S/iPod touch A5 internals.
The iPhone 5 comes with a brand spanking new high powered A6 SoC (system on a chip). The iPad 3 comes with a modified, high-end variant of the A5 SoC called the A5X. The iPad mini is likely “only” going to come with with the A5 as found in the iPad 2, iPhone 4S, and fifth-generation iPod touch. There’s nothing wrong with that – the A5 is still significantly more powerful than what’s in the base model Amazon Kindle and the Nexus 7, which is a single-core processor which would still be fairly significantly slower than the A5 even if it were only a single core processor. This likely as the iPad mini won’t require a whole lot of oomph to power that non-Retina screen (ruling out the A5X), and this will keep costs down. It also only makes sense given how many other products also use the SoC – it’s super cheap to produce things in bulk like this.
6) A 13″ Retina MacBook Pro with a 2560 x 1600 resolution
On top of the iPad mini, we’ll also be getting a 13″ variant of the same Retina MaBook Pro that they released just a couple of months ago at WWDC this summer. That means a high quality 2560 x 1600 display, super thin body by means of getting rid of those bulky optical drives, and a significantly higher price tag than those base 13″ MacBook Pro models – current estimates suggest they’ll cost as much as $1699 for the base models.
7) Refreshed iMacs and Mac minis
No real specifics here just yet, but we also strongly believe that apple will indeed be pushing out refreshed Mac minis and iMacs of some form or another at tomorrow’s event. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be seeing product redesigns – on the contrary, my guess would be that we’ll just be seeing the usual spec bumps this time around, as it seems likely that Apple would want to dedicate an event on larger upgrades rather than sharing it with with something as large as the iPad mini and the Retina MacBook Pro 13″.
8) Refreshed iPad with a Lightning connector
We’ve already seen the parts leak, we’ve seen evidence of it in Apple’s inventory system, and it just seems like a no brainer – Apple will be upgrading the full sized iPad with at least a Lightning connector to bring it in like with the new iPods, the iPhone 5, and the iPad mini. It’s as of yet unknown if Apple will be turning this into something more – it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple plopped an A6 chip in there while they were at it – but at the very least we will be getting a slightly refreshed iPad.