Don’t Dismiss 7-Inch Tablets Because of Steve Jobs

By  |  Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

During Apple’s earnings call, Steve Jobs wiped away the possibility that Apple will release a seven-inch tablet.

“The seven-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone, and too small to compete with an iPad,” Jobs said. Tablets must be at least 10-inches to allow for great apps, he said, otherwise there’s not enough room on the screen to reliably tap, flick and pinch.

Around the iPad’s debut, I also questioned the purpose of seven-inch tablets, but lately I’ve started to come around. My brief time with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab helped to highlight some areas where bigger isn’t necessarily better.

As a gamer, tablet video games were a great example. I’ve owned an iPad since April, and have found gaming to be a mixed bag. It’s certainly a lot more fun than the iPhone, to the point that I rarely play games on my phone anymore. But it’s also too heavy to hold like a portable gaming device, which makes any game with thumb controls a tiresome endeavor. When I picked up the Galaxy Tab, the possibilities for gaming were immediately clear. It was light enough to hold, but large enough to see what was going on past my thumbs, unlike a smartphone. And tilting the 7-inch tablet to steer in a racing game didn’t feel cumbersome, like┬áthe iPad.

Reading e-books and websites can also be advantageous on a smaller tablet, because it can rest comfortably in one hand. A lot of times, I don’t use all the iPad’s real estate anyway, opting to pinch the text down into narrower, easier-to-read columns. And to argue against the smaller form for e-books is to ignore the success of Amazon’s Kindle.

Jobs may be right that some of the iPad’s great apps wouldn’t be right for a 7-inch tablet. Flipboard probably wouldn’t work, and as Harry pointed out in his Galaxy Tab hands-on, magazines need bigger screens to be legible without zooming in. Video generally looks better when the screen gets larger, and word processing gets easier when there’s more room to type.

But there’s a reason Android smartphones are available with bigger and smaller screens than the iPhone, with kickstands, keyboards, HDMI outputs and mobile hotspots. It’s because one size doesn’t fit all in smartphones, even if Apple disagrees. The same will be true for tablets.



6 Comments For This Post

  1. NoShirtMatt Says:

    I am a recent owner of an iPad (using it for this) I love it, can’t out it down, now I was up till reentry an unfortunate owner of a Archos 7 and I will admit the size was not bad, definitely lighter and websites were not that hard to deal with, granted no multitouch on the A7. But I question the quality of Android on tablets right now, everything I see other than the samsung galaxy is cheap junk made with more junk by unknown fly by night companies from Asia, and they can’t even get the Android Market put onto the tablets as Google says no android is not right yet for tablets.

    Another note, typing on a iPad is nice when in landscape it works almost like a real keyboard and that’s a big thing for me, and it makes me a little excited to try out the the Archos 101 when it finally comes out as I am a android and Linux lover. Now how do I get ubuntu on my iPad????????

  2. Anjuan Simmons Says:

    Let's not forget that Jobs has a history of arguing against a technology and then implementing it. I wouldn't be surprised if we do see a 7 inch iPad. Of course, I also wouldn't be surprised if we never see one, too.

  3. @samir_s_shah Says:

    "It’s because one size doesn’t fit all in smartphones, even if Apple disagrees. The same will be true for tablets."

    Well said.

  4. David Hamilton Says:

    Question: What traditional article is there that people habitually carry around that is analogous in size to a 7" tablet?

    Over the last century, or so, consumer culture has selected (in a Darwinian manner) form-factors that are successful. Any technology that ignores that is pretty likely to fail, IMHO.

    Smartphones that are too big to fit in an average pocket will fail (with those that don't habitually carry a handbag, at least). Actually, I think that once weight and cost are no longer issues, there is scope to build a larger iPad that maps to the traditional A4/Letter size that we all have bags to carry.

    Personally I like to carry an A5 (paper) notebook to meetings, which is a nice compromise between utility and portability and has a 10" diagonal. All of the 7" tablet devices come in noticeably smaller than that, and so I really cannot see what market they will find.

    I am tempted to agree with Jobs – these devices are being built to a budget, not a market.

  5. David Says:

    I agree with you. Otherwise these 7" tablets would be cheaper since they are smaller.

  6. Me Says:

    Well, he won’t make 7inch iPad, he’ll do 7inch iPod Touch (and everyone will love it and say it’s the most revolutionary tech since… well, since original iPod) ­čśë