Apple has been widely rumored to be readying a 7-inch version of its best-selling iPad tablet for months now. The device could be unveiled at an Apple event this Wednesday, Sept. 12. (See Apple Sizing Up Downsized Tablet.)
"Our suspicion is that that the iPad mini will be Wi-Fi only," writes Allan Yogasingam, technical research manager at our sister company specializing in device teardowns, UBM TechInsights, in an emailed response to Light Reading Mobile.
This would be a key difference between the mini iPad and Apple's current 10.1-inch design, which has both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular chips onboard. The motivation for this would be to develop a device that could be sold for between $199 and $250 that could take on the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Nexus 7, Yogasingam suggests. (See Amazon Lights Up AT&T's LTE in New Kindle Fire.)
"One can suspect that there will be no baseband [3G and 4G radio] processor in the iPad mini as Apple will look to the cost reduction of eliminating that chip and the corresponding baseband power amplifiers," Yogasingam notes.
A further money-saving measure could be to exclude the camera typically found on the back of the device. "Expect the iPad mini to not include any image sensors in the device," Yogasingam writes. "This is again a cost-cutting measure used by Amazon and Google and I expect Apple to do the same."
The lone front-facing 1.2-megapixel webcam on the Google Nexus 7 has already been modified to shoot video in higher definition, however, so expect similar creativity if the iPad mini arrives without a back-mounted camera. (See Google's First Tablet Lights Fire Under Kindle.)
What central processing unit (CPU) Apple decides to give the iPad mini its muscle with, however, is one issue still vexing the TechInsights crew. "The processor selected will be the most interesting aspect of the device," notes Yogasingam.
He explains as follows:
- Apple is expected to announce a new A6 quad-core processor with the iPhone 5 announcement, with a four-core CPU and GPU [graphics processor], to replace the A5X (which was a dual-core CPU and quad-core GPU). The question is: Will Apple place a new quad-core CPU (already in use in the iPhone 5) and potentially cannibalize sales of their next 10-inch iPad ... Or will Apple choose to use the existing Apple A5X? With the A5X being in high-volume, this would help lower the overall bill-of-materials cost of the iPad mini and get it closer to the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire in price and performance.
Apple has sold more than 84 million iPads since they launched in 2010, so maintaining sales of the larger and more expensive device is clearly an important concern for Apple.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile