The 7-inch factor: Has Google beaten Apple at their own game?

Here’s a quote: “3.5 inch handset size is the ‘sweet spot’ for mobile phone design; big enough to produce detailed, legible graphics, but small enough to fit comfortably in the hand and pocket.” That was Steve Jobs speaking on his belief that consumers were not and should not be interested in a smartphone with a large display.

Here’s another quote: “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad… the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.” That was Steve Jobs, again.

Here are the two latest mobile devices unveiled by Apple: the 4-inch iPhone 5 and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini. You can spin that extra nine-tenths of an inch any way you want, but it’s still a tablet in the 7-inch class for all intents and purposes. So why the sudden change of heart, Apple? It would be easy to say that the shift is a clear sign of Apple moving away from Jobs’ ideals in the Tim Cook era, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, reports state that Jobs was heavily involved in hashing out the design of the iPhone 5 and it’s larger display size before his death.

Sure, the device remains in the arbitrarily determined size range of 3.5 to 4 inches, a size supposedly catered perfectly to operating a device with one hand (though a study from earlier in the year found that 4.5 inches was ideal), but the decision to bump up the iPhone’s size comes as an admission. The market is trending in a direction Apple had not anticipated, and now the company is playing catchup.

Those 7-inch tablets that Jobs labeled as dead on arrival? They have been quickly carving out a space for themselves, stealing market share from Apple’s iPad thanks to the low cost of slates like the Nexus 7 and the media ecosystem of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Pay no attention to Tim Cook’s ridiculous claims that the iPad Mini “is not a compromised product like [other] 7-inch tablets.”

Cook can backpedal however he likes, but do not believe for a second that Apple wanted to make the iPad Mini. They did not want to make a smaller tablet at a lower price, one that would continue to create an Android-esque fragmentation between devices based on screen size and pull sales away from the more expensive 10-inch iPad.

The iPad Mini is a direct response to 7-inch competitors, but despite claims that it is somehow a more complete experience, it still fails to challenge the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire in one key area: price. Google and Amazon’s tablets retails for $199. The iPad Mini is priced at $329. Apple will likely sell plenty of iPad Minis based on the brand alone, but will it be enough?

The release of the iPad Mini feels almost like a defensive move on the part of Apple and along with the iPhone 5 signals a huge shift. Gone are the days when Apple’s products push the boundaries of innovation and set the standard for the market. Due to the companies stubborn refusal to stray from the one-size-fits-all approach of Steve Jobs, Apple is the caboose on the 7-inch money train while Google and Amazon are the engineers.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cristi.istrate Cristi Istrate

    Has Google beaten Apple at their own game?

    Yes!!!

  • leenephi

    Hehe. Caboose.

    • chuckles87

      google is the engineer

      • a) youth.in.asia

        Choo choo! Chugga, chugga, CHOO CHOO! You can hear a faint “baaahaaa” coming from the caboose

  • Liedeca

    All what the iPad mini is going to do is steal some shares from the normal iPad and it won’t change a thing for nexus 7 and the kindle fire…

    • Stocklone

      Yep. The most likely buyer of the Mini is the person tired of carting around their heavy early 2012 iPad model.

    • spicymeatball

      I hope iPad Mini is huge hit. IPad Mini will effect Apples bottom line significantly. Can’t wait to see their earnings in the future.

    • Anthony Ngo

      exactly

  • Ahhk

    See, now Im curious as to which of following was the case:

    They went with a 7.5″+ screen so they COULD say that “when rounded up, it’s actually an 8″ and not a 7″ tablet”

    Or, they wen’t with a 7.9″ device and THEN came up with the “not a 7″ table” BS.

    And, they went with a 4:3 aspect so it doesn’t even fit in your pocket!

  • King_James_The_Wicked

    I bet Apple thinks that they created the smaller tablet and will sue for copyright infringement.

  • AnthonyMoya

    The only reason apple came out with a 7 inch tablet is because they don’t like competition.

    • Drew M

      I’m kind of wondering if Apple isn’t meeting their own forecasts. Samsung had record earnings this quarter, which should have belonged to Apple in anticipation of the iphone5. Kindle Fire is hot too and the N7 also seems to be selling very well. Maybe Apple is trying to refresh their product line to drum up interest for holiday sales.

  • http://twitter.com/ElooieIV Edward Lewis

    I would agree with this assessment. The 7inch form is more mobile than the 10 and the can easily fill the role of media consumption anywhere at a cheaper price point. I think ultimately apple was screwed because they had to decide on whether to try and compete with the 7inch androids and shrink margins or not compete and completely lose sales.

    • http://twitter.com/ElooieIV Edward Lewis

      I’m really curious to see how Google will market the N10 especially if it has multi login. It might be priced the same as an IPad but marketed as a 1 device per household instead of a one device per person (that’s what the N7 is for)

      • oneillperson

        Don’t forget that the N10 has to compete with Windows too.

      • PhishyKris

        Would be amazing to see it at $399 for 32Gig.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oliver-Crangle/100003079637271 Oliver Crangle

    Yes, the dumbass that insisted upon the one button mouse for years, also insisted phones be too small and pads be too large.

    GENIUS!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664659068 Paul Finlay

    I have looked at Apple’s offerings many times in the past, and I’m just not seeing this ‘ more complete ‘ offering. It doesn’t offer anything I want, and the cheapest ipad mini doesn’t even include GPS…..how is that complete?

    • Zenstrive

      no GPS? FOR REAL?

      • Marvin Nakajima

        Not a surprise.. I understand that the GPS is not included on any Wifi only iPads regardless of generation. iPad mini and ‘new’ iPad only have GPS with the Wifi + Cellular versions. iPad2 never had it for any version.

        • http://flavors.me/kioshi kioshi

          ‘Does the iPad 2 have GPS?
          It depends on which model you have. The WiFi/3G models offer full assisted GPS (AGPS) like the iPhone 3GS. The WiFi-only models uses WiFi and like the original iPhone for their location services.’

          I have an ipad 2 with 3G and it does have GPS. Didn’t know the Wifi only ones didn’t have it tho since this was my first iPad and I need 3G.

          • Marvin Nakajima

            Ah, since I was looking at the Apple.com site I guess they neglected to add that line only for the iPad2 Cellular specs.

          • http://flavors.me/kioshi kioshi

            Must be because they don’t sell the ipad 2 with 3g anymore, only the basic 16-gig wifi model as the ‘budget’ ipad.
            Anyhow… Although I’m deep within the Mac ecosystem (iMac, iPad, iPhone so everything syncs so well it’s kinda hard to think about going back to Android). I was so damn impressed with the Galaxy Note 2 I played with today, if I were richer I’d buy it just for impulse. I do note-taking with a stylus on my iPad but the GNote 2 is 10x more awesome with the hardware integration. Makes me think a 7-incher GNote would make me buy an Android device again (since I wouldn’t use the phone features of the Gnote2 which makes it kinda hard to justify the high cost – not considering the Gnote 10.1 because I already want to trade my ipad 2 for a Mini due to the big size).

          • Marvin Nakajima

            So no iPad2 with Cellular? Ah well.. Just came across an article about a Google Search app for iOS. I don’t have access to an iOS device so can’t comment on it. http://www.androidauthority.com/googles-updated-search-app-for-ios-poses-serious-challenge-to-siri-127244/

  • Butters619

    And their “Ehhmahgerd Fragmentation” has backed them into a corner with screen resolutions too.

  • scoter man1

    I think the 7.9″ part is stupid (not only because it’s a just a way to say “ITS NOT 7 INCHES” but) because the tablet will be too big to fit into any pocket. My N7 fits into my shorts and jeans pockets just fine. If it were any bigger that would not be the case. The .9″ renders it less portable along with a blatant way of trying not to contradict Jobs.

    • remnem

      its also 4:3 so even if it were 7´ it would not fit anyway

  • triangle8

    Totally agree with your view. It’s the typical reality distortion field where they criticize and spin everything to make it seem like everything that they do is “magical” and everything else is DOA. And when they can’t spin, they sue. They are clearly going down hill and looking to take as many people down with them as possible. The biggest jerks in the industry.

  • Alec Smith

    “Gone are the days when Apple’s products push the boundaries of innovation and set the standard for the market.”
    You heard it here first, folks. Apple decides to respond to the market with something a few years ago they didn’t want to produce and BAM! They are now forever just mere followers from here on out. I <3 phandroid logic!

    • Aslan Bollin

      Apple has been a follower playing catchup for some time now.
      Whats the last real innovation theyve had aside from finding a way to patent common sense and other peoples pre-existing ideas?

      • Marvin Nakajima

        We’re just understanding the Apple logic wrong.. You just have to understand that the ‘innovations’ are aimed at their own product lines not the entire industry. So it actually IS true. All recent Apple Innovations are innovative to their own past products.

  • http://www.708media.com/ Chris Edwards

    Does the question to such an obvious answer even have to be asked?

    • Mapekz

      It’s not so much for us as much as it is for other people who are unsure or are in denial. Hardcore Android fans already know the answer.

  • acey_zero

    What I find funny is how they always used to say how there would only ever be one screen size for iOS and how it made development so much easier. Now apple has realized that this is not viable, and there are four screen sizes and counting. And legacy apps cannot adjust without extra work from their devs from what I understand.

    Meanwhile Android apps have been developed from the beginning to adapt to a wide variety of screen sizes, like all good apps for real OSes should be.

    • samagon

      No one’s counting but there’s 3 different resolutions for the phone/touch, and 2 for the pad/mini.

    • DannyGGG

      Android apps haven’t been “developed from the beginning to adapt” to different screen sizes. (What does that even mean?) They’ve been developed and failed to adapt successfully. That’s why many Android apps are suboptimal on a variety of devices/form factors that they weren’t developed specifically for.

      • acey_zero

        I can see from your comment history that you are an iOS user, but I don’t see a history of trolling Android articles, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are not just trolling.

        Being developed to adapt to different screen sizes simply means that apps will look good and be usable on a wide range of screen sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios. An app that does this well will also make use of additional space on larger screens to display more information, etc.

        This concept has been important throughout the history of desktop computers like Windows. Windows, for example, works well with a huge range of monitor resolutions and aspect ratios. This concept is also even more important in web design as there is no telling what kind of screen someone will be viewing your website on. A well designed website will look good on a lot of different screens, it won’t have excessive whitespace on the sides on a big or wide screen for instance.

        Android and its apps have been developed the same way, while apple on the other hand implied with the original iphone, I believe, that developers would only ever have to worry about a single screen size/resolution/aspect ratio. That did, I’m sure, make developing for it much easier since you didn’t have to worry about scaling well at all, but now it is kind of coming back to bite them as they are ending up with many screen sizes/resolutions/aspect ratios after all.

        I do feel, though, that your statement that Android apps “failed to adapt successfully” to different screens and “are suboptimal on a variety of devices/form factors that they weren’t developed specifically for” are not true and that you must not have used many (if any) Android devices. Or do you speak from personal experience?

        I have used hundreds of Android apps across 3 different devices ranging from 3.1 to 7 inches, aspect ratios from 3:2 to 16:9, and resolutions from 320 x 480 to 1024 x 600, and have only ran across maybe 3 or so apps that have had any problem with scaling.

        Exactly how well an app scales depends on the developer of course, but I think Google has provided the framework to make it as easy as possible. In my experience nearly all apps look just great, even on a 7 inch screen.

        • DannyGGG

          Thank you for the benefit of the doubt. I don’t troll. And I am an iOS user and I don’t have much experience with Android, so my comments don’t come from much personal experience. I was checking out various articles/posts about Jelly Bean because I’m considering picking up a Nexus 7 when the higher capacity version comes out in a few days, and some link led me here.

          Obviously I know what “adapting to different screen sizes” means. But I dont know what “being developed to adapt to different screen sizes” means. You say “an app that does this well will make use of additional space on larger screens.” To me that means that it’s behaving differently on different form factors. And therefore that it’s written separately for different sizes. But then you write about devs having or not having to worry about their apps scaling to different sizes. So then it seems that you just mean that Android apps are written so that they scale well. But, from the examples that I’ve seen, phone apps (Android or iOS) don’t look great on tablets, so I’m dubious of your claims that nearly all Android apps look good on a 7 inch device (though I’d be thrilled if that were true since I’ll have one soon). Maybe the phone-to-phone variation isn’t that dramatic though. And I think it’s misleading to say that iOS devs are ending up with many screen sizes/resolutions/aspect ratios after all. There are two resolutions for each of two sizes, plus the two iPhone aspect ratios, for which reworking an app isn’t as big of a deal a rewriting for a tablet for eg. (The iPad mini is a nonissue because it just scales the larger iPad apps.) maybe that sound like a lot compared to the alternative of writing one Android app and it looking great at all sizes, but I don’t see that as realistic. Android devs will end up rewriting apps for 7- and 10-inch tablets just like iOS devs once those sizes pick up in popularity.

          As an aside, regarding your initial post, I don’t think Apple ever said their would be only one iOS screen size. In fact Jobs said that they shelved the tablet to focus on the phone so their was at least those two sizes intended from the beginning.

          Again, I wasn’t looking for a fight or to troll, so thanks for responding civilly.

          • acey_zero

            It’s all good.

            I believe some apps are indeed coded to radically change their layouts when they run on a big enough screen in order to take advantage of the additional space. But even the ones that do not do this still generally make use of the additional screen real estate to display much more content, etc. For example text, game controls, and list item sizes will probably increase slightly on a bigger screen, but will still be smaller proportional to total screen size so that much more content can fit on the screen.

            In my experience this generally works just great on a 7″ tablet at least. I have not used a 10″ tablet before, so I can’t really speak to how good apps look and function on that.

  • harold

    It’s all about ego they think anything they put out all out sell everything else.

  • Rdfry

    Apple has never learned from any of their past failures. They are on their way to being irrelevant.

  • renGek

    Another corner that apple paint themselves into. This is a critical junction for them after 6 weeks of bad and more bad news causing their stocks to lose $100. They come out with this product which will probably sell because of branding and insane sheeps. However, they have to sell a lot of it. Anything less would be a disappointment because expectations are high that any new products from them have to be viewed as innovative and sells well.

    This one is not even close to innovative and is being viewed as ho hum by the reviewers already. Strike one. If they don’t sell millions it would be considered a failure. This is their own doing. I suppose iphone 5 sales could offset that during the holidays. We shall see. I hope android and surface collectively takes away all of their spotlight this coming quarter. It should be a battle between MS and Android. apple is only getting in the way and causing distractions to serious software development with their shiny handbag products.

  • http://twitter.com/technician199 Andrew Johanns

    Preach on brother!

  • irishrally

    A well written article.

  • http://claimid.com/155/ 155

    Toys… nuff said.

  • AMbro86

    I don’t see the Mini stealing away customers from the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire camps. The main buyer of the Mini will be Apple fans who don’t want to pay that much for the iPad.

    Honestly, customers want affordable tablets, that’s the been the whole appeal since their inception if you really stop to think about it. When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad he sold it as the device to fit between a laptop and a smartphone. Thus giving the bigger screen, increased functionality of a full computer, but more mobile like a phone. The problem was, and still is to a degree, “if I’m going to spend $500 to $600 on a tablet I can get a laptop with a nice Intel powered chipset and maybe a discreet graphics chip. Plus all the other goodies and full computing functionality that come with it. I absolutely love the Asus Transformer series and I would love to get one. But at that price point it’s a little hard to justify.

    Enter the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire: Two very well spec’d devices with plenty of functionality (the Nexus 7 > Kindle Fire though) and they are at the sweet spot of prices; $200-$250. So now I can have a real place for it. I’ll have my $100-$200 phone (courtesy of a carrier subsidy), a $200-$250 tablet, and a $500-$1000 laptop. To make a tablet worth consumers money modern tablets pretty much have to be in the $200-$300 range with the low end being your 7 inchers and the higher end being your larger tablets. Otherwise it’s just a really expensive toy.

  • RahjerDat

    Literally beating a dead horse. That man been dead for over a year so are we still bringing up stuff he said when he was ALIVE? Steve Jobs said this and that. News Flash!! Steve Jobs is dead and gone and no longer CEO of Apple Inc.

    • samagon

      he didn’t just say that 7″ tabs were never going to be a made by apple, he said anything smaller than their current sized ipad was not a suitable size. It wasn’t about what apple would or wouldn’t make it was about usability.

      Of course part of his argument here was that people who were buying tabs already had smartphones, my only question there was why put a camera on the back, if they already own a smartphone? Money in the bank for tablet makers, unfortunately. Apple forced a redundant feature, now its not worth having if it doesn’t have one….

  • loony2nz

    Apple has gone from leading the charge of “faux-novation” to chasing the competition.
    Yes, fragmentation is problem. But, it’s also a double-edged sword. Think about it, without fragmentation Android would be in the same boat as Apple. No new ideas or innovation. Keep the status quo. That only works for a short time. People (and sheep) will eventually get tired of the same rehashed OS.

    With each successive Android dessert, we’ve been treated to a whole new dimension of ease of use and productivity.

    Fragmentation may leave some behind the “latest and greatest” curve, but their phones still work just fine…no? They do have the option of upgrading their gadgets, and with the way technology is moving, is it so bad to upgrade their device every 2 years? Maybe for some, but it’s still their option, the gadget will still function properly.

    And fragmentation is one reason I will buy Nexus devices. I’m a gadget geek. I need this flexibility. My mom? She’s happy with her Razr MAXX and will probably be with it for many years to come. She has no desire to get at the bleeding edge. Works for everyone :)

    Shut me up now..I’m rambling :)

  • EasyEEE

    Question should be … Who is making money, and who isn’t.

  • louched1

    Google has not beaten Apple at their own game. It’s not Apple’s game! Despite what they may claim, they didn’t invent mobile computing.

  • phinn

    Personally having owned 2 awesome iPhones and now 2 awesome Android phones… I can say that the sweet spot is absolutely 4.3″. The RAZR M is a perfect example of how a phone should feel.

    Sadly, Android now pumps out phablet after phablet. If there was Nexus version of the RAZR M, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, the rest of the specs are excellent except that horrible giant Verizon logo.

    Here me Google? 4.3″ is perfect.

    • storm14k

      I see quite a lot of women using phablets. Some people do prefer the real estate end of the tradeoff.

    • Rdfry

      I myself love these big ass phones

  • RavenFox

    Beautiful article Kevin. If only you could see me clapping.

  • http://battlecougar.com/ James Sugrue

    It’s apple and oranges. Google makes products people want (q excluded) and Apple creates products and convinces people they want them. At least, Jobs 2.0 era Apple did. They both make great products, for two different cultures. I’d buy a Nexus 10 if it was built like an iPad instead of a big plastic etch-a-sketch. I’ll probably buy a Nexus 4, even thought my GNex is perfect, I just want to see what LG has to offer. And as for the iPad mini…why assume that just because somebody wants a 7″ tablet, they want leftover guts. I probably would have played more for an iPad mini with retina and an a6.

    • DannyGGG

      Google (and everyone else) tries to give people what they say they want, while Apple tries to give people what they would actually want if they had the design insight/resources that Apple has. There are misses and hits with both of those strategies, but while Apple’s strategy leaves people more thrilled with the hits (hence their success) it also leaves people more pissed of with the misses (hence the antagonism toward Apple evident in places like this comment thread). I agree on the retina. Next year they’ll give it the retina and the A6.

  • UMA_Fan

    The iPad mini is a win in my book simply because it is the FIRST tablet without that ugly side bezel. Ever since the original iPad, I thought tablets looked kind of ugly because of the large bezel they usually have. Did Android manufacturers try to improve on this? No, they instead tried to copy the look of the iPad.

    • Donovan Shore

      HAhaha, funny. Wait, you are joking, right?

    • storm14k

      You know that bezel is there to hold it right? I expect a high number of complaints from iPad mini users not able to comfortably use it in portrait mode. And by the way the Note was the first to remove them but its small enough to not matter.

  • Zenstrive

    I can’t believe that Tim Cook has evolved into another Steve Jobs. He just eaten his own words of “will not be Steve Jobs.”
    Yeah, we believe you Steve, just like when you say “will never make a 7″ tablet” after you unveil a 7.9″ tablet.

  • anthonymcneil85

    Its not 7in…its 7.9in, so Apple has created its own game.

  • Ryb

    Love this article!

  • evianh2o

    so apple copies google with smaller tablets but try to sell them for nearly $400 when it only cost $150 to make it…uhm so tell me what do we get with the ipad mini again besides a uniformed look?

    • DannyGGG

      We get iOS. That’s what Apple does. They make software people like, then restrict it to hardware that they sell for more than it’s worth (spec-wise).

  • storm14k

    Not that Apple didn’t anticipate. Jobs cornered himself by hating on competitors in so much detail. Now they have to make some quirky detail to every change to make it look like they’ve perfected something.

  • DannyGGG

    How does the iPad mini further fragment the iOS product line if it runs standard iPad apps by design?

    • remnem

      becouse one persont wont buy the ipad and the ipad mini

      • DannyGGG

        You’re right. I was thinking of “fragmentation” as having what I believe to be the more typical meaning of an os having so many versions, e.g. through lack of updates or carrier mods, that there is a lack of app interoperability. But the author here uses it, like you say, to mean sales canabilization. I read that too quick. My fault.

  • Rdfry

    most of us hate Apple because they are trying to completely ban their competition and because they are greedy aholes making a 35% profit margin off of slave labor.

  • Michael Thompson

    “Apple is the caboose on the 7-inch money train while Google and Amazon are the engineers.”

    I don’t really have anything new to say, but THAT bears repeating!

  • corona10

    yep

  • WickedToby741

    Google and Amazon didn’t beat Apple at their own game, they reinvented the game.

    • Trixz_D

      Agreed and Now Apple has to play it dirty (As usual, things like suing and lets not forget taking the piss out of the amazing Nexus 7 which they know is a big threat otherwise there would of been no reason to compare the 2 devices on stage.)

  • Guest

    Apple: We didnt choose the 7 inch life, The 7 inch life chose us.