Google’s own-brand entrance into the 7-inch tablet market with the Nexus 7 has refueled speculation about a so-called iPad mini, with Apple expected to face increasing pressure to compete at the tweener size. Rumors of a smaller iPad – which would slot into the mid-point between the existing, 9.7-inch model, and the 3.5-inch iPhone and iPod touch – have circulated for as long as the iPad has been on sale; however, the arrival of the new Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean is arguably the biggest motivator yet for Apple to make good on the heresay.
The Nexus 7′s more direct competitor in the slate market is Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet range. Both of the rivals – which each run Android, albeit with heavy customization – fall into the same near-$200 price window, versus the iPad which starts at $499 for the latest model.
Apple was tipped to deliver a smaller model of tablet alongside its Retina Display third-gen iPad, though instead the company kept on the iPad 2 and lowered the sticker price by $100. Nonetheless, industry observers have continued to predict a new, smaller model, with talk that orders have already been placed and that the new iOS slate could ship in Q3 2012.
Whether Apple would choose to compete with Google (and the others) with direct price parity is questionable. The company has not been afraid to sticker up its products with a relatively premium tag, reflecting a preference to deliver a cohesive all-round device rather than make cuts for the sake of a price target. Nonetheless, the $200 segment could prove more tempting now that Google has waded into it itself.