By Jared Newman | 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 the 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.