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Will downsized tablets like the iPad Mini dominate the market in 2013?
An analysis from NDP's DisplaySearch service indicates that small tablets stand a good chance of overtaking full-sized computing slates this year.
In January, 9.7-inch TFT LCD display panel shipments plummeted to 1.3 million compared to December 2012, when shipments totaled 7.4 million. Meanwhile, 7- and 7.9-inch panel shipments surged to 14 million units in January from 12 million in December 2012.
If this trend is sustained, Apple may see the full-sized iPad cede its best-seller status to the iPad Mini.
Apple debuted the iPad Mini, a 7.9-inch version of its full-sized counterpart (minus the Retina display), on October 23, 2012. The Mini, Apple's answer to a compact tablet market dominated by Android-powered slates, is priced at $329 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model.
In a blog post, DisplaySearch vice president David Hsieh wrote, "Apple had planned to sell 40M iPad minis (7.9") and 60M iPads (9.7") in 2013. However, the reality seems to be the reverse, as the iPad mini has been more popular than the iPad. We now understand that Apple may be planning to sell 55M iPad minis (7.9") and 33M iPads (9.7") in 2013."
Apple will face competition from several other tablet vendors, many of which beat Apple to the starter tablet market. "At the same time, Samsung, Amazon, Google, ASUS and Acer are all eyeing the 7-9" segment to grab tablet PC market share, while many white box makers in China are also emphasizing the smaller size tablet PC," noted Hsieh.
When tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 first appeared, they were pitched as budget-friendly and pocketable -- or at least pocketbook-able -- alternatives to full-sized tablets like the iPad and Galaxy Tab. Hsieh raises the possibility that affordability may take a hit as vendors incorporate cutting-edge technologies into smaller tablets.
Hsieh wrote, "Until now, 7-9" tablet PC purchases are mainly due to the comparatively lower price point. However, this is not a long-term solution for brands. With upgrades in resolution, function, and product design, can 7-9" tablet PCs move to a more premium positioning, targeting users willing to pay a premium for a high-end product even if it is smaller?"
Mobile device makers and developers tasked with delivering mobile experiences may have to adjust their strategies accordingly if small tablets continue to generate big sales. Bezels are slimming down and display resolutions are going up.
"Will the next resolution upgrade for 7.85" be UXGA (1920 × 1200, more than 250 ppi) or QXGA (2048 × 1536, more than 300 ppi)?" wondered Hsieh. "Apple had been leading the trend towards high resolution, stimulating others to change their product plans," he added.