Whatever happened to the iPad mini?

Why the new iPod Touch is a better bet than a downsized iPad, plus the Digital Foundry take on the iPhone 5 reveal

In the wake of the launch of the ultra-cheap Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, many were wondering when Apple would be releasing its own mini-tablet to take on the new pretenders - the so-called iPad mini. The funny thing is that the Cupertino superpower did just that last week - but not many people appear to have actually noticed.

"The revival of the iPod Touch is Apple's response to the arrival of cheap 7-inch iPad competitors, with a price-point that seems to rule out the arrival any time soon for an iPad mini"

The fact of the matter is that Apple already has its own miniaturised iPad - the iPod Touch - and the timing and pricing of the new model announced last week strongly suggests that this could well be the entirety of the Cupertino superpower's response to the two-pronged Android offensive from Google and Amazon.

The make-up of the new device is intriguing - a mixture of core components from the iPhone 4S and the new iPhone 5, remixed into an enticing, if perhaps pricey package. Processor-wise, Apple falls back on its established A5 architecture, marrying dual core ARM Cortex A9s with a PowerVR SGX543MP2 - the firm suggesting that the new model is good for 40 hours of music playback, or eight hours of video on a single charge. This suggests that the 32nm version of the A5, as seen in the revised iPad 2, also gets an outing here.

The newly upgraded Retina display appears to be a match for the new screen found on the iPhone 5 - retaining the 640 pixel horizontal resolution found on the existing fourth gen iPod Touch, but enlarged vertically from 960 to 1136 pixels. Apple's pitch here is that the device is still small enough to be used in one hand, but the additional 18 per cent of resolution makes for easier consumption of web media, with the 16:9 aspect ratio a perfect fit for much of the latest video content from iTunes.

It can easily be argued that a sub-HD 4-inch display - no matter how densely packed with pixels, or how vivid the colours are - can match the real estate offered by the 7-inch 1280x800 displays found on the Nexus 7 or Fire HD, but Apple's response appears to be to turn this apparent weakness into a strength, by putting a strong emphasis on tech that's completely missing from its rivals in other areas.

Quite rightly, the Google and Amazon products dispense with rear-facing cameras - the tablet form factor just isn't a good match for photography or impromptu video-making. However, the dinky form factor of the iPod Touch makes it perfect as a point and shoot camera, with the iSight optics allowing for five-megapixel shots and 1080p video. The new Panorama photo feature from the iPhone 5 also gets bundled into the package as well, and there doesn't appear to be any skimping on the other new features from the upcoming iOS 6 either.

"The A5 architecture is still highly competitive, and in 3D applications the new iPod Touch should be able to get close to iPad 2 and iPad 3 performance, and out-class the vast majority of Android smartphones."

Games-wise, the reliance on A5 architecture might come as a disappointment bearing in mind that previous iPod Touches have essentially mirrored the processing power of the corresponding iPhone released the same year. However, this year's iPad refresh doubled GPU power simply to maintain the ultra-resolution 2048x1536 "Retina" display. Indeed, in many demanding 3D games, the "new iPad" actually underperforms compared to the lower resolution iPad 2. The new iPod Touch offers up an eight per decent resolution deficit up against the iPad 2, which shares the same processor, so in demanding 3D applications it should still offer an experience fairly close to the tablet products. We could see a dip in frame-rates if Apple has carried out its usual 20 per cent downclock when its tablet processors migrate across to smaller form-factors though: managing battery life is the key here in a device so small.

So with the iPod Touch already being an established product, why does the reveal of a new fifth generation model make an iPad mini debut less likely? It's all about the price-point - the somewhat high £249/$299 is obviously a lot more expensive than both the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7, so the concept of Apple effectively launching against itself imminently suddenly seems a lot less likely. It can be argued that with the iPod Touch/iPad 2/new iPad straddling a range of pricing brackets, there's simply no room to cram in another product.

Justification for the higher price appears to come from the allocation of storage: the entry-level fifth gen iPod Touch starts at 32GB with a 64GB variant commanding a £80/$100 premium. Bearing in mind that universal apps are getting bigger to accommodate the iPad's Retina display (both 2D artwork and 3D textures occupy more RAM), the move up to a higher level of storage is welcome, but the pricing penalty here seems somewhat high bearing in mind how cheap memory has become in recent times.

So despite not producing a 7-inch tablet, and not choosing to participate in "race to the bottom" pricing with its nearest rivals, Apple has indeed responded to the challenge set by Google and Amazon, and it has done so simply by resurrecting a product line many thought destined for extinction. It may not be the approach that many might have wanted, but it's typical Apple - smaller and pricier than the competition, but a highly compelling proposition nonetheless, somehow managing to appeal to both gadget geeks and the mainstream in equal measure.

It's a sentiment that equally sums up the real star of the show at Apple's briefing last week: the iPhone 5. The trend in Android handsets has been to go bigger, lavishing extreme resolutions on ever-expanding displays, and increasing CPU core count - a state of affairs summed up perfectly by the Samsung Galaxy S3, an excellent, if outsized quad core handset. Apple's approach? A relatively minor 18 per cent increase in display size and a single-minded focus on the user experience, from the look and feel of the device to what looks like an unprecedented level of fidelity in the quality of the display.

"iPhone 5's CPU appears to be dual core in nature, running at 1GHz. Apple appears to have customised the ARM architecture in order to achieve an impressive 2x performance gain over the 4S."

Based on unconfirmed Geekbench scores, it also appears that Apple has resisted the temptation to retake the smartphone performance crown (from a CPU perspective at least) simply by scaling up processing cores. Anandtech's theory, which seems plausible, suggests that the new A6 features dual customised ARM cores with radical performance increases over the more common or garden Cortex A9 set-up of the A5 processor. Clock speed appears to be scaled up to 1GHz, and memory bandwidth increased enormously - there's also a strong suggestion that access to storage has been significantly improved too. While sheer horsepower isn't quite a match for the most powerful Android phones, Apple has the advantage of being able to tailor its OS to match its hardware - which should result in class-leading performance.

From a graphics perspective, iPhone 5 doesn't offer up the kind of revolutionary, current-gen console quality we should expect from the next-gen PowerVR Series 6 Rogue architecture. It's a crazy world in which a 2x GPU power boost might be considered a touch disappointing, but the stat from Apple hints at a PowerVR SGX543 MP4 component in the new phone - the same as that found within the latest iPad, and indeed the PlayStation Vita. Console quality graphics? Not quite. Vita is still a step away from PS3 quality, and that has the benefit of giving developers direct access to the core architecture - a state of affairs Apple can't really compete with. The Real Racing 3 reveal at last week's event shows the gap closing between mobile and current-gen console though, and SGX543 MP4 horsepower deployed on a screen with less of a fill-rate overhead than the non-Retine iPad screen should produce some excellent results. Ever since the launch of the iPad 2, Apple has invested strongly in graphics performance and in iPhone 5, the firm appears to have once again set the bar - until the first mobile products with PowerVR Rogue appear sometime next year at least.

In the meantime, with two million pre-orders in the bag and resultant shortages sure to make the iPhone 5 even more desirable, all the evidence seems to point to another big win for Apple. A share price now nudging $700 can't be argued with either.

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Latest comments (32)

Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham9 years ago
It seems has lost all impartiality when it comes to reporting on Apple products now. I'd agree that iOS is an important platform for the games industry now, but the level of fawning over the products on here is getting extreme. Especially for what is an industry site, not a tech blog.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D9 years ago
Yep, have to agree with Richard on this one.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
I thought we'd get called Wii U haters before Apple fanboys, but it's nice to know we've arrived.
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Show all comments (32)
Yeah, alas my first thought on todays visit. Another *3* new iPhone stories... in one day. Time to go visit some gaming sites...
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd9 years ago
Yeah sorry Matt I agree with the others... enough is enough.

On the article itself, it's both misinformed (because the iPad Mini was never supposed to be revealed at that conference) and glosses over the massive issues of the iPod Touch's price ($100 more than a Nexus 7 for the cheapest model). The ridiculous pricing of the Touch implies the future iPad Mini will start at $400. That won't make it much of a Nexus 7 competitor, me thinks, and this overpriced and underpowered toy obviously isn't.
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John Jennings Senior Producer, Machinegames9 years ago
There's a major new piece of gaming hardware about to be released. I don't think it's surprising that there are many articles written about it!

If there are three stories about the PS4 during it's launch period, will that make PlayStation fan-boys?
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D9 years ago
"I thought we'd get called Wii U haters before Apple fanboys, but it's nice to know we've arrived."

I thought it was only other publications that were dismissive of their readers, but it looks like are going that way too. Shame on you.
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Andrew Animator 9 years ago
Being dissmissive of your readers is one thing, but when those readers are also largely involved in the industry you are reporting on it is that much worse.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 9 years ago
Hmm sadly have to wonder what the heck happened to GI this week. It's like Apple have somehow brainwashed the common sense out of you guys.
Your first duty is to be impartial. If you can't manage that then write nothing at all! It's got to be better than ill informed dross wrapped up in Apples reality warping field. Where for instance, is the benchmarking to justify claiming the A6 chip is twice as fast as anything?
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
There also seemed to be an overriding argument in this piece, that those wanting a 7" tablet from Apple are ok, because an iPod touch is smaller than an iPad 10 inch, and Apple have kindly increased the price, so you can still pay them more money, you lucky beggers you. If the tone of this article was not, "Apple are great because they're Apple, what more reason do you need?" then I seem to have read the words wrong.
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Michael Wiessmuller Managing Director & Business Development, Indie Games Services Ltd9 years ago
Whats with the Apple bashing?
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Kieren Bloomfield Software Engineer, EA Sports9 years ago
What happened to the IPad Mini?

We cared less about it than the WiiU...
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Andrew Animator 9 years ago
Whats with the Apple bashing?
Personally I'm quite a fan of apple products, I just can't afford any of them :(

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew on 19th September 2012 9:28pm

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Caleb Hale Journalist 9 years ago
I think Samsung has the patent on incrementally-increasing tablet sizes. Apple doesn't want to get involved in another lawsuit by launching something that, size-wise, falls in the middle of an iPod Touch and an iPad.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 9 years ago
The trend in Android handsets has been to go bigger, lavishing extreme resolutions on ever-expanding displays, and increasing CPU core count - a state of affairs summed up perfectly by the Samsung Galaxy S3, an excellent, if outsized quad core handset

I think that "ever-expanding displays" is a rather poor characterization; the display size of high-end smartphones was pushed to 1280x720 with the generation that came out a year ago (my LG Optimus LTE is a representative example) and there it sits. If anything, it's Apple that's still expanding their displays bit by bit, unless they've decided to stop short of 720p resolution.

The CPU (and GPU) core count is ever-increasing, but on both sides, so there's no differentiation there.

Apple also doesn't seem to be doing so well with cases these days, though perhaps the iPhone 5 is reversing that trend. Every iPhone 4 and 4S owner I've met has felt that my Optimus LTE, with its curved sides and rubberized back, feels considerably more comfortable to hold than the iPhone.

As far as the iPod being a response to 7" Android tablets, if it is, I can't see it working well. People buying 7" tablets are doing so precisely because a smaller phone (which they may well already own) isn't doing what they need. (I'd imagine that the most frequent issue is them not being very comfortable for reading many types of material.) While you're right that Apple doesn't appear to have a place in its lineup for an iPad mini at anything near a competitive price, that doesn't mean that the iPod will be at all useful as a competitor in that market segment.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Curt Sampson on 20th September 2012 1:00am

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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters9 years ago
Suggesting that the iPod Touch is a good enough alternative to a 7 inch tablet is ridiculous. I have an SII and a Nexus 7. Now what would have been the point of me buying a Nexus 7 if the screen had only been the same size as my phone?
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
I really don't see what the market for this is. It's an iPhone 4S with an iPhone 5's screen and no phone. If it had been a bit cheaper I might have bought one myself, as I need an iOS device for work and this would be perfect for carrying around in my pocket, but I want to hold onto my Android phone for day-to-day use. But at this price I might as well go on eBay and get a second hand iPhone, there should be a glut of them from people who are upgrading to iPhone 5. And the pricing also means that either there's no iPad Mini coming or it's going to be twice as expensive as the competition. Bizarre.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 9 years ago
Dropping last year's iPad 2 to $399 has already shown Apple the way to fend off new threats such as Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire, whose shipments fell precipitously from a 16.8 market share in Q4 2011 to a mere four percent in Q1 2012.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
The site's full of content covering all gaming hardware. Some days and weeks it leans towards one box more than another, that shouldn't be a surprise, nor is it a bias from the editorial team. If there's something interesting to look at or report on we'll cover it.

I'm not being dismissive of the comments either, they're all appreciated. I'll even comment myself from time to time.
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gi biz ;, 9 years ago
I was thinking right that: since when transformed into an Apple news site? And then I saw all the comments. Frankly I don't give a crap about iPads, iPods, iRocks or iWhatever, but I would still enjoy reading some relevant news without having to dig into the myriad of "omg iPhone 5 is sooo cool" articles. It's becoming like troll baits calling for heated up comments, and I would hate finding myself on a 4chan clone website...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by gi biz on 20th September 2012 2:06pm

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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
It's not the volume of iPhone stories so much as the tone, not helped by staff members proclaiming themselves Apple fan boys and even (in Rob's case) openly admitting to hating Android. This is meant to be an industry news site, not a playground argument.

Overall since the merger I've noticed has become a lot more opinionated and sensationalist, whereas before (outside of editorials) the news was reported in a very neutral, matter of fact way. Now everybody seems to want to put their own spin on the news or add a pithy one liner at the end of the story.

There also seems to be a lack of filtering sometimes, which results in non-stories being blown out of proportion and puff pieces being passed off as articles. The fawning stories about Zynga earlier this year, such as the lengthy article about how wonderful their office building is (point?) were an example of this.
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gi biz ;, 9 years ago
@John: I agree, you're right about the quality since the merger. I was implying part of what you say in my comment, but my style is a bit hard to read maybe.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
Apple is number one now, they are king of the hill and they are arrogant now. They feel they know what people want best.
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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
Since the merger we've increased the amount of voices on the site, and in turn expanded the scope of what we cover. There's more content, but not less of what we did, say, last year. There's still the factual news articles (Sony's hardware stories yesterday, for example) and straight up Q&A interviews, but there's also added opinions, features and other editorial elements. We haven't intentionally taken anything away.

This was always going to be the case. We never wanted to stay the same site we were 12 months ago, otherwise we wouldn't have merged. Some articles work better than others, and we'll continue to try new things and looking at different parts of the industry. I would expect the site to be just as different 6 months from now as it was 6 months ago. You might not be interested in Apple's business, that's fine. But I know a lot of our readers are. And the same goes for Zynga, free-to-play, consoles, growth in Brazil, podcasts, indie development, smart TV, education, stock prices, VR… and, you know, video games.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Matt, the expansion and coverage isn't so much the problem but the tone of the coverage. gained a lot of respect in the industry for covering the industry professionally. As the professional tone has withered, so too has some of that respect.

No body is saying you can't cover Apple. As well you should. No one is saying you shouldn't have editorial content. As well you should But when headlines start looking like something a NeoGAF member would write on a forum or stories of 5 new Apple stores are going to open start to become common sights on the site, you lose sight of the site.

Now perhaps we're just a vocal minority. Perhaps we're blowing it out of proportion. Or perhaps is moving in a direction that seems to be a step backwards from the professionalism and quality that drew us here in the first place.
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Nicolas Eypert Creative Director, Ubisoft Montreal9 years ago
Agreed with Jim Webb. I come to GIBIZ for pro-reporting not the same news/press release then Engadget or MacRumors...
Altrough the angle of the article is interesting the tone is not pro enough for my taste.

Anyway, great site but be careful ;-)
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Jim + 1

The thing is, if we wanted regular news, we'd already hit all the major news outlets in the morning, noon or evening. However there is just a deluge of "filler" type news and as such a very dilute sense of game biz news. Comparing 2011 and say 2012, was more the times/FT and now more daily mail/telegraph meets OK
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
@Matt - I love the website, however to me it has always been directed towards VIDEO GAMES industry. If the site is gonna have Apple news, i wish it had more relevance towards the video games industry.

If I want apple news, I go here:

There are also plenty of sites that cover gadgets like and doesnt have to emulate these to get more traffic. It really was the most complete place for me and video game industry proffesionals to get news relevant to the industry.

These articles are ok... but I fear the website will be crowded with so many articles regarding apple products or articles not relevant to the games industry that it will ruin the expirience i had comming here.

honestly I can do with less apple news...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 20th September 2012 8:18pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
My N-Gage QD is crying because you're all ignoring it. Damn you all to heck.
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent9 years ago
No, Matt, no!

Each week, I require precisely the same volume of coverage on each format no matter the tidal bores of the industry. I shall be measuring it carefully on my platfometer, so no cheating. I also DEMAND that you and your staff keep their opinions to themselves, since leakage may spark interesting and impassioned debate. And nobody wants that. NOBODY!
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D9 years ago
Oh, look. Another patronising, know-it-all, post.

Must be a natural trait among journalists.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee9 years ago
I agree with Jim and John above. I feel these stories should be covered but there is definitely a problem with impartiality.
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