Talking tech since 2003

As someone who has owned both a Retina-enhanced iPad and the iPad mini, I can say with conviction that, aside from the very noticeable drop in screen size and resolution, I never felt like the mini was missing anything. I can’t recall an instance where I cursed the mini’s inferior A5 processor or wished for another half-gig of RAM. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t pushing the device; or, perhaps, all of that extra firepower in the full-size iPad isn’t entirely necessary.

ipad-mini-ipad-4Which leads us to the next-generation iPad mini, which is expected to show up sometime next month. If the follow-up to Apple’s miniature tablet gets the Retina display many are hoping to see, how much will the larger iPad suffer as a result? Will it matter if the iPad 5 shows up with a super upgraded 64-bit A7 chip? Will anyone care if a fingerprint scanner makes its way to the next-generation iPad?

When it comes down to it, most will look at the mini and see a tablet that can run iPad apps just like a normal iPad and does so on a display with a better pixels per inch (PPI) ratio than its older, more expensive brother. And those who have experience with the current, first-gen iPad mini could testify that the drop in performance isn’t that big a deal — especially when you’re saving $170.

If the next iPad mini packs a Retina display and the iPad 5 shows up with nothing more than an updated processor and Touch ID — which is neat, but isn’t vital to the experience — the gap between the larger, more expensive iPad and its cheaper sibling will have closed even more. It’ll be tough to justify paying a whole lot more for the 9.7-inch model when the 7.9-inch mini can handle most apps just fine, and because of this, Apple will have a little problem on its hands. Not the worst problem in the world, but a problem, nonetheless.

There isn’t a whole lot Apple can do about this problem, at least not this time around. Making the iPad’s display “more Retina” would force developers to support yet another resolution. Adding new hardware features that are central to the everyday experience of the tablet would also cause developers headaches. The company has sort of painted itself into a corner with the iPad mini, with a little help from the folks at Google and Asus, who launched the next-generation Nexus 7 with a Retina-level display back in July — a move many believed forced Apple’s hand.

It’ll be very interesting to see how Apple handles having both a Retina iPad mini and a Retina iPad on sale — that is, if it happens. The company is expected to host an event sometime next month, so we might not be waiting long to find out.

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