After seeing the iPad mini, and reading the reviews, I still wonder why Apple didn’t go for retina in their device.
And after thinking about it for a while, I think I’ve got it figured out why.
The iPad mini currently has a resolution of 1024x768 at 163dpi. This means the apps written for the iPad can run unmodified at a slighty smaller size on the iPad mini.
Coincidentally, the display panel of an iPad mini has the same dpi as a nonretina iPhone.
Coincidence, or clever planning by Apple.
Now, let’s say Apple wanted to go retina with the iPad mini.
The easiest way would be doubling the resolution of the released model, to make it a true retina screen. This means using a 2048x1536 resolution at 326dpi. Sounds familiar? Well, it should be because that display is the same display as a retina iPhone.
In theory this works, the same apps work in both the iPad mini and iPad in retina resolution, only the touch targets on the mini are still a bit smaller as the full-size iPad.
The downside: the iPad mini with a 326dpi display have a far better retina quality than the iPad at 264dpi. Selling the retina iPad as retina wouldn’t really be justifiable I think.
And this display is more expensive, making the 329€ target price more difficult to reach.
They could also do what they did when going from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5 and keep the same display panel, but just cut it in a different size.
Take the display of an iPad retina, and cut it down from 9.7 to 7.9 inches: at 264DPI this gives us a 1678x1250 screen.
This makes developing apps a lot more complicated: developers need to design apps for a new screensize, apps now not only need to contain an iPhone and iPad payload in both retina and nonretina size, but would also be designed for a 7.9 screen specifically.
Comparing these three options:
- iPhone 3Gs screen (current solution)
- iPhone 4 screen (better quality than iPad retina, more expensive)
- iPad Retina screen cut down to 7.9 inch (custom app builds)
I think it’s logical Apple has chosen for the first solution at this moment.
In the future I see Apple upgrading the display to a retina iPhone screen once prices go down.
I did this thought exercise with DPI and resolution in mind.
Various people mentioned I forgot to include power consumption and weight. But since I don't have any facts about how much more power a retina screen uses I've decided not to include this aspect.