Backlash against Apple’s decision to feature a sub-standard display on its new iPad Mini has been swift. The Mini has been almost universally panned by tech gurus, bloggers, and informed consumers alike. Its 1024 x 768 (162 ppi) display resolution is exactly one year behind its time, and the high entry-level price-point has raised some eyebrows. A few early speculations turned out to be true: (1) Apple would not be able to match the $199 industry standard for 7″ tablets without cutting into its own sales of the incredibly expensive $299 iPod Touch, and (2) Apple would have to make the Mini less appealing than its bigger brother in order to keep $499 iPad sales flowing. After watching the special event video in full yesterday, I got the impression that the Mini was an awkward addition to the brand, forced on them mainly by their fear of losing market share to Android tablet-makers. If customers want a retina display, the message from Apple is clear: buy an iPad 4.
Google is about to change this. Device specifications for their forthcoming Nexus 10 tablet look impressive (the device itself does not; it seems as if Samsung’s design team has decided to make all of their future tablets look ugly in order to avoid those pesky and expensive tablet design lawsuits thrown at them by Apple). The exciting news is that the Nexus 10 will pack a whopping 2560 x 1600 (299 ppi) display. That improves on Apple’s already stunning retina display by 35 pixels per inch. Android tablet users will finally have a real alternative to the iPad 3 and 4. In the past, Asus’ Transformer Infinity (1920 x 1200) was the closet they could get to a high-definition display, but even that fell slightly behind the iPad when compared side-by-side. Magnificent color reproduction and pixel density have been Apple monopolies for the past year, but the Nexus 10 might be the answer Android-lovers have been waiting for.
Google has an opportunity with the Nexus 10, but it shouldn’t all come down to the display. Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD features Dolby Sound speakers that give it amazing audio capabilities, unseen on a tablet previously. ASUS tablets feature MicroSD card slots for expandable storage, but the Nexus 7 disappointingly did not (Apple has never even considered this; they want you to pay $100 – $200 more for storage upgrades). If Google really wants to compete in the tablet market, they need to stand out from the rest by incorporating more features, not just a better display. The awkward grey border and front-facing speakers have already reduced the visual aesthetics of Samsung’s new tablets, so I hope they will make up for this in other areas.
As a reader, I have found it hard to fall in love with the 10.1″ screen size. Books have to be displayed in two-page mode when holding the tablet in landscape, as suggested, and they look awkwardly long in portrait. PDFs don’t display as naturally as they do on a 9.7″ screen, and there is always lots of scrolling required. This screen size might be great for videos and general web surfing, but I haven’t quite figured out how to make it comfortable for long-form reading. Anyone have any tips on how they use their 10.1″ tablet to read? Please comment.