Apple's Unicorn 7" iPad Has To Last (In Terms of Battery Life)


Today, Apple-centric sites are quoting a Wall Street analyst in saying that a sub-9.7” iPad will do well in school and be quite popular with gamers.  To that, I say, “no #$%, Sherlock!”  I think many bloggers are getting lazy.  The thing that would be more fun than talking about this is speculating how a 7, 7.85, or 8 inch iPad would impact not only the market but also change how tablets are used.

Let’s do that here.  First, battery life.  I think I can say for everyone who has own an iPad, tablet, or laptop is that battery life is very important to just about every mobile warrior.  That’s like the first amendment of any mobile warrior’s bill of rights.  What’s the point of not having long-ish battery life on any mobile device.

If the 7” iPad can keep up with the iPad in terms of battery life, look out.  You’ll be seeing a lot more of these devices on the go.  Be it for students, gamers, or business uses like delivery drivers or a mobile sales force, such a lighter and smaller device would be ubiquitous.  It’s going to be everywhere.

What if the 7” iPad has say 7-8 hours of use?  I can see a lot of use come out of this still.  However, anything less than 7 hours, you can pretty much forget about it.  A regular workday can last from 8 to 10 hours.  Quite possibly even more.  For a student, the hours are 6 to 7 hours a day, longer if the student go to a study group or the library that could well add another 4 to 5 hours.

Now, even at 10 hours for the current iPad, it’s unlikely the user is going to be using it through the whole 10 hours straight.  It’s likely an iPad can take an user through a whole day.  That’s why I suggested a seven hour battery life for the 7” iPad might be feasible but that is really pushing it.  Anything less than that, you run the risk of having a tablet run out of power half way through the day.

Ideally, you like Apple to maintain the 7” battery life to match that of the 9.7” iPad.  It’s possible.  The 7” iPad wouldn’t need to power a 9.7” Retina Display with its 2048x1536 and keep it at 10x24x768 like the iPad 2.  The smaller screen with the smaller dots could still give users a nice flaw display.  Certainly, it’ll be better than the iPad 2 display.  And with new tech, a 7” iPad could work with a thinner and more efficient display.

And Apple could afford to give the 7” iPad a battery that is big enough to power it for 8-10 hours.  But will Apple do that?

My speculation is that a 7” iPad with 8 hours of battery life is very likely.  I would love to have 10+ hours but I doubt that will happen.  There is precedent for this.  Consider the Macbook Air.  The 11” MBA gives the user 5+ hours while the 13” MBA offers 7+ hours.  From the 11” to the 13”, the battery life difference is around 30%.  If you translate that to the iPad, the drop in battery life from the iPad to the 7” iPad is from 10 hours down to 7”.

However, Apple could potentially squeeze another hour or so by reducing the speed of the CPU and using smaller and more power efficient components.  The current crop of new iPad 2 uses a newer 32nm version versus the 45nm chips in last year’s iPad 2 and this year’s new iPad.  According to Anantech, the newer iPad 2 offers a longer battery over last year’s and this year’s iPads.

In fact, we might be able to go as far as to suggest that a 7” iPad with 8 hours is very much in the books.  Provided that there is a 7”, 7.85” or 8” iPad at all.

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