The so-called "iPad Mini" is the Sasquatch of the gadget world. Rumored for years, the smaller iPad looms ever closer to reality, with rumors of an imminent announcement and release ramping up nearly every day.
The gadget blogosphere, bolstered by a recent flurry of leaked photos and specs, seems to be taking the existence of the iPad Mini as an inevitability. But even assuming that the Mini is real -- and that it's coming soon -- there are some key unknowns. Here are the biggest and most important ones.
How much will it cost? There's a price war going on among cheap tablets. Between the Google Nexus 7, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, and Barnes & Noble's forthcoming Nook HD tablets, $199 can get you an astonishing amount of power in a 7-inch tablet. Closer to Thanksgiving, we'll get the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD ($299 and up) and 9-inch Nook HD+ for an incredible $269. Meanwhile, the new iPod Touch (think of it as an "iPad Nano") is $299 with 32GB of storage. And last year's iPad 2 is $399. That's a lot of amazing products in the $199-to-$399 price range -- where will the iPad Mini fit in?
What is the name? Is it really the iPad Mini? Or would it be, as some are saying, the iPad Air? Or could it be something else?
What's the screen resolution? Rumors say that the iPad Mini won't have a Retina Display like the 2012 iPad, but does that mean it will have the same 1,024x768-pixel resolution as the iPad 2? On a 7.85-inch display -- the rumored iPad Mini screen size -- pixel density would be higher than that on the larger iPad 2, even at the same resolution. Or, could the Mini have a new, unique screen resolution?
What's the storage capacity? The full-size iPad has 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variants, but a lot of the budget tablet space features 7-inch devices with 16GB or even less, down to 8GB for the entry-level $199 Nexus 7. The logical capacities for a smaller iPad would be 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB, but would that make this newer iPad a more tempting purchase than the existing larger iPad?
What gets left out? Will the iPad Mini make any compromises to hit its (presumably lower) price range? No 3G or 4G wireless, perhaps, or maybe a downgraded camera. Maybe the onboard processor remains an A5, instead of an A5X or A6. Or, could the iPad Mini be just as full-featured?
Will there be candy colors? Early photos of what claim to be the iPad Mini show an anodized aluminum design that's very similar to the new iPod Touch. Those iPods now come in bright colors. Could the new iPad take a similar path? It's hardly an essential question, but color iPads could add a whole new "stocking stuffer" angle, and lead to accessory options.
Could there be a killer accessory? Much like the Smart Cover for the iPad 2, maybe the newest iPad will have a special case, cover, or clever add-on that makes the product more appealing. Think a next-gen Smart Cover -- maybe one with a keyboard.