The iOSphere throbbed with rumors of the mythical smaller iPad. There were photos, speculations, hopes and fears.
Unsourced and even unnamed pictures of the iPad mini or iPad Air or itsyPad fired the imaginations of bloggers. Even the lack of press invitations from Apple -- widely predicted for release this week -- failed to dampen enthusiasm.
At least, the enthusiasm of those who yearn for the itsyPad. Because one online survey of visitors to an electronics deal-making website found most respondents aren't very interested in the rumored tablet.
You read it here second.
"iPad Mini is a real thing for sure because earlier news reported that Apple will launch eight new products this year and four of them are already out in the market. So, iPad Mini may come on 17th October, as rumored all over the web." -- Nitin Agrawal, who describes himself as "a Spiritual Soul from Los Angeles, CA," co-founder of PC-Tablet.com, and a "full time Tech Blogger." Fer shur.
iPad mini photos show that there are photos
Sonny Dickson, an Australian researcher for 9to5Mac, achieved 24 hours of fame this week by publishing photos on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, photos instantly picked up by the Internet at large.
Dickson apparently posted them without actually saying what they were or how he obtained them. The photos show only the back of a smaller but still distinctly rectangular iPad (other purported "leaks" or "concept art" shows a squarish tablet), and one shows a closeup of the Lightning docking port which made its first appearance in iPhone 5.
The photos appeared the day before many predicted Apple would send invitations inviting press and bloggers to the unveiling of the itsyPad. Those predictions were cruelly dashed.
In the age of Adobe Photoshop, one would expect or hope for a bit more caution, if not skepticism regarding the Dickson photos. But in many areas of the iOSphere, Credulity Rules.
iPad mini shipments are delayed
Plugged into the Information Sieve known as the Apple Supply Chain, DigiTimes asserts that the 7.85-inch iPad, and several other Apple products, "have reportedly been delayed from September to October."
This is according to "sources from the upstream supply chain." DigiTimes doesn't bother with waffling words like "purportedly" or "allegedly." The iPad mini "is manufactured by Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) and Pegatron Technology." But the new tablet is "reportedly suffering low yields for components such as the display and chassis, causing the upstream suppliers to be unable to satisfy Apple's orders."
Then there's this: "The sources pointed out that although the iPad Mini's chassis adopts a similar material as the 9.7-inch model, the iPad Mini's design and tactile feel will be different from those of the larger model."
We kind of know that the design will be "different" because it's, like, smaller. And we're not sure that DigiTimes means by a "similar material" to that used in the existing iPad. What's similar to aluminum?
The rest of the iOSphere mined this post for still more details. As CNET's Brooke Crothers notes, the DigiTimes post "could mean the device won't show up till after October."
Or never. "If there is a device. The iPad Mini is, of course, an unconfirmed product to begin with. So it's hard to say with a straight face that a rumored product can actually be delayed," Crothers writes.
That's why faces in the iOSphere are always smiling.
iPad mini delay doesn't upset very many people
A recent survey says that the unreleased and unannounced iPad mini is already Apple most least-desired iProduct.
A survey of visitors to TechBargains.com, a deal aggregation site for electronic products found that only 18% of survey respondents "plan to purchase the iPad Mini. 50% of those surveyed are not interested in buying the iPad Mini and 32% are undecided. This is compared to 45% of respondents from the same survey who planned to purchase the new iPhone," according to a press release.
And even the 18% don't seem wildly enthusiastic: 14% of them are willing to stand in line to buy it the day it's released, but 66% "don't have a set time frame for purchase," according to TechBargain.
Their "most desired features" in the itsyPad: 78% want a USB port, 77% desire a Retina screen, 75% hope for a memory card slot and 74% would like better speakers than the current iPad. Hope springs eternal: Apple's mobile designs have never accommodated USB or memory cards.
Maybe Steve Jobs was right: "We believe 10-inch screen is minimum necessary."
iPad mini stripped of cellular, Wi-Fi only
The tiny tablet will only be available with Wi-Fi, lacking a cellular option. That's the word via a story posted at the U.K.-based The Guardian, by Charles Arthur.
"Industry sources indicated to the Guardian that they do not expect to see 3G-capable versions of the iPad mini," according to Arthur. "That would allow Apple to produce it comparatively cheaply and to limit the top price of the product, while retaining mobile broadband connectivity for its pricier iPad line."
Arthur didn't offer anything more specific about his sources, including whether the sources were from the mobile components industry, the tablet industry, or the blogging-and-email-tips industry.
Yet it's not clear why Apple would refuse to offer buyers a cellular option for a smaller tablet, if they want it. Apple's pricing for the current iPads is very simple and very clear: You get a choice of three Wi-Fi models, based on storage capacity, and you have the option of adding $130 to the price tag of any of them if you opt for cellular connectivity.
By contrast, Amazon's Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets do offer a pricey cellular option, but also much greater array of screen sizes and resolutions.
The 7.8-inch iPad mini, if it exists, would be about 3 inches bigger than the new, just released iPod touches and 2 inches smaller than the existing iPad. There would seem to be some set of users who would want a smaller tablet but also want cellular connectivity.
iPad mini will have dual speakers, unless it doesn't
The LA Times' Salvador Rodriguez astutely noted, "The iPad mini's least speculated-about new feature: dual speakers."
This would be the feature deduced from noting two grilles on the rear bottom of a device shown in the Dickson photos (see above).
"Several photos published around the Internet seem to indicate Apple plans to put two speakers on the iPad mini, which would be a first for Apple mobile devices," Rodriguez observes. "Dual speakers are a feature that have been starting to show up on more tablets, and from my experience, they are a welcome addition."
But one of the grilles may be a microphone, he warns. So "Apple, however, appears to have put its speakers on the same side of the device," he writes, the bafflement almost palpable. "This could mean Apple thinks the primary way to hold the iPad mini is vertically, emphasizing book and magazine reading as well as Web browsing. But regardless, it would seem to defeat the purpose of having two speakers in the first place -- to have stereo sound as you watch video."
He wraps up with this nifty conclusion: "But of course, all of this is based off of images posted on the Internet that may not actually be the real iPad mini. So for now, we'll just have to wait until Apple announces the device."
They always put this disclaimer at the end of the rumor, instead of the beginning. Probably because if you read the disclaimer first, you'd skip what came after.
iPad mini arrives soon because retailers "gearing up" with displays to sell accessories
So here's the "narrative": A piece of paper falls out of a box intended for an unnamed retail chain, and the paper has instructions for setting up retail displays to sell accessories for "iPad mini." QED.
Or as AppleInsider put it in the headline: "Retailers gearing up for Apple's 'iPad mini' with plans for accessory displays"
"AppleInsider was provided with the image on Thursday showing instructions for standalone displays designed to sell iPad mini accessories," the post reveals, making this sound somewhat like the WikiLeaks event. "The instruction manual comes from a large box that apparently includes parts from which the future displays will be assembled."
And here it is, in all its black-and-white glory.
The basic idea in the iOSphere is that while this new scrap of information does not prove that the iPad mini actually exists, it does prove that accessory companies and retailers believe it exists.
Cam Bunton at Today's iPhone was simultaneously thrilled and not thrilled by "the latest leak." One the one hand, it "shows that retailers are gearing up for an influx of third party accessories compatible with the iPad mini."
And yet. "Sadly, the one piece of information that's missing is the one which would indicate whether or not this leak can be trusted: which store? ... But, even case leaks and alleged iPad mini parts being spilled online don't convince me yet that the smaller tablet is anything more than a rumor." AppleInsider later updated its report after learning "that this particular display was sent to a Best Buy store."
More than one newsrumor site has noted that in the run up to the October 2011 announcement of the iPhone 4S, accessory makers had committed to a cranking out new cases based on a completely changed iPhone chassis design, which of course turned out to be nothing more than a rumor.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.