A quick, pre-holiday post to mention with excitement the publishing of “Vexing Viewports“, an article on A List Apart that I co-wrote with Peter-Paul Koch (@ppk), Stephanie Rieger (@stephanierieger) and Luke Wroblewski (@lukew). The discussion was spawned by the somewhat wonky virtual viewport dimensions in the new iPad Mini, but applies very much to the device landscape as a whole.
I think most people didn’t understand why iPad Mini has this exactly size. Why 7.9”? Why the same viewport as the original iPad? For me, it’s all intentional and calculated.
The iPad Mini has almost the same screen DPI as the iPhone. Things are exactly the same physical size on an iPhone and on an iPad Mini. The original iPad is the strange here – has a lower DPI, which makes things bigger.
Of course, pixel size and usability are relative: it depends on the viewing distance. What does that mean? That Apple designed the iPad Mini to be used in the exact same way we use the iPhone (closer to our eyes). And that the original iPad was intended to be used at a larger distance (possibly on a table or on your lap).
Only history will tell if users will really use the iPad Mini closer to them, or if they will use it like an iPad and get frustrated. But, I think we developers should not be worried and we shouldn’t do absolutely nothing to increase our designs on iPad Mini.
(And BTW, it isn’t the first time something like this happened. The Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 have the exact same 360px viewport despite being physically very different. Their intended use is different. )