August 27, 2014 Last Updated 11:14 am

Latest Apple rumor involves a larger iPad – not exactly an original idea, but probably a good thing for digital publishers

I have always felt – and still do – that when Apple starts talking about “thinner” and “lighter” it is because they have run out of ideas… Yes, lighter and thinner devices are, for the most part, better. But they are hardly great ideas (I still think the original iPhone was the best designed model – sturdy, yet elegant, beautiful. Not light and thin.)

The reason is basic: we’re talking features here, not benefits. If a new device allows me to do something different, something I couldn’t before, then that is a great benefit. Light, thinner, bigger – those are features, unless the older model weighed three tons and required a Mack truck to transport.

iPadsizes-lgNow comes the latest rumor (care of Bloomberg) that the next generation of iPad, to be unveiled early next year, will have a 12.9 inch display. In other words, it will copy those PC makers that have created laptops with touch screens. In my view, Apple’s move to larger iPhones and larger tablets is a me-too move – again, one that shows that the company has run out of ideas.

But that doesn’t mean that a larger tablet is a completely bad idea, even if it is not original and really is stolen from its competitors. Those laptops with detachable displays have not caught on, probably because those who feel they still need a laptop are more concerned with making sure their laptops are light and powerful. A detachable screen doesn’t help in this regard. But tablet buyers are looking for something besides computing power.

One trend we’ve seen lately is that publishers with tablet editions are making their apps universal – adding iPhone support. Most of these apps are terrible: great looking tablet editions are reduced down in size with no really adjustments made for the iPhone. A few, however, are great. They reformat the content into single column stories, mimicking the layouts found in apps built using TypeEngine or other platforms. I love these digital magazine designs on my iPhone because they are easy to read. That same design on a tablet, however, feels like reading a magazine through a peep hole: one feels like they are missing most of the material.

What is missing, of course, is page design – and unlike many of these publishers who come over from the editorial side, I don’t hate art directors. I love how good design can add to the editorial content, draw the reader in, and make complex ideas easier to understand. If you are an art director I am on your side buddy!

But smaller tablets and smartphones are not a good canvas for design and so a larger tablet, if popular, could swing things back towards page design of digital editions. It would also make app design decisions easier. I could see more of those text oriented digital editions being employed not only for smartphones but also smaller tablets, while full size tablet owners would be delivered the more creatively designed digital edition. I would also love to see the devices allow for switching back and forth the way a mobile website allows for switching to the desktop version. If your eyesight allows, why not read the more complex design on your iPad mini, or the less complex version on your larger iPad?

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