2012 could well turn into the year of the 7in tablet. Google created quite a stir when it dropped the Nexus 7 at the company’s IO conference in June, and sales soon matched the hype as UK and US stores quickly sold out of the compact device. Ever since, we’ve had rumours of Apple striking back with a 7in slate of its own, branded the iPad Mini.
The rumour mill alleges an autumn release for the device, but other details remain scarce - which is why these images emerging from China could cause a ripple. Thrown out on social network Weibo, photos of a rear shell look fairly convincing, even if their source (who's never produced a leak before) doesn't scream ‘reliable’.
An interesting feature is the fact that the casing is completely solid and hole-free, meaning Apple’s device could emulate the Nexus 7 in going without a rear-facing camera. Otherwise we seem to be looking at a very similarly designed - just scaled-down version - of the full-sized iPad currently on the market.
If this tab is indeed on the way, the 7in category is looking less of a niche with every new product developed by the big manufacturers, as RIM’s small 4G LTE BlackBerry Playbook prepares to hit Canadian shelves tomorrow ahead of further releases worldwide.
More evidence for a burgeoning middle-ground of handheld devices comes with this morning’s news that HTC may be lining up a 5in ‘phablet’ to challenge Samsung, itself preparing another smartphone/tablet Galaxy Note. Could we one day see the 5-7in category replace pocket-size smartphones and 10in tablets with one perfect hybrid device? Tell us what you think below.