The New New iPad

I didn’t talk about hardware at all in my iPad wish list from earlier in the week because none of my complaints about the iPad 2’s form factor seemed as pressing as the changes I’d like to see in the software. Now that the third iteration of the device is here (announced just today), with a high definition Retina Display, a much improved camera, and 4G LTE connectivity.

That’s all fine and good, and to be sure I will buy one if only out of professional duty. But there’s one major hardware change that I now realize that I do really long for: a reduced bezel.

Across all its models, the iPad bezel has had to strike a tricky balance between providing a grabbable area for the user’s hands, housing the innards of the device, and aesthetically framing the screen. The original iPad’s bezel was thick but excusable, as that version was something entirely new. Its successor was essentially unchanged, but Apple did a beautiful job reducing the depth of the device itself in that model.

Following that trend, I fully expected that in its third revision Apple’s designers would turn their attention to the bezel, minimizing it or at least reducing its width by twenty percent or so. Obviously that didn’t happen, probably due to the demands of the Retina Display and battery.

The reason I’m focused on this is that, to be frank, I find the iPad to be harder to hold than it should be. The screen size itself is great, but the added girth of the bezel always seems superfluous and even cumbersome when using the device on a crowded subway. I don’t want a smaller screen though; If I could keep the existing screen size but just pull in the overall width and height of the device by a few centimeters, it would be a meaningful improvement. Next model, I guess.

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  1. I’m probably an outlier because I still don’t really use my iPad much, but to me, the Kindle Fire — for all of its other problems — has nailed the ideal size perfectly. I would use a tablet primarily for two things: watching movies and reading books. A compact 16×9 display is perfect for this. Once they get the weight down and of course solve all of the other v1 issues like not having hardware volume buttons, then it will be just right.

    Clearly, however, I’m in the minority here.

  2. I agree that the current iPad bezel could be reduced. It’s nice to have something hold on to, but the 3/4 of in of material seems a bit much.

    John Gruber has out forth a rationale for maintaining the iPad 2′s physical layout in the current generation: it reduces manufacturing costs. Using the same design for two years in a row allows Apple to defer the cost of completely retooling with each iteration. Thus the iPhone 3G to 3GS, the iPhone 4 to 4S, and now iPad 2 to new IPad.

  3. Are there any statistics on what percentage of people use the iPad without a case? I assumed it was low. That might de-emphasize the need to adjust the bezel.

  4. I wish for the opposite. Because of the size and relative weight of the thing, every time I’m holding it I’m wishing for more grabbable bezel area. I can’t count the times I’ve inadvertently brushed my fingers holding it onto the screen leading to unintended interactions with what’s on screen.

  5. Any less of a bezel and the iPad would be next to impossible to hold while lying down. It’s fine for there to be limited edges when you’re looking down at the iPad, but when you’ve got it vertical or nearly upside down, having that edge is essential. If the bezel was smaller your thumbs would always be interacting with the touchscreen.

  6. I think Apple have struck a reasonable balance here. For straight reading, the bezel could be reduced, but as soon as you’re *working* with it (say, making a tricky selection in Mixel) you could do with a bit more grab-able area. Maybe the touch drivers could be adjusted, but I suspect they’re in the sweet spot right now.

  7. I’m certainly not saying that no bezel is necessary but I think the current bezel can stand to be reduced by as much as 1/5th.

    The iPhone is a good example of a device that has very little bezel. Now, I know the size is the main reason that’s possible, but I think just as important is the weight.

    If the iPad got lighter, I think you could reduce the bezel at least a little bit.

    The way I look at it is it this: does it seem logical to say that the current bezel is the smallest it can be ever be? Is it really plausible to say that it’s impossible to make the bezel shorter while maintaining the grab-ability of the device? Surely that can’t be the case. I’m willing to bet good money that in some future revision, a noticeably lighter iPad will also have a noticeably smaller bezel.

  8. I would like to see a smaller bezel also. Apple can work on a case or something to help people hold onto their devices as needed, but the overall screen would work much more nicely with a little extra space on each side.

    Using the smart cover as a stand, or using it flat on the table or on a lap – touching the bezel is not an issue when in these positions. Taking a photo/video or using it as an e-reader is the issue here.