Is a smaller iPad on the horizon?

Apple iPadNew reports suggest that a smaller iPad, one with a 7-inch screen, could be the next big product introduction from Apple. Also in today's App Industry Roundup, early reviews may dampen desire for new BlackBerry Torch.

Again with the rumors?

Didn't we just go throw this Apple rumor buzz in June? Does an Apple rumor always require such breathless coverage? I mean, the iPod has been out since 2001. Each year since, roughly in September, we get an updated version of the device. Likewise, the iPhone has been sold since 2007. Every June, a new version is introduced.

The only product that we can't predict a product release cycle on yet is the iPad, as it was introduced in April.

But yet again, and perhaps because we are close to the September release on the next version of the iPod line-up, the rumor mills are buzzing. At iLounge, there is a potpourri of rumors, including details of the next iPods (a screen for the Shuffle?), a 7-inch iPad (current is 9.7 inches), an iPhone 5 (coming in January, no less!), and cheaper bumpers for the antenna-crippled iPhone 4.

Of the new iPad, iLounge says: "A seven-inch-screened version of the iPad is substantially finished and will be ready for announcement either later this year or early in 2011. Apple has been prototyping devices with screens of this size for a long time—quite possibly predating the original iPhone."

Will the next iPod touch have a camera? It was supposed to have one last year, if you recall that rumor. It didn't, and now sites like CrunchGear are reporting that a mock-up of an iPod touch case proves it will have a camera. (Hey Apple, if you really are going to put a camera in the iPod touch, please give it 8 to 12 megapixels and built-in options for better photo controls, such as zoom. An actual camera on par with point-and-shoot models would be awesome.)

Thursday's BlackBerry update

Add Lebanon to the Middle Eastern nations that are considering a BlackBerry ban. Saudi Arabia is set to launch a ban quickly, while the United Arab Emirates is looking at October. This Reuters report notes that Lebanon hasn't made any decisions, but like the other nations, is concerned about the tough encryption Research in Motion (RIMM) uses for email messages.

As for BlackBerry's new product, the Torch, initial reviews have started to arrive.

In the Wall Street Journal, the influential Walt Mossberg concludes that the "Torch and the BlackBerry 6 operating system are good products that improve the BlackBerry experience considerably and bring the device closer to its newer rivals." He clearly thinks it's a better BlackBerry and that "the new phone and software are just the start of its plan to revitalize the BlackBerry franchise."

But Mossberg is not shy about pointing out the biggest downside for BlackBerries, and the reason why so many people, including my wife, as I wrote yesterday, are leaving RIM's umbrella. "There is still one big downside: third-party apps," Mossberg writes. "While the iPhone boasts 225,000 of these downloadable programs, and Android claims 70,000, the BlackBerry platform is still stuck at a measly 9,000."

At top tech sites Gizmodo and Engadget, the reviews were less positive.

"The Torch seems sluggish, underpowered, and dated from a hardware design standpoint, and BlackBerry 6, despite its new features and polish, still feels woefully behind the curve," writes Engadget's Joshua Topolsky.

Matt Buchanan notes for Gizmodo that "they could've at least given the (darn) thing a better screen." But he does like the sliding qwerty keyboard underneath that screen, which is a key selling point for RIM to retain loyal customers. "The sliding action is smooth, perfectly balanced in the amount of effort it requires to shoot the screen up over the keyboard. It takes a push, and then it zips along the track until it clacks, satisfyingly."

It is too early to draw firm conclusions as to how the BlackBerry Torch will sell, but to me the key issue is the same one that Mossberg points out: It's all about the apps.

Tags: Apple, iPad, tablets

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