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Apple reportedly 'noodling with' 7.85-inch iPad prototype

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Apple is said to be "noodling with" ideas and prototypes for a 7.85-inch iPad, though it's not clear if the device will ever see the light of day, according to one well-connected insider.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball said during an episode of "The Talk Show" that he knows Apple has a test 7.85-inch iPad with a resolution of 1,024 by 768 in its lab, as noted by The Next Web.

"I've heard from numerous people that that's one of the ideas that they're noodling with," he said.

Gruber added that the height of such a device would be roughly the same as the width of the current iPad. After testing the appromixate size using a screenshot rotated into landscape mode, he believes it would be "usable."

Screenshot of iPad in portrait viewed in landscape

"There are a couple areas where I think text is maybe a little too small, but it's not ridiculously small," he said.

He went on to say that he has "heard from nobody" on whether the 7-inch iPad will actually be released and when that would happen. Gruber did speculate, though, that Apple may have prepared enter the low-end tablet market should the Kindle Fire prove to be a runaway success. He also suggested that the company could possibly unveil the smaller iPad at the Worldwide Developers Conference, since it's unlikely that Apple would release a 2012 iPhone at WWDC.

Reports of a smaller iPad have persisted since the original iPad launched in April 2010. DigiTimes, which has mixed accuracy, has been one of the chief sources of rumors about a 7-inch iPad.

Speculation on a smaller form factor iPad gained legitimacy in February when The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple officials have been showing off designs for a smaller iPad that has a similar screen resolution as the iPad 2. The report did caution, though, that Apple could be simply testing new designs and might not actually release the device.

Recent reports have also suggested the rumored device could feature a "slim bezel display." A leaked research note from Samsung Securities that surfaced in March hinted that Apple will release a so-called "iPad mini" in the third quarter of 2012.