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Smaller tablets expected to drive market as rumors swirl about a smaller iPad

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There’s a lot of focus on smartphones this month with the launches of the iPhone 5, Motorola’s new line of Razr smartphones, the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 and the HTC 8X and 8S.

But the tablet market is also one to watch as we head into the holiday season and there’s no hotter discussion when it comes to tablets right now than whether or not Apple will jump into the smaller tablet market.

A dummy model of the miniature iPad showed up on Giz-China.com Tuesday alongside a real iPad. While the mock-up is just that, it’s showing what many expect to be the specifications of Apple’s rumored small tablet.

The photos show a cellular bar, Lightning dock connector and separate volume buttons instead of the iPad’s familiar rocker.

The tablet’s screen measures 7.85-inches, diagonally.

There’s more to speculation about tablets than simply getting the low-down on the latest gadget (though that, admittedly, is a big part).

Seven-inch tablets are expected to make up nearly one-third of the tablet market by the end of the year, according to estimates from IHS. Larger tablets, the analysis firm said, are already losing some ground to their smaller siblings thanks to products such as the Kindle Fire.

The firm expects that Apple’s rumored mini tablet will further boost the trend.

The analysis shows that consumers are enjoying tablets, which were originally met with some skepticism as people wondered about the utility of a device between a smartphone and a computer.

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index recently reported that tablets have driven up the satisfaction rate for the entire PC market, sending the satisfaction index to 80 out of 100 — the highest-ever for the industry.

The score has been holding at 78 for the past two years.

In a release, ACSI founder Claes Fornell said that the uptick is driven by consumer sentiment about tablets.

“The current ACSI uptick for the industry at large is driven, in part, by the higher levels of customer satisfaction that tablets enjoy over desktops and laptops,” he said in a release. “As tablets gain market share, overall customer satisfaction with the PC industry picks up.”

Apple lost a bit of ground in the index, but still leads its competitors by at least 5 points, and Windows-based manufacturers all saw gains this past year. Smaller tablet makers such as Samsung and Amazon saw a 4 percent increase in satisfaction, to 80 points, as they picked up market share.

Related stories:

‘Mini iPad’ photos: fake or real?

Apple’s ‘iPad mini’ coming in October, report says

Is market ripe for a iPad mini?

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