Apple is indeed gearing up to put a Retina display in next version of the iPad mini, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. The new version of Apple’s smaller, 7.9-inch tablet will have a high-resolution screen provided by Samsung’s display supply wing, as well as LG and Sharp. Originally, per the report, Apple wanted to skip Samsung for this round but wanted to ensure it could meet buyer demand.
The news that Apple is preparing to enter mass production on a Retina iPad mini starting in the fourth quarter of this year comes just as rumors circulated yesterday that Apple would likely skip putting a high-res display in the next version, and instead boost the processor that powers the device, which was based on hints in code found in the iOS 7 beta.
9to5Mac first reported the non-Retina A6-powered iPad mini, but did explicitly state that this doesn’t mean Apple is preparing to ship one. Apple routinely tests a variety of devices in its labs and brings only a select few to market, so it’s possible that a non-Retina version was in the works alongside a Retina variety. Apple must pay attention to the market, and the Nexus 7′s ultra high-resolution display (as well as other upcoming devices like the rumored Kindle Fire HD refresh) could in theory have prompted the company to choose one over the other.
The WSJ qualifies its report by saying that Apple often tests different designs too, and makes no claims that the Retina iPad will definitely make it to market. The timing and nature of the report seems like a controlled leak, however; Apple watchers and pundits were quick to criticize the possibility that Apple wouldn’t introduce a Retina display in a second-generation iPad mini. A sudden leak sprouting saying it will is the perfect way to assuage those fears while capitalizing on the spotlight focused by the earlier leak to build more product hype.
Apple wants to wean itself away from a supply dependency on Samsung, the WSJ reiterates, since the two are now primary competitors on the smartphone front and still embroiled in numbers court battles over intellectual property. But Samsung is a key supplier for many important components, not the least of which is displays, so it isn’t surprising to see them named as a source for a Retina iPad mini screen. The WSJ also says we could see multiple different colors for the new mini’s back cover, just like with the color iPod touch.
If Apple is ramping up for Q4 production of this device, we could see it arrive around the same time as last year’s first model, so around November this year. A Retina iPad mini before Christmas would definitely result in big benefits for Apple’s holiday quarter sales, so the timing fits.