iPad Mini Production Has Kicked Off, Says WSJ: 7.85-Inch LCD Screen, No Retina Display

The iPad mini speculation could be about to be put to bed if a report in the WSJ is on the money. The paper is reporting that Asian suppliers to Apple have kicked off mass production of components required to make a smaller version of the iPad. The paper cites “people with knowledge of the situation”.

South Korea’s LG Display company and Taiwan’s AU Optronics started mass production of the LCD screens for the new device last month, according to the paper’s sources.

Apple does not comment on rumour and speculation but we’ve reached out all the same. (Update: Apple provided the following statement: “Apple does not comment on rumours or speculation.”)

The paper’s sources say the smaller iPad tablet will have a 7.85-inch liquid-crystal display with a lower resolution than the latest iPad model — the third generation iPad — which could mean no Retina Display on the iPad mini.

Price will be a key consideration for any smaller iPad so a lower resolution is one area where Apple could cut costs to ensure the Mini carries a suitably diminutive price-tag.

iPad mini leaks have been circulating for months — with photos apparently indicating the smaller iPad will have a nano SIM slot and an anodized aluminum casing. Other leaks have indicated Apple plans to shrink the size of the bezels on the iPad mini to maximise screen real estate, and also depicted a strange hole in the top center of the tablet’s backside. Also expected: the Mini will rock Apple’s new Lightning port.

An Apple investor also recently reported invitations for a press event to launch the iPad mini would be sent out on October 10.

Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs famously slated the small tablet form factor back in 2010 — claiming it would need to come with sandpaper so people could file down their fingers to use it. Since then a raft of 7+ inch tablets have launched — including Google’s cheap-as-chips Nexus 7 slate, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets (which now come in both small and large slate sizes) — suggesting there is indeed a market in a mid-sized device that’s smaller than a full-sized iPad but larger than a smartphone.

Media consumption is the primary use-case for these small slates — whether it’s reading ebooks, watching TV shows, or playing games — making it even more important for Apple to ensure its iTunes App Store ecosystem is not losing out to Android-based rivals.

The advent of larger and larger smartphones — so called phablets — has also been building momentum for a mid-size device. Apple has increased the screen size of its latest iPhone — the iPhone 5 — slightly, growing it from 3.5 inches to 4 inches, but many rival smartphones typically have screen sizes above 4 inches, with 4.3 and 4.8 inches both common, and some devices (such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note range) packing screens in excess of 5 inches on the diagonal.

One way for Apple to respond to smartphone screen inflation would be with a mid-sized iPad — which would allow it to keep the iPhone’s screen size stable at 4 inches (an important consideration for developers and app compatibility).

One last thing: even if the WSJ’s report is correct — and Apple is indeed prepping a smaller tablet — there is chance it may not in fact be called an iPad mini — but rather it could sit within the iPad Touch family. Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi supports this theory, noting back in July: “My theory is that Apple could introduce a smaller tablet but call it an iPod Touch. That way they can keep the iPad brand separate and still say a 7-inch design isn’t good enough for a tablet.”