updated 03:52 pm EDT, Fri August 31, 2012
Device may replace the iPad 2, lack Retina display
A pair of recent leaks regarding the iPad mini Apple has allegedly been working on bring the device in clearer focus. Bloomberg says it has identified the suppliers of the display portion of the device, and that it will not sport the distinctive Retina-quality display that Apple has touted in recent products. Meanwhile, Instapaper developer Marco Arment has identified a previously-unknown iPad model in the visitor logs of his website.
Bloomberg says that AU Optronics Corporation and LG Display company, both long-time suppliers of parts for Apple, will be the main companies supplying screens for the so-called "iPad mini" which is rumored to be debuting in October. TPK Holding Company and Yeh Cheng Technology -- the latter a subsidiary of Foxconn -- are handling the lamination process, and have revealed that the display is 7.85 inches in diagonal measure, only slightly smaller than the current 9.7 inches of the full iPad and larger than any other device is the "7-inch" class. It would be more accurate to refer to the alleged "iPad mini" as an eight-inch device, since it will be 40 percent larger than it's main competitors, the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, both of which have displays that are currently exactly seven inches across diagonally.
Despite recent discussion of Sharp as a new supplier of display screens for future products, sources say the company may make such panels in the future but is not currently supplying inventory for the proposed iPad mini. The revelation that the device will not feature a Retina display along with information from Arment suggests that the "iPad mini" could simply be a replacement of the iPad 2, since it would appear to have similar specifications.
Improvements in touch sensitivity technology may be able to overcome Steve Jobs' famous criticisms that seven-inch screens were too small to accurately use icons and manipulate programs satisfactorily without the aid of a stylus. Apple's more advanced touch technology, coupled with a significantly larger-than-seven-inches screen could produce a quality experience even at the reduced size, and the smaller area at the same resolution as the larger iPad 2 should come close enough to Retina quality to not be a factor in sales.
The smaller iPad mini is expected to be in more direct competition with the Nexus 7 and expected Kindle Fire 2, the latter of which should debut next week. Both devices have attracted a lot of attention from customers who seek tablets with a smaller size and weight for increased portability or easier storage. Amazon's Kindle line of e-readers has proven popular, and the Kindle Fire (which was marketed as more of a full tablet than just an e-reader) initially sold well, though sales dropped precipitously after Christmas last year. Amazon recently claimed the device was "sold out," clearing the way for a presumed debut at a press conference on September 6.
Arment, creator of the read-it-later program Instapaper, reported the presence of two unusual iPad model numbers in his website's visitor logs -- a hint that the iPad mini may be offered in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular editions, as is its larger siblings. While not conclusive proof of a new iPad model (it is possible that a jailbreaker could tweak the model numbers to fake such a result), the model numbers -- iPad2,5 and iPad2,6 -- are in line with what new models would be, particularly if the theory that the "iPad mini" is really a revised iPad 2.
The model numbers suggest that the device will use an A5 chip with 512MB of RAM and the same GPU as found in the iPad 2, perhaps also hinting an even lower price tag than the unit's current $399 selling price. Despite the fact that the "iPad mini" will be larger and more powerful than either of its main competitors, it will be classed in the same league and expected to be closer in price to both devices, which sell for $199 (with 8GB of storage).
While the "iPad mini" may indeed be a repackaged iPad 2, it will also enjoy the benefits of an upgraded operating system in the form of iOS 6, which is expected to be another selling point for the product. If Apple can approach the low price point of the 7-inch tablets while retaining the features tat distinguish the iPad from its competitors, Apple will likely sail over Jobs' documented objections to smaller tablets, and land on both feet with another market-dominating product.