updated 02:19 am EST, Fri December 14, 2012
Supplier ask to ship over 12 million units for 2012
Initial orders of the iPad mini -- pegged at around six million units for 2012 -- may be only half of what will be required, according to a report from NPD DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh, who told CNet that Apple is now asking its iPad mini display partners to double the initial order, expecting more than 12 million units to be sold by the end of the year. For a product who's size class was strongly resisted by Apple for years, the nearly 8-inch iPad mini is very likely to outsell its larger, recently-updated big brother, the 9.7-inch fourth-gen iPad.
Though pundits and power-users have criticized the iPad mini for its non-Retina display, the 1024x768 resolution of the smaller tablet does not appear to be an issue for buyers, similar to the way the first two iPad generations were criticized for the resolution but nonetheless achieved astounding sales figures. Sales of the iPad mini have taken off since the device became widely available in stores -- where potential buyers can see and feel that the Mini is much slimmer and lighter (and only slightly smaller) than the full-size iPad, which at a cursory glance doesn't appear to have changed much from the previous iteration. If the 12 million figure is accurate, the iPad mini will also beat out all of its Android-based tablet competition in sales during the quarter, and perhaps for the entire year.
The Mini has won praise in particular for its seamless transition to the smaller size, exceptional quality of construction, increased portability and ability to take full advantage of Apple's much wider and larger selection of tablet-optimized apps -- a major selling point that continues to restrict Android tablets to very limited success if any. The higher price -- $329 -- compared to its closest competitors (the Kindle Fire HD and Galaxy Nexus 7) also doesn't appear to have phased consumers, again perhaps because consumers who are buying in stores can clearly see that the Mini, despite its name, is significantly bigger than the competition.
While Apple has said that it doesn't believe the iPad mini is "cannabalizing" sales of the fourth-generation iPad too much, sales of the iPad 2 -- which the iPad Mini mimics from a spec standpoint -- are likely to be poor due to the presence of the Mini. Apple kept the iPad 2 available as a lower-cost full-size option, but discontinued the third-generation iPad after only eight months, replacing it with the similar but double-speed fourth-generation Retina iPad. NPD's Hsieh says that the iPad mini could account for as much as half of all iPad shipments in 2013, making it the best-selling model.
The company also believes total iPad shipments could reach more than 100 million in the next year, which would likely force Apple to find additional display-making partners -- LG Display and AU Optronics, the current iPad mini display suppliers, may not be able to scale to that level demand that quickly. Both companies have struggled to keep up with quality and quantity demands from Apple for the displays.