Apple Ramps Up iPhone, iPad Production With New Manufacturing Partners

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Apple is enlisting additional help to meet demand for its new iPhones.

Sources in position to know tell AllThingsD that Apple has tapped Wistron, a contract manufacturer in Taiwan, to bolster iPhone production capacity as it heads into the holidays and the new year beyond.

Wistron will begin manufacturing devices for Apple sometime this month or next, joining existing iPhone production partners Foxconn and Pegatron, sources said. The company has built smartphones for the likes of BlackBerry, ZTE and Nokia. Whether Wistron will build the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 5c, or both, couldn’t be learned.

Apple is also said to be ramping up iPad production as well. The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report news of the Wistron deal, said the company has chosen Compal Communications, also based in Taiwan, to produce additional iPad minis in 2014.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

iPad Mini With Retina Display To Be In Short Supply At Launch, Reuters Reports

ipad-mini-tv

Apple is rumored to be planning the rollout of new iPads in time for the holidays, and there are a couple of different models potentially in the pipeline, including an iPad mini with a high-resolution Retina display. That Retina mini may be in very short supply before the new year, however, according to a new report from Reuters.

Reuters cites sources working in Apple’s supply chain as providing info that suggests is just now ramping up production on a Retina iPad mini, leading to a strong likelihood that there will be relatively few available during the holiday shopping season. Apple still plans to unveil the device this month, according to those same sources.

The Retina mini will be supply constrained at launch because of delays of unknown reasons, the sources say, but one believed it might have something to do with Apple placing extremely tight requirements on its suppliers in terms of power draw for panels used in the device. The display on any mobile is a huge source of battery drain, and Apple typically either matches or improves on the battery life of previous devices when it launches new ones, even in the case of those sporting more power-hungry high-resolution Retina displays. If it is putting Retina into the new iPad mini, it won’t sacrifice the tablet’s long-lasting battery life to do so.

Apple’s Retina mini will be available in large quantifies only next year, and Reuters’ sources couldn’t say for sure whether the Mac maker would hold off on a retail launch entirely until 2014, or offer up only limited numbers of the devices before the end of the year.

At the same time, the supply chain sources said Apple is putting pressure on suppliers to reduce costs (again, not a very surprising request coming from Apple), and that could result in an iPad mini model with just 8GB of storage, which would be positioned as an entry-level device with the potential to come closer to matching the Kindle Fire and other low-cost Android devices in markets like Asia where cost is seen as a limiting factor for continued iPad growth.

Apple probably still won’t hit the $200 mark or even get all that close, and an 8GB version does seem like strange direction for it to take the iPad line. Supply constraints are nothing new for Apple device launch; the iPhone 5s is currently facing similar issues, and basically every new Apple hardware launch is preceded by these kinds of reports of supply issues.

My take is that we’ll see Apple unveil and start selling an iPad mini with Retina display in time for the holidays, irrespective of any potential supply issues. Stock outages are a given, and people will likely have to line up or order far in advance in order to secure them, but these types of leaks seem more a way to control consumer expectation than any kind of sign of real trouble in Apple’s production pipeline.

The Iconia W3: A Windows Tablet Aimed for a Mini Market

[ See post to watch video ]

Windows PC makers have had a tough time selling tablets, even though Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system is touch-centric, sports a tablet interface called the Start Screen, and, as a bonus, allows tablets to run traditional Windows desktop programs.

The best example of this struggle came in recent weeks when Microsoft had to slash by about 30 percent the price of its own Surface RT, a well-built, full-size tablet that runs desktop Microsoft Office. That led to a $900 million charge in the software giant’s financial results.

Now, one of the major PC makers, Acer, is making a new attempt to dent the tablet market that is dominated by Apple’s iPad, but is seeing growing sales by companies using Google’s Android operating system. Last month, Acer introduced a smaller, less expensive Windows 8 tablet, the Iconia W3.

Acer, which also makes Android tablets, is hoping the W3, which has an 8.1-inch screen compared with the 10-inch screens of standard tablets, will hit a sweet spot that has eluded other Windows tablets.

But after testing the W3, I doubt it. The W3 has some advantages over its most obvious competitor, the 7.9-inch iPad mini, including a higher screen resolution and the same built-in, limited edition of desktop Microsoft Office featured on the Surface RT.

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The Iconia W3 has a higher screen resolution than the iPad mini and a special $80 full-size keyboard with a slot on top for the tablet.

Overall, I found it to be no match for the iPad mini. Compared with the smallest iPad, the Acer features cheaper, bulkier construction; a worse-looking, slower-responding screen; significantly less battery life; and drastically worse cameras. And it’s Wi-Fi only, with no cellular data option.

Plus, like all Windows 8 computers, it’s burdened by a paucity of tablet-style apps and a dual interface that is best used with touch in one mode, and with a keyboard (which costs extra) in the other.

One sign the W3 isn’t a runaway hit: After only seven weeks or so on the market, Acer has cut the price of the product. Last month, the entry-level price was $380, for a 32-gigabyte model. Now, that same model is $300. The iPad mini starts at $329, with 16GB. (Windows 8 machines need more memory because the operating system itself takes up a huge chunk of storage.) Samsung’s new 8-inch Android-based Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 tablet costs $300 with 16GB.

The Iconia W3 is a white, plastic tablet that can be easily held with one hand. Unlike the iPad, it has a USB port and an HDMI port for exporting video to a TV over a cable. But these are mini ports, which require adapters and cables, and those accessories aren’t included. It also has a memory-card slot that can add up to 32GB of memory with an optional card.

It runs the full version of W8, so in addition to tablet apps, it can be switched to the traditional Windows desktop, where you can install and run most programs that work on Windows 7. The most important of these, Microsoft Office, is included in the price, though in a version that omits Outlook. Office, which must be installed manually using a free activation code, worked fine in my tests.

The W3 starts up quickly and the screen has a resolution of 1280 x 800, compared with just 1024 x 768 on the iPad mini.

However, the W3 had many key disadvantages compared with the iPad mini. It weighs about 60 percent more and is about 61 percent thicker. While the mini isn’t as svelte as the 7-inch Android tablets, I can carry it in my back jeans pocket, even with its cover on and with a wallet sharing the space. Not so with the W3. And the small iPad also has a sturdier metal case.

The screen on the W3 was very distracting. It has a faint speckling, especially visible when viewing white. I also found the screen occasionally slow to respond to touch.

In my standard tablet battery test, where I keep the screen at 75 percent brightness, leave the Wi-Fi on to collect email and play videos until the battery dies, the Acer lasted seven hours and 22 minutes. This means that, in normal use, you could almost certainly get the unit’s claimed eight hours of battery life. In the same test, the iPad mini lasted nearly 3 hours more, even though it’s much thinner and lighter.

Then there are the cameras. The Acer’s main rear camera is only 2 megapixels, compared with 5 megapixels for the iPad mini. Photos I took with the W3 were fuzzy, both indoors and out, much worse than similar shots taken with the iPad.

Acer boasts it has created a special accessory keyboard for the W3, which costs $80. Like other add-on keyboards for tablets I’ve tested, it has a slot at the top for the tablet and it works fine. I consider it a necessity for Windows 8 desktop apps, like Office, because they don’t work optimally with the on-screen keyboard.

The Acer keyboard is full-size, much longer and wider than the tablet itself. It has a cavity underneath to store the small tablet for traveling. But that makes for a large package, since the keyboard is much wider and longer than the tablet.

Bottom line: The Acer Iconia W3 has too many flaws for me to recommend, despite its compact size and lower price.

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

My iPad mini: Jailbroken for the First Time

Hello Cydia

Well, it’s been not far off a year since I last had any of my iPads jailbroken. Until today that is. I succumbed once again to temptation this morning and decided to jailkbreak my iPad mini – largely due to hearing my friend Thomas talk about how much he was enjoying the latest jailbreak on his iPad mini.

I used the new Evasi0n jailbreak and it was a quick and easy process just as it usually is – just a little over 5 minutes for me today, from time of having the Evasi0n  app downloaded to the iPad mini ready to go with the Cydia jailbreak app store installed.

Just in case any of you are thinking about jailbreaking your iPad with Evasi0n, here’s a few notes on the process and how it went for me today:

– My starting point was the Evasi0n jailbreak home page – where I downloaded the latest version for Mac (1.3) and found a link for instructions on doing the jailbreak on iOS 6.1 on the iPad and other iDevices.

– This jailbreak is compatible with the following iPads:

* iPad with A6X chip (4th gen)
* iPad 3
* iPad 2
* iPad mini

– Here’s the lowdown on what you need for the jailbreak:

The following is a list of official requirements for the evasi0n untethered jailbreak, as stated by the evad3rs

   * A USB cable to connect the device to the computer
   * 5 minutes of your time!
   * A computer, running Windows (XP minimum), Mac OS X (10.6 minimum) or Linux (x86 / x86_64)
   * An iPhone, iPad or iPod running iOS 6.0 through 6.1

You also need to have the latest version of iTunes installed – mine is 11.0.1 on an iMac.

– The Evasi0n download file (.dmg for Mac) is under 10MB – so it’s a very quick download.

– I did an iCloud backup of my iPad mini before starting on the jailbreak – which is always a good idea of course.

– The instructions linked above are straightforward and should be easy to follow even for anyone trying jailbreak for the first time. The app crashed with a ‘quit unexpectedly’ error the first time I ran it – but I just fired it up again right away and it ran through just fine the second time.

– The Evasi0n app also gives crystal clear instructions and prompts throughout the short jailbreak process. Here are a few screencaps of those – starting with the app’s initial screen:

Evasi0n Welcome Screen

Now the jailbreak process is just getting started:

Evasi0n Status Bar

Waiting on the iPad reboot …

Evasi0n Waiting for Reboot

Jailbreak complete, but Evasi0n is still doing a few things and there will be a few more iPad restarts …

Evasi0n Jailbreak Complete

And finally, the Cydia app store is being installed …

Evasi0n Uploading Cydia

That’s about all there is to it. Definitely another easy jailbreak. It does not require a restore, but just applies the jailbreak over the top like an update.

I’ll post later on about a few of the first jailbreak tweaks I’ve installed and one in particular that is very impressive.

Have any of you got your iPad jailbroken with Evasi0n? Or are you planning to try it out?

Apple’s next-gen iPad mini’s Retina display is ‘amazing,’ says source

My Drivers is a mainland Chinese website (i.e. simplified characters) and the world is beating a path to that digital doorstep because it has iPad mini Retina juice, a brimming glassful,” Tapscape reports.

“Indeed there will be a Retina iPad mini, which Apple will almost certainly call ‘iPad mini with Retina display,’” Tapscape reports. “Resolution is said to be pegged at 2048 x 1536 pixels with an eye-pleasing 324ppi pixel density. Further, it’s believed that long-time Apple supplier AU Optronics will supply the panels.”

My Drivers report, in part, via Google Translate:

Subsequently there are foreign media gives the news that a contact with a prototype of the Apple iPad mini 2 internal staff said the iPad mini size and shape of the iPad mini, but the improvement of the display “amazing”. In addition, the employee also revealed that, in order to support this piece of retina screen, iPad mini using A5X dual-core processor (GPU quad-core).

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yes, using proven iPad (3rd gen.) SoC and other components certainly won’t hurt Apple’s margins. If the next-gen iPad mini ships as described, Wall Street analysts should take note.

Apple’s forthcoming 5th gen. iPad rear case design reportedly leaks (with photo)

“Over the past few months, multiple rumors have pointed to Apple’s fifth-generation iPad being in development with a design akin to the recently launched iPad mini,” 9to5Mac reports. “That design would likely feature the black & slate/white & silver design language, thinner casing, chamfered edges, and a smaller overall footprint.”

9to5Mac reports, “Today, we received an unverified image from a purported China-based iPad accessories maker, an industry that seems to frequently tip off Apple’s future product designs, of the back plate for the next iPad… We were told this is a prototype back piece for the fifth-generation iPad with a 9.7-inch display. We were also told that the casing is almost as thin as the iPad mini’s back.”

Purported iPad (5th gen.) rear case (left), current iPad mini (right). via 9to5Mac.com

Purported iPad (5th gen.) rear case (left), current iPad mini (right). via 9to5Mac.com

More info and images in the full article here.

Boston Globe school program switches from newsprint to Apple’s iPad

The Boston Globe announced this week that its Newspaper In Education program will provide Apple iPads with digital subscriptions to the publication in Massachusetts public schools,” AppleInsider reports.

“The newspaper’s pilot program will use $65,000 of vacation donation funds from Globe subscribers to buy 75 iPads and projectors,” AppleInsider reports. “A total of 50 of those will go to Boston Public Schools, while the remaining 25 will be provided to Stoneham High School.”

AppleInsider reports, “Each of the iPads will come paired with a digital subscription to BostonGlobe.com, and teachers will also be given an onsite tutorial in how to integrate Apple’s tablet into their classroom.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Dan K.” and “lawrence” for the heads up.]