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.