Apple Inc will be unable to widely roll out a new version of the iPad Mini with a high-resolution “retina” display this month, people who work in the company’s supply chain said, leaving the gadget without the sharper screen found on rival tablets from Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc.
Apple’s supply chain is only now gearing up to make retina displays for the iPad Mini, which means the gadgets could be available in only limited quantities this year, if at all. The company may miss the chance to cash in on the year-end holiday shopping season, the sources said.
It remains unclear exactly what new features and modifications could find their way into the next iPad Mini, which the sources said was scheduled to be unveiled this month.
However, higher-resolution screens and cameras, as well as thinner and lighter dimensions, are among the improvements users have come to expect with updated smartphones and tablets.
“If they don’t put in retina ... there will be howls,” said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Cupertino, California-based Apple declined to comment about any product launches.
Apple defines retina display as resolution that is detailed enough that the human eye cannot detect pixelation.
The feature is available on some full-sized iPads and similar resolutions are available on iPad Mini competitors such as Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX due to go on sale this month.
The reason behind the delays in manufacturing the retina display screens for the iPad Mini was unclear. One source at a supplier said there were delays in Apple’s certification of panel producers, which were given strict power-saving requirements.
LG Display Co Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s display unit and Sharp Corp all vied to manufacture the panels, supply chain sources said.
The three display makers declined to comment.
Given the time required to ramp up screen production, a retina display-equipped iPad Mini would not be available in large volumes until early next year, the sources said.
Apple has also told suppliers to reduce costs, two of the sources said, with one person saying the US firm is looking at rolling out an iPad Mini with 8 gigabytes of memory — less than in the previous model.
Less memory may allow Apple to lower the price of the Mini to boost sales in emerging markets like China where cheaper tablets, many of them running Google’s Android operating system, are gaining market share.
“Right now the iPad Mini is more expensive than everyone else in the 7 to 8-inch tablet segment,” said Arthur Liao (廖顯毅), an analyst for Fubon Securities Co (富邦證券) in Taipei. “If it could reduce its price by even just [US]$50, it would appeal to more consumers.”
The iPad’s total market share almost halved to 32.5 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while Android devices, including Samsung’s Galaxy series, gained nearly a quarter to 62.6 percent, a survey by tech research company IDC showed.
Amazon’s new 7-inch Kindle Fire is priced from US$229 for 16GB WiFi-only models, while Google’s second-generation Nexus 7 offers a similar screen size and storage capacity at the same price. By comparison, the cheapest model in Apple’s current 7.9-inch iPad Mini lineup with 16GB storage size starts at US$329.
Anyone expecting Apple to dramatically cut prices is likely to be disappointed, analysts said, pointing to the higher-than-expected price tag for the iPhone 5C unveiled this month.
“Don’t expect the prices to be significantly lower,” one of the sources said. “Even though Apple aims to cut down on component costs, it still ends up around the same as the current Mini because the new Mini will have upgraded specifications.”